Inner Harbor Fishing with Joe Shea

Joe Shea contacted my fishing partner George and me last week. He was going to be in Baltimore for a meeting and would have a couple of hours between seminars and thought it would be great to catch a few Maryland carp. The meeting was near the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, a beautiful place full of all kinds of fun, except for fishing! No Fishing signs are everywhere, and so are bubbles coming from herds of tidal river feeding carp. Since Joe only had limited time each day we didnít want to waste time traveling so we choose to take on the challenge of the Inner Harbors carp.

First problem was that if we showed up with a rod we would instantly be snatched and have to pay a hefty fine. George came up with a brilliant idea as usual. We would use the Ronco Pocket Fisherman! It was one of George best ideas he had since I have been fishing with him these so many years. We rushed off to K-Mart and got three Pocket Fishermen. We replaced the line with 12 pound Trilene and adjusted the drags. We decided to go with simple sidehooked sweetcorn. That way we could chum and pretend to be feeding the ducks that frequent the great river that feeds into the Harbor.

We met Joe at the Harbor, he wasnít pleased we didnít have any rods with us and commented that we looked like hooligans wearing our long trench coats. We gave Joe his trench coat and he reluctantly put it on, a big smile ensued when he found the Pocket Fisherman. We explained to Joe that we were sitting on top of one of the best carp areas in the state. Since no fishing was allowed the BFCs showed not the slightest hesitation at frequenting the wall that rings the Harbor. The coats had nice big pockets for baggies full of sweetcorn, split shots and hooks. The only problem we saw was in playing the carp, if they ran the line would point straight to us, an easy clue for even the most novice of cops. Again George came up with a brilliant solution, we would run the line down our pants leg. This way we could just hit the button on the Pocket Fisherman and drop our hooks right down the edge of the wall and we could fight the carp while standing still and not drawing undue attention to ourselves. Unhooking wouldnít be a problem, we would just reach down and pull out the barbless hooks, nobody pays attention to what you are doing down on the Harbor, that is unless of course you show up with a fishing rod.

We picked up a couple of chilidogs for lunch to make it look like we were just hanging around killing time. We let Joe have first cast. He pretended to tie his shoelace and deftly dropped his baited hook over the wall, followed by a handful of sweet corn. As we were chuckling to ourselves over Georges ingenuity Joe actually got a hit and his pants started to wiggle. We could hear the drag clicking away. Joe jerked his leg to set the hook and the fight was on. Several times Joe had to bend over like he was going to be sick in order to reel in, this kept the curious at a nice safe distance away from our activities. Joe mastered the Pocket Fisherman quickly and soon landed a small 8 pounder. We were absolutely amazed. So often Georges ideas result in us running from security officers, this time we had them beat cold. My turn was next. I got a hookup, did the leg jerk and set the hook. Another little carp came in and Joe reached down and slipped the hook out. The hardest part seemed to be standing still while the fish was running. Another challenge was reeling in. Fortunately the Pocket Fisherman has a short handle and after some getting used to it was easy. George finally got his turn and played in another small carp like a professional Pocket Fisherman.

While we were certainly thrilled that the Pocket Fisherman was working like a dream and that nobody was paying any attention to us the opinion was voiced that we were risking the wrath of the local police force to catch 8 pounders. We decided a move was in order. We sauntered over to the Shark, a submarine that is on permanent display in the Harbor. This was a popular place to eat lunch and many people would toss in the unfinished portion of their hotdogs and the fish were there always waiting. We bought more hotdogs and Joe baited up with a Ball Park wiener.

People were milling about but still not paying any attention to the three of us. Joe tossed some of his hotdog in right at the wall and the grandfather of all carp gently glided over and inhaled his hotdog. Never before had any of us seen such a huge carp. Shaking with excitement, Joe baited up with a hot dog and dropped it right in front of the giant. It glided up and gently inhaled Joeís hot dog bait. Joe jerked his leg and set the hook and the fight was on. At first the carp didnít realize it was hooked and just sank down into the water and began to shake his head. The force was so violent that it made Joes leg jiggle like he was having some kind of attack. Startled with the force of this beast Joe tightened the drag a bit. As soon as the carp realized all was not right with the world it began a slow steady run out to the middle of the harbor.

Joe held on, the drag screaming under his vest loudly this time. People were starting to notice us, or at least Joe as the big fish turned and started going uptown. Joe had no choice but to follow, keeping the pant leg with the line straight and limping along on the other leg. It looked like he was trying to walk off a cramp, or maybe needed to find a restroom quickly. The great beast of a carp turned once again and headed back for the sub. We told Joe to watch out for the prop on the sub or the carp would cut him off for sure. With a Herculean effort Joe started to walk the other way, dragging the leg that was attached to the carp along with him. The drag screamed in agony, people started to back away from Joe, we were beginning to feel a little exposed. Right then disaster hit Joe, the shoestrings on his sneakers tangled in the line. Now there was no drag to buffer the monster carps runs. Joeís leg shot straight out from him like he was doing some kind of stiff legged march. Of course now the line was high in the air and the normally complacent Harbor police began to take notice of Joe for the first time. Joe hollered for us to come over and help hold his leg down and get his shoestring untied, he knew this was going to be a PB. We turned to offer him aid when we noticed the cops starting to walk over. We sauntered the opposite way. Joe hollered for us to come back and cut the line. We pretended we didnít know him and started to walk a little faster. The carp took off again with Joe in tow as the police caught up to him. The cops ordered Joe to stand still and explain what he was doing, but the huge carp kept pulling his leg out. Joe lost his balance and fell into the cops arms with the giant carp trying to pull him in the water where it would be a fair fight. As the line finally snapped with that all to familiar rifle shot sound the cops knew they had a dangerous man on their hands and pulled out their nightsticks. We turned and made our way back to the car, neither George nor I have a strong stomach for violence. I hoped Joe made it back to his meeting in time. Joe, if you read this, we need the coat and Pocket fisherman back, as we were leaving we saw a carp that was much bigger than the one you had hooked next to the National Aquarium.

By Oatmeal Jack, September 2000, Potomac River, USA

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