Charles County, Maryland, April 30, 2010
I watched my wife as she crouched under the work table in the garage and began pulling out bunches of bags that contained miscellaneous stuff she accumulated over the past few years. I had that little tickle of caution bugging me, thinking that this was not a very good idea. But I had to put my collection of wading shoes away and as I grabbed a pair of Simms Rivershed boots off the floor her screaming began.


Paul invited me to fish with him for spring striped bass on the Potomac River. I arrived late Thursday night at his place on Cobb Island and quickly unloaded the car and grabbed some sleep. He said not to worry about waking up too early in the morning but I was up by 7am. From the weather reports the previous day I knew the morning was going to start out cold and gradually warm up until the temperature hit the mid-80's. I brought my 3-layer waders along to keep warm in the boat's open cockpit but as I placed my foot into the right bootie and my toes hit a soft lump. I pulled my leg out and reached into the wader and pulled out two huge gobs of soft shredded paper. This pile of paper looked familiar to me and to be truthful, part of me was denying what it really was and the other half was saying, "Yes you idiot, it's exactly what you think it is." I looked closely at the paper and it had been chewed into tiny pieces. A mouse nest.
A few months ago I was changing the interior HEPA filter my car's air conditioning system and when I opened the filer compartment a pile of shredded paper that looked exactly like what I was now holding in my hands came tumbling out. Because we had such a brutal winter a mouse had probably crawled into the engine air duct, which had no screen on it, and began building a nest on the nice soft filter using some napkins I kept in the glove box. Gross. At least there were no baby mice on it. I cleaned everything out using Clorox and Lysol and replaced the filter. However I also decided to check my wife's car and found the same thing--another nest under construction. This led to more cleaning and a new filter for her vehicle.

But how did the mouse get into and out of my waders? I hang my waders up after use and I had just used them last week when I fished with Jin for shad on the
Potomac River at Fletcher's Boat House. There was no mouse nest in the wader at that time so it was built sometime during the past week. Well I couldn't do anything about the mice now so I finished gearing up and we headed out onto the Wicomico River then onto the Potomac River.

We found a number of boats trolling the channel drop off near
Piney Point so we decided to join the lineup. Paul began trolling a large chartreuse bucktail jig and an 9 inch Storm Wildeye Swim Shad. I decided to use a 20 inch umbrella rig tipped with two trailing 6 inch chartreuse sassy shads. And to make sure it got down deep, I put a heavy swivel, a 12 ounce torpedo sinker, added two feet of 60 pound leader, then tied on the umbrella rig. This setup is a handful so I decided not to rig up a second rod and settled in to fish.

Striped bass were all over the place. We marked them shallow at 12 feet all the way down to 64 feet. The majority of the fish were hanging between 25 to 35 feet down and large schools were stacked up on the bottom humps. The weather was beautiful and the ocean was very calm. The cool breeze made the day very pleasant and Paul made some killer roast beef sandwiches. All was good. But the fish weren't cooperating.

We trolled for several hours with no bites. We swapped out lures, making sure we didn't run the same type and color, and varied the distance and depth. Nothing. But we also noticed the other boats around us weren't getting any action either. We saw all types of water craft, from a
pontoon boat (crazy to bring a craft like this out on this body of water) to professional charters. Nobody was getting a bite. Slowly, as the sun climbed, the boats began to leave. We slowly trolled our way back to Cobb Island, fishing the channel drop offs as we zig-zagged back and forth. We finally had enough and motored back to Cobb Island where we sat on Paul's veranda and watched life sail past on Neale Sound.

After battling my way back home through the Friday afternoon Beltway traffic, I unloaded my gear and told my wife about what I found in my waders. We went down to the garage and I showed her where my waders were hanging. Then I saw it. My
Chota Steelheader waders that I used on the Salmon River late last year had a hole chewed into the right leg where the fabric joins the boot! I liked down into the right leg and saw light coming from another, smaller hole, about half way up from the larger one. From what I could figure out, the mice chewed in from the outside and were building a nest in the boot. A fresh nest.

My wife looked at bags piled up under the table and began pulling stuff out. She bent over with a dustpan and wisk broom and began to sweep debris out as I moved my wading shoes and waders out of the way. I decided to store them indoors and not in the garage. Then the screaming began.

"MOUSE! MOUSE! AAAHHHHHHH! AAAHHHHH! AAAHHHHHHH!" she screamed as she jumped up and down, flapping her arms like a bird. "I saw it! I SAW IT! I moved a bag and it was sitting there, staring at me!"

Poor mouse. It was probably scared out of its wits. My wife pointed out the spot where the mouse was but, of course, it disappeared. I grabbed
a mouse trap and put a dab of peanut butter into it as bait then waited for the results.

The next morning I checked the trap and there was a mouse in it. Alive. I took it into the woods behind our house and let it go. If it's smart, it won't come back. I don't really want to go lethal on a creature if I can help it. But a few hours later my daughter came running into the house and told me she saw another mouse sitting near my kayak. The second mouse. Number two of the nesting pair. Out came the traps. They're set up and waiting.