- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 7, 2007

Prologue: It astonishes me when I think of all the readers who asked about our annual New Year’s Day fishing trip on some body of water near or far. All of them wanted to know when the story would run and what happened during the day. Long-time followers of our fishing exploits are aware that for me this has now gone on for 15 years. The man who started this happy madness, the fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski, began his annual New Year’s fishing nearly three decades ago.


January 1, 2007, dawned dark and gray. A steady rain fell on the parking lot at the Marshall Hall public boat launch when my fishing pals arrived. Andrzejewski had his partner Dale Knupp in tow and, before you could spell Andy’s last name without stumbling over a steady succession of consonants, the three of us had slipped on rain suits, zipped up our life jackets and stashed rods, reels, tackle bags, Thermos bottles and sandwiches into the boat.

We climbed aboard Andy’s 22-footer and with a steady drizzle pelting us in the face, drove the boat toward the Wilson Bridge and the Spoils Cove that lies a brief distance upstream from the bridge. Yes, it pelted us because even a soft rain feels like stinging needles when you move along at any speed that keeps the boat on plane.

There’s nothing to this. We’ve done it before; sometimes when icy winds blew across the river from the northwest and, on at least one New Year’s occasion, when it snowed. Of late, at least the temperatures were kind to us bluenose anglers.

What amazed the three of us, however, was the presence of four other boats as we entered Spoils Cove. They showed up even though it rained. Last year, when it was dry and sunny, 20 boats joined the ever-growing New Year’s fishing throng.

Suddenly, the rain stopped. Like a welcome omen, an immature bald eagle flew toward a nearby sycamore and alit, then watched with sharp eyes for any signs of waterborne food. The black-brown-and-white mottled bird soon was joined by a large adult eagle, white head and tail gloriously visible.

With the help of an electric trolling motor, Andrzejewski quietly maneuvered the boat along the shoreline. He cast an avocado color Sting Ray grub toward the edge of a fallen tree, knowing the water would drop sharply only a few feet away from the branches.

Without making a sound, the makeshift fishing pole set the hook to something. The rod tip quivered and shook, bending in a tight arc. It was a largemouth bass. The fish obviously mistook the paddle-tailed plastic bait for a minnow.

As Andrzejewski released his first fish of 2007 — “I haven’t caught a bass since 2006,” he said sheepishly — Knupp lifted his spinning rod sharply and in no time a well-fed, broad-bodied crappie thrashed about on the surface. Moments later, he did it again, and then again. One crappie after another inhaled his green/red Minnow Tube that had been generously dabbed with garlic-scented Smelly Jelly fish attractant.

Then it was my turn. A 2-inch-long plastic grub was gobbled up by a feisty largemouth bass. So now all three of us had caught our first fish of 2007.

Our morning continued to deliver good angling action. To be sure, most of it came from cooperative crappies, but who’s complaining? Certainly not us. Knupp had the top rod as far as crappies were concerned and he suggested it was the red “bleeding” jig hook he used that brought him a fair number of the speckled fish. That poor kid actually believes a metal hook that has been dyed red would be superior to a standard metallic color. After his outing on Jan. 1, he was convinced.

The rain reappeared, but we continued fishing until our previously agreed-upon noon quitting time arrived.

What a fitting way to greet the New Year. The only thing that wasn’t fun was the boat ride back to the Marshall Hall boat ramp. It happened during a “frog strangler” rain, as the locals refer to heavy precipitation.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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