Fresh Catch of the Day


Winnie and I had an impromptu fishing trip this Sunday with my Aunt and Uncle who live nearby.  We drove up to a Navy recreation center they enjoy going to in Maryland, and despite the rain and cold weather we did end up catching a few nice fish.

We live about a mile away from my late father’s youngest brother, our Uncle Joe and his wife Aunt Linda.  It wasn’t entirely accidental that we live so close.  When I landed a job in this area, we selected Dale City largely because there was family here.  We ended up buying a house in the newer area of Dale City which was the same area they live in.  Not that Dale City is all that physically large anyway.  It’s nice just to be near family again, and they’ve really helped us out as we got settled in.

Sunday morning our Aunt and Uncle stopped by about 9:30 to invite us to go fishing up at The Solomon’s Navy Recreation Center near Pawtuxet Naval Station in Maryland, about one and a half hours drive.  It was raining and cold, but Uncle Joe was convinced that it would clear up and be a great day to fish. They left, giving Winnie and me a chance to dress and get ready, then returned about 12:15.  We loaded up our implements of fishing and food-to-go, and then got on the road.

We had a typical drive for this part of the country.  Just after crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into Maryland there was a traffic jam, apparently caused by an accident.  We did the stop-and-go routine for about 30 minutes before getting to our exit leading to The Solomon’s Recreation area.  Meanwhile, the rain was pouring down, wind howling, and Uncle Joe calmly announced every few minutes “It is clearing up.”

We arrived at the recreation area and did a short driving tour, checking out the cabins and facilities through rain-coated windows.  We made it down to the piers just as the wind picked up strength, rocking the car gently as we sat in the parking lot and checked things out.  Uncle Joe again calmly announced “it’ll clear up.”

After a while we got out the food-to-go and had lunch, still watching the rain.  We finished, the rain and wind calmed down, and Uncle Joe announced “see, it’s clearing up.  Let’s go.”  We piled out of the car, got out implements of fishing, put on our rain coats and parkas, and headed down to the pier.

The two women working at the license and bait shop seemed surprised to see us.  We paid for our day license, bought some frozen squid and night crawlers for bait, and trudged down the 680 foot long pier through the rain.  I could see it was a really nice fishing pier, easily up to par with anything back down in Mississippi – which is saying a lot.

We set up the poles, baited the first one, and Uncle Joe showed me how to cast it.  He and Aunt Linda had slightly larger poles than ours and were using 30 pound test line, compared to the 8 pound test we had.  They used larger hooks, two per pole, and four ounce sinkers, all setup for salt water fishing.

Uncle Joe cast out the first line and turned to bait the second.  I hold a theory that fishing is best in wet, rainy weather – the fish don’t expect anyone.  My theory seemed to hold true; within minutes we had our first bite. Aunt Linda started screaming, Winnie got all excited, and Uncle Joe got to the pole before I did.  He fought a few minutes and pulled in two nice-sized croakers, both keepers, one on each hook.

I could tell Winnie really enjoyed that, and Aunt Linda was all excited.  Uncle Joe and I baited the two poles, and I received some lessons in casting.  After a few practice tries, I finally received some applause for getting it “almost right.”

We threw out the lines and just hung out.  By now the rain and wind had died down to a gently misting rain. A few other people had showed up on the pier, hanging out at the far side of the “T” end from us.  Aunt Linda and Winnie were hanging out together; Aunt Linda was showing her how to bait and fish using our two small poles and night crawlers.  We pulled in a toad fish, a rather ugly-looking thing that Uncle Joe and Aunt Linda explained, several times, how nasty and poisonous the fish was.  We re-baited our hooks a few times, hung out, and just chatted.

Then the one pole bent, Aunt Linda started screaming again, and I was the first to reach it.  With plenty of advice from Uncle Joe and Aunt Linda, I pulled in a really nice-sized croaker, larger than the first two.  Winnie was really enjoying the whole event.

We fished for a while longer, and at 6:00 we decided to head back home. I didn’t want to get back too late as I needed to be up at 5:30 next morning for work.  As we were leaving, a large group of people were headed down the pier for some evening fishing and crabbing.  Uncle Joe and Aunt Linda explained that these were the “regulars,” who would spend most of the night fishing and probably call in next morning, too tired to go to work.  Whatever; It seemed like a pretty good idea to me.  The weather was clearing up, even though it was getting a bit cold.

We had a pleasant drive back, chatting and enjoying the scenery.  When we arrived at our house, Uncle Joe and Aunt Linda insisted on giving us the fish we caught.  I made sure to tell them we’d be going back later this summer with my boat for some serious fishing and crabbing.

Winnie and I were both cold wet and tired but relaxed. It had been a really nice day, and turned out to be more fun than doing home improvement projects.

Last night we cleaned the fish and Winnie cooked them as a stew with ginger and tomatoes, along with rice and a salad.  A bit bony, but nothing beats home-caught fresh fish!

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