Courtesy photo Robert Steelman , right, gets his fishing rod back.Robert Steelman, right, gets his fishing rod back after a fish had pulled it out of his hands and into the water.

Opening Day of trout fishing season begins today, and while this story isn’t an opening day story it was worth the telling.

Haverford Township Public Works sanitation Supervisor Robert Steelman is an avid fisherman living in Spring City and he is pretty good at it, holding the Pennsylvania state small mouth bass record of 8 pounds 8 ounces for a fish he caught at Scott Run Lake in Berks County. In addition to fresh water, Bob also loves salt water fishing.

One Saturday morning in the fall of 2009 he was out on a boat with his friend Joe Startare. The two were on the lower Delaware Bay fishing for Atlantic stripers. At that time of the year the fish, traveling in packs, are heading south for warmer waters.

“We were chunking about 10:30 about 3 miles off the coast,” said Bob as he described the method of catching the often elusive fish which can weigh from 20 to 80 pounds. “You throw in your line and wait for fish to come to you.”

“Joe’s line went off, he closed the bail and set the hook, suddenly my line went off, I closed the bail and set the hook,” said Steelman. “That is when it shot out of my hands and took off like a rocket.”

“I’ve never had a rod fly out of my hand,” said Steelman, at the loss of the $250 fishing rod. “It was less than a year old. It went right into the water and it was gone.”

“The look on your face, I almost busted out laughing,” Startare later told him.

He called his wife Dawn, who suggested posting the missing rod on a local fishing website but he said he’d worry about it later. After stewing about the lost rod and reel, Steelman pulled out a spare he always carried and resumed fishing.

“I always bring two rods so I finished the day out with that. I got three more fish that day it was still a very good day.

That evening, Steelman saw a post in a fishing chat room titled, ‘Looking to return Rod & Reel to Owner Minus 47 lb. Striper Found.’

“He was 2 miles up the bay and he caught it about 10:30 swimming with the tide,” Steelman said. “That fish was very tired. It dragged that rod 2 to 3 miles.”

“Great day today on the bay for my dad and me with our striper limit reached in just under two hours time in the vicinity of 60-foot slough. The last striper in the box weighed in at just over 47 pounds and came with a bonus – it was attached to a nice rod and reel” read the post. The lucky fisherman also offered to return the rod to anyone who could describe it – but not the fish. That was dinner.

“He noticed the blue line on one side of the boat and tangled in the anchor line,” said Steelman. “The line caught in his anchor and it rode up to his boat. I had just put the steel blue fishing line on the week.”

That week he caught up with Mike, the fisherman in New Jersey and got his rod and reel back.

“It was caked in mud. I had to take it apart to clean it,” he said. “But it still works and I still have it.”

“People don’t believe me when I bring it up,” Steelman said. “Then I show them the web posting. It was pretty neat, it really is.”

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