The September 8th tournament at Prettyboy was a very strange day for my partner and myself. With only two tournaments left in the regular season we were sitting on top of the AOY points race fishing a lake where we have had our best success. Things were looking good - so we thought.
At about 8:15 the day was going pretty good for us. We had four fish in the livewell. All of them were only between 3/4 of a pound to 1-1/4 pounds - but still halfway to a limit. Ron set the hook after getting a bite. The only problem is there was no fish on the end of the line. The lure came flying back at him and he threw his hand up to block the hook. Success! The bait hit him right in the palm of the hand. Problem! the hook buried deep into the hand - way past the halfway bend of the hook.
Ron is no stranger to removing hooks. He has removed a couple from me and I have watched him remove a couple from himself. He is also one of the toughest and most competitive guys you want to meet. There was no way he was going to let this stop him. The hook was buried in a way that traditional removal techniques (popping the hook with heavy fishing line) was going to work. So Ron grabbed a pair of pliers and started pulling. He pulled, yanked, and twisted that hook until it became evident that there was no way the hook was coming out while on the boat. We discussed our (his) bad luck and, with Ron covered in sweat and not feeling too well, we decided there was no other option but to have him go to the hospital.
We both knew that this pretty much spelled the end of any AOY chase for us. If you've ever been to the emergency room you know that non life-threatening injuries like having a hook in your hand are at the very bottom of the totem pole. I had to go have one taken out of me many many years ago and I spent a whole afternoon and evening waiting to get seen.
I drove him back to the dock where he was having his wife meet him to take him to the hospital. Knowing that I probably would not see him again the rest of the day, I would continue to fish in hopes of getting the best bag of fish possible. After all, a tournament had been won at Prettyboy years ago by Gary Gangi - fishing by himself.
Now here is where the supposed controversy comes into play. Evidently some people have raised a concern that that during Ron's absence I was adhering to a five fish limit. I can understand that concern. But all I can say is that you will have to take it for what it's worth that when I say that I never expected to see Ron again the rest of the tournament and I was fishing for the very best - and only the very best five fish that I could catch is the truth. Maryland state law is a five fish limit and I was resigned to the fact that five fish was all I could have.
During Ron's absence I was able to catch a fifth fish, plus several others. Yes it hurt to release fish that would have ordinarily been beneficial to our teams success, but I had to cull these fish.
Now as fate would have it, the emergency room at GBMC was empty when Ron checked in and he was treated and released. When I got the call that Ron was coming back to fish I even asked the team of Martin and Tison if they wanted to witness his return and verify that everything was on the "up-and-up". Perhaps the next time (I hope there is never a next time) I will insist.
Ron made it back and we got to fish the last 1-1/2 together. During that period we caught the additional fish that allowed us to bring a tournament limit of 8 fish to the scales and that is exactly what we did.
If anyone has any suggestions on how to better handle such a circumstance in the future, please let the MRA committee members know so they can consider changes to rules and procedures.