- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2006

“It’s going to blow up to 30 mph today,” charter fishing captain Pete Dahlberg said. “But where we’ll be fishing it will be flat calm.”

With that the man whose nickname is “Walleye” — inspired by his penchant for walleye fishing when he lived in upstate New York — slowly idled away from a sheltered Calvert County marina and, upon reaching the open waters of the Chesapeake, pushed down the accelerator and three minutes later slowed the boat down again. We had arrived.

There was the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power station, its front surrounded by “No Trespass” buoys now that the entire world is gripped by fear of what a terrorist might do.

Dahlberg, ever careful not to spook the rockfish that he knew congregated in the swirling, warm discharge waters of the nuclear plant, quickly shut down his boat’s motor and picked up a couple of spinning rods with 1- to 1-ounce jig heads tied to the line. The jig hooks were fed onto slender plastic lure bodies that resembled a long sliver of squid, maybe a bay anchovy, or some kind of other edible treat.

He flicked the imitation food into a maelstrom of bay water and in the time a body might be able to spell walleye, he had a fish on. It was a sassy, healthy striped bass of about 4 pounds. Walleye Pete smiled from ear to ear and then proceeded to tell me gently that my choice of a jigging lure wouldn’t work.

“It won’t stay on this 24-foot-deep bottom. It’s too light. The pull of the current is too strong,” he said.

He was right. I quickly changed to one of his jig hooks and a 6-inch Bass Kandy Delights “bait” and eventually caught a fat, young rockfish — but not before Dahlberg had swung three or four more stripers over his boat’s transom and quickly released them.

Dahlberg is one of the most interesting people I’ve met in more than 40 years of fishing the Chesapeake Bay. Walleye Pete is one of a growing number of specialty charter fishing captains. At 41, he still can be considered a youngster, and like several of his contemporaries he isn’t about to sit in a harbor for months on end waiting for the fishing season to begin as so many older charter boat owners do.

Dahlberg believes in moving around, catching something nearly all year. He specializes in light tackle fishing (not heavy-gear trolling), so he uses a 21-foot boat for shallow waters and a strong 24-footer for deep-water applications.

His year begins in February when he finds hundreds of willing catch-and-release rockfish around the nuclear plant. In early April, he moves to the Susquehanna Flats in the upper Chesapeake during a special catch-and-release striper season. As always, his boat is berthed only minutes from the fishing grounds.

Come early May, Dahlberg leaves and heads south toward Solomons or to St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, where he stays at Buzz’s Marina — again, a short hop to productive waters. During the late spring and early summer, well into autumn and the first frost, he stays busy fishing. It begins with speckled sea trout and Eastern Shore stripers and eventually enters the time for bluefish and more rockfish all over the lower Maryland bay parts — all of it on light tackle and artificial lures.

There are times when Walleye Pete stays out beyond his normal operating hours because he suddenly has located some willing redfish, maybe black drum, or fine flounder. “The idea is to have fun, not just to take a client’s money,” said Dahlberg.

As far as those Bass Kandy Delights lure bodies are concerned, Dahlberg prefers a white model known as Opening Night and another in chartreuse glitter. He uses 6-foot medium or medium-heavy spinning rods with medium size reels that are loaded with 10 to 14 pound-test Berkley FireLine. In addition, he makes wonderful use of an X-19 Lowrance color depth recorder and GPS.

If you’re interested in his lures that come from a small company, check out www.basskandydelights.com, and if you want to learn more about Walleye Pete, perhaps book a trip, call his cell phone, 703/395-9955, or check out his web site, www.fourseasonsguideservice.com.

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

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