Lloyd Waters: Dogs in search of the gannets

December 08, 2012|By LLOYD WATERS

Some people are content to work all their lives and never enjoy the many wonders of the world. I’m not one of those folks. I enjoy fishing.

Late fall had arrived and it was time for the dogs (my fishing buddies) to head down to Smith Island.

The night before our trip is always anxious. Old dogs like to sleep, but the excitement of the trip soon makes that impossible. I didn’t bother.

At 1:30 a.m., Bad Dog Fuller and Good Dog Hoffman arrived at my lodge to make some last-minute preparations. Mushroom Dog Mellott decided to climb up a tree in Fulton County in hopes of finding Rudolph’s cousin.

Although we had no Burkholder donuts for this trip, we set the GPS for Smith Island and went to search for the large gannets.

Bet you’re wondering why the dogs are searching for gannets.

A gannet is a large, white migrating bird that spends some winter months flying up and down the Chesapeake Bay. They are a most intriguing bird to watch. They will fly to an altitude of 100 feet or so, circle the skies while peering toward the water and dive like a missile to capture a menhaden as they swim in large schools throughout the Bay.

A menhaden is a small fish that helps keep the bay clean by filtering the algae they consume. Some 100,000 of these creatures are removed from the bay by the Omega Protein Co. each year and are used to make fish oils, fertilizers, food supplements and another interesting product — lipstick.

So when you ladies go to your cosmetic purse to reach and apply some lipstick, you might be advised that some ingredients may include the menhaden.

This tidbit might sound a little fishy, but it’s nonetheless true.

If a fisherman sees a gannet diving in the water after its breakfast or lunch, you can bet your rain jacket that the menhaden are nearby. 

If the menhaden are present, you can almost wager your banjo that the large rockfish is there also because they, too, dine on this fish.

The large striped bass, or rockfish as we call them, are female by gender and maybe they are thinking about lipstick as they consume a few of these delicacies.

The dogs enjoy watching for the gannets, and on this fishing trip we saw many.

As we sailed out by the Tangier Sound Lighthouse, one of 30 lighthouses situated throughout the bay, the morning waters were calm and it appeared that fishing would be good on this day.

We had our gear stored on the boat, and rested from our drive as the captain (Rock Dog) took us to the deep cool waters just southeast of Tangier Island.

As the captain put out the fishing lines, we snacked on some deer bologna and cheese, had a beverage or two, and caught a few seconds of sleep here and there.

Once the lines were out, we began trolling at 2 to 3 miles per hour, shared a few jokes and readied ourselves for the rockfish.   

We suspected the big bass would be along in a bit, and perhaps one or two of the ladies might have some lipstick on as we invited them into the boat.

We were not disappointed. The Good Dog caught the first fish; the Bad Dog brought in a 30-pound Mae West, and the old Sea Dog caught the last fish for the afternoon.

The next day arrived with some tall waves so we enjoyed a famous crab cake sandwich at the Drum Point Market in the company of Fred Marshall, who at 87, is the oldest resident on the Island.

We shared some stories there, and I guess William Fox had it about right when he said, “of all the liars among mankind, the fisherman is the most trustworthy.”

Old dogs are too, I thought.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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