Not All Captain/client Relationships Are Rosy

By Mueller, Gene | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Not All Captain/client Relationships Are Rosy


Mueller, Gene, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Each of the 20-odd Coast Guard-licensed fishing guides who work the tidal Potomac River between the District and Charles County, Md., has seen days when customers (they prefer to say clients) were delighted with an outing on a body of water that might be the best largemouth bass river in the United States. In fact, a large percentage of a guide's yearly trade is repeat business - sure proof of how good some of these small-boat captains can be.

The same holds for the charter boat captains of the Chesapeake Bay who would have to declare bankruptcy were it not for a steady flow of return customers who like hard-working captains and productive trips.

But not all these captain/client relationships are peaches and cream.

Take the Arlington fisherman who, with a friend, paid to be aboard a Tilghman Island rockfish chum boat in July. They called the legendary Harrison family in Tilghman, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, to get a booking. The Harrisons didn't take the two Virginians onto the Bay, but they arranged for one of the half-dozen captains who keep their boats berthed at the Harrison docks to do the job.

After a fruitless day, the Virginian, an old hand at rockfish chumming, wrote a letter to the Harrison management. "Your location is great, your bar is great, your crabs are the best, but you don't know how to chum for rockfish," he began.

"When I heard you folks had started chumming, I decided to bring a friend who was new to fishing to Harrison's, figuring we couldn't miss catching at least a few fish, [but] we were absolutely shut out. The entire boat never got so much as a nibble all day long! The guy running the boat kept muttering things like `one of those days' when he occasionally walked back to dish out some chum.

"The real problem was a glaring lack of effort on the part of our captain, who was completely disinterested. We never had a chance. At $70 a head, a full effort was not too much to ask for."

So the Arlingtonian wasn't happy, but, in fairness, I must add that I've fished with Buddy Harrison Sr., and Buddy Harrison Jr., and found both of them to be outstanding charter boat skippers.

Then there's local fly-fishing fanatic Paul Bedard, a man who hires area fishing guides but will quickly point out that guiding performances vary widely.

For example, last year he paid $350 to float the upper Potomac River with a smallmouth bass guide who works for a well-known Montgomery County fly-fishing instructor who takes out parties of fly anglers himself. Bedard, who says he's had good luck with the outfitter in the past, was disappointed in the guide he ended up with. It appears the man found few fish, complained about Bedard's casting and warned that any lost fly or lure would boost the final price, in the process ruining what should have been a fun day.

"I'll never spend another $350 for a guided trip with that man because that's a lot to pay for attitude," Bedard says. …

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