Should anyone question the fact that America is a melting pot of dozens of ethnic groups, they can receive a quick education by taking a slow stroll along the hundreds of feet of concrete walkway at the Point Lookout State Park’s public fishing pier in St. Mary’s County.
When I visited on a bright weekend day, dozens of anglers — men, women and children — were busy casting crab and Norfolk spot-baited lines into the blue/green waters of the Chesapeake Bay. One of them, a tall black man who didn’t want to give his name, flipped a small bluefish over the railing and quickly dropped it into a cooler. By the accent and the way he pronounced certain words, he appeared to be Jamaican.
No more than 10 feet away a Spanish-speaking woman sat on a folding chair with her baby. A teenage boy and a man ignored the woman, but they paid strict attention to a quivering surf rod whose baited hook apparently was being sampled by a fish. Alas, the fish got the bait and was long gone by the time the man reeled up the line. He mumbled something in Spanish, and it most likely wasn’t complimentary.
Little more than 20 feet away from the T-shaped end of the pier, the Spanish-speaking Ruth Reza was cleaning bluefish. Her husband, William Reza, said he had been fishing all day and that he caught several bluefish that would provide a fine dinner for his family.
Shamika Gary, 23, a U.S. Navy administrative assistant, showed off a well-fed Norfolk spot that she caught and smiled proudly. Shamika drove up from Virginia Beach to join her family. The Garys were camping in tents at the Point Lookout State Park’s campground. Most of the family came from Baltimore to enjoy camping and to fish from the pier. It was obvious they had a fine time.
Shamika’s uncle, ex-Navy man Anthony Gary, suddenly stopped chatting with us to snatch up one of the picket fence-like fishing rods the group had rested against the railing, set the hook, and eventually reeled up yet another snapper bluefish. (A snapper blue is a juvenile, but it’s considered to be best for the table.)
On the inside of the pier’s T-section, a short, balding man had a difficult time cutting a small spot into suitable pieces of bait. It could be that his knife was dull, but he finally succeeded and looked at me in triumph. When I asked him whether he had caught any fish, his answer was labored. He had difficulty speaking English, and by the way he shaped his words I gathered that he came from a Balkan country. I lived in Europe for 16 years and know a little about speech patterns of Romanians and Bulgarians.
Next to him, firmly ensconced in comfortable linen-covered chairs sat a Vietnamese family. They were too busy watching their fishing rods and didn’t want to talk to anyone. But a nearby woman who said that she lived only minutes away in a small St. Mary’s County community showed me her catch — several flounder and four bluefish. When I asked her whether she had made sure the flounder were of legal size, she turned away abruptly and prepared to leave the pier.
I guess she thought I was there to make trouble for her. I wasn’t.
When I left, to the right of the massive fishing pier there were several picnic tables that contained table cloths and small mountains of food. The people at the table were getting ready to devour the goodies I saw.
I wished they had asked me to stay and share in their bounty.
Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: email@example.com