- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - At 6 a.m., this little town at the head of the Chesapeake Bay reminded me of a sleepy coastal New England hamlet. There were shuttered, quaint antique shops, bed-and-breakfasts, eateries, neat lawns, white houses and clean sidewalks. Through the branches of lush hardwood trees, I caught glimpses of a broad expanse of glistening water.

But once we rolled into Millard E. Tydings Memorial Park and the public launching ramp that awaits boaters who want to fish the Mother River of the Chesapeake, the Susquehanna, I quickly forgot about New England. I saw anglers walking about wearing T-shirts emblazoned with replicas of blue crabs and silly slogans like “Maryland is for crabs.” (Yeah, if you can afford to buy some.) But you quickly got the idea that this, indeed, was Maryland.

The river, which rightfully is identified with Pennsylvania because the majority of it is found there, ends in Harford County’s Havre de Grace area. In this final leg of the Susquehanna, an angling legacy is taking hold. The largemouth bass fishing is said to be unequaled — anywhere.

Just ask Karl Bunch, a 40-something fishing guide who dresses like national bass tournament pros, including the trademark pressed, embroidered shirt that advertises fishing lures, a boat and rod manufacturer and the name of his guide service, Karl’s Bassin’ Adventures.

“The tide is up,” Bunch said. “It’s not the best situation for catching bass up here, but I think there’ll be a few that we can fool.”

No sooner said than done. The boat left the launch area, and no more than 100 yards from the ramp Dale Knupp flicked a plastic worm toward a waterlogged branch that poked up next to an aging bulkhead. Slurp! Just like that, a fat largemouth bass attached itself to the hook.

Knupp looked at me and smiled. “That certainly didn’t take long,” he said, duly impressed.

Bunch, a Havre de Grace tourism promoter if ever there was one, never said a word about the first bass of the day. Instead, he pointed to a lengthy wooden promenade that snaked along the town’s shoreline and made small talk about the joys of bringing the entire family here, eating classic Maryland cuisine and visiting historical sites.

Pretty soon, though, as he maneuvered about with a quiet electric trolling motor, he had to get back to the subject of fishing. In a place known as Apartment Cove, Knupp and I both nailed well-fed, chunky largemouth bass.

Folks, we’re talking about catching bass in a portion of the river where apartment dwellers probably could cast a line from their balconies and reach the water.

Bunch was anxious to give us the grand tour of an open river area adjacent to the famed Susquehanna Flats, including the Back Channel and Swan Creek. He silently moved the boat along as the tide receded, with all three of us alternately casting spinnerbaits with chartreuse-and-white skirts or scented plastic worms. In more instances than not largemouth bass would slam into the lures.

He also ran back inside the river to a new townhouse development known as Canvasback Cove, where we cast to rip rap rocks and dense sets of pilings, then upstream under the railroad bridges and Garrett Island, where Knupp hooked a smallmouth bass.

Our guide did a fine job. He’s a Coast Guard-licensed captain whose guide service is only two years old, but he has fished the Susquehanna for 18 years and knows every nook and cranny of this waterway. If you get together with him, ask what’s up with the Don Johnson three-day “beard.” He will laugh out loud.

Reach him via [email protected] or by cell phone at 410/459-7445.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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