Tales of The Greek-American Fisherman
Tales of Annapolis Greek-Americans on the Chesapeake Bay
Steve Foundas Fishing Party
by: Ted Siomporas
In the early 1950s, Steve Foundas hosted a fishing party on the Chesapeake for Annapolis Greek-Americans.
Mr Foundas was the wealthiest Greek man in town, and the boat which he provided (owned or rented?) was huge. It was perhaps a trawler with sails. It accommodated about 10-15 men, with a walk-around deck: ideal for fishing.
We started our fishing party at the dock of the Pier 7 marina in Edgewater. Although I recall that many of the men spoke Greek, I can’t recall any of their faces except my Dad’s. I may have been the only young boy on the boat, about 5 or 6 years old.
We motored down the South River to a spot on the Chesapeake Bay beyond the shelf past the entrance to the South River. It may have been between Thomas Point and the shipping channel. We dropped anchor for still fishing and a few men were casting.
My sharpest memory was what happened next: someone, who had been casting, lost their rod – it slipped from his grip to fall into the Bay. For a moment, the rod appeared on the surface, then it slipped into the deep water. Turning aside, I witnessed my Dad pulling off his trousers and then diving into the Bay, after the fishing rod. I was amazed and somewhat bewildered. He was able to snag the rod and climb back into the boat, saving the day for that otherwise hapless Greek fisherman!
A lesson in catching eels from a Greek-Cypriot
by: Ted Siomporas
John Kallis, an Annapolis Greek-Cypriot, was a frequent guest on Tom Siomporas’ boats for fishing parties in the Chesapeake Bay in the 1950s-60s. Even when John became wheelchair bound due to his diabetes condition, we managed to get him into the boat for sport fishing, which John loved.
During one fishing expedition in the mid/late-1950s, near Thomas Point, angling for rockfish, (a.k.a. “striped bass”) John snagged an unwanted monstrous three-foot Chesapeake Bay eel. As he pulled it into the boat, the eel fought as if it were a big fish or a shark, rapidly shooting back and forth off the stern. Mr. Kallis hung on over the five minute or greater fight, finally pulling the monster onto the deck, where it thrashed about and was snapping with razor-sharp teeth and never physically wearing out.
After Mr. Kallis subdued the eel by placing his shoe over its neck, he was finally able to wind the line onto his reel to the point where the eel’s teeth were no longer a threat, although its body was still rapidly slithering in an S-pattern. Finally, Mr. Kallis was able to grab the eel just below its neck, where he circumcised its skin, and (incredibly) skinned the eel alive. Still slithering!
Still without removing the hook from the eel’s snapping mouth and sharp teeth, Mr. Kallis laid the slithering, skinless body on the gunwale, where he proceeded to cut it into 3” pieces. He explained that the Kallis family would be eating fresh grilled eel that night.
Since Dad had only used eel as bait for crabbing, I was astonished to watch Mr. Kallis in action: snagging, skinning, and butchering the beast for dinner.
He turned to me – I was about 10 to 12 years old – and I remember what he told me: “This is how we catch eels in Cyprus”. I was as impressed as I would have been watching Gus Triandos hitting a homer for the Orioles. I, of course, had never heard of Cyprus at that time. Nor did I eat any of the skinned eels.
Tale of the Greek Fisherman’s “Catch”
by: Ted Siomporas
Tom Siomporas and his father John each grew up in the mountains of Macedonia, far from the Greek fishing grounds in the Aegean and Ionian Seas bordering Greece, and both immigrated to the US into inland cities. Neither had fishing experiences, but both became great Chesapeake Bay fishing enthusiasts. Tom came to Annapolis in 1943, soon becoming an enthusiastic Chesapeake bay fisherman, showing off his prized catch of Rockfish (a.k.a. “striped bass”) in these 1940s photos taken at the old wooden frame S&S Restaurant.
John Siomporas, who lived near Pittsburgh – 200 miles inland, also quickly learned to loved fishing in the Chesapeake Bay, frequently visiting Thomas and his grandkids in Annapolis to join the adventure:
Tom acquired a wooden cabin cruiser, docked near the entrance to the Annapolis Dock, which is now called “Ego Alley”. In the late 1940s through the 1950s, Tom would host many fishing parties. This included Annapolis area politicians including Police Chief (later State Senator) Elmer Hagner (married to a Lewnes girl), Judge Maurice Weidemeyer, and State Senator Aris T. Allen. Most of the fishing parties included men from the Annapolis Greek-American community, including Steve Foundas, Nick Mandris, Savvas Pantelides, John Kallis, and Charlie, Big Nick, and Chris Samaras.
Taking me along as their little fishing buddy, we fished near the Naval Air Facility Annapolis, established July 6, 1911, at Greenbury Point, across the Severn River from the US Naval Academy (the earliest site in the nation for Naval Aviation). This became a seaplane base 1926-1962 for aviation training to Naval Academy midshipmen. The landing “strip” for the very active amphibian seaplanes was on the water, marked off by buoys, from mid-river to the North Severn shoreline. Despite the aviation activity, this still left the southern half of the Severn River near Annapolis Harbor and the Naval Academy as a good, convenient location for catching white perch, and sometimes rockfish, starting just a few hundred yards north of the mouth of Spa Creek up to Greenbury Point and Annapolis Roads. The catches were always plentiful, casting or still fishing, as we watched the seaplanes landing or taking off from nearby Greenbury Point. This lasted until the mid-1950s, when the Naval Academy expanded its athletic fields into the mouth of Spa Creek, by dredging the bottom of the Severn (fouling the river bottom) and dumping the spoil onto rip-rap partially across the mouth of Spa Creek and into the Severn, from the former Annapolis-to-Matapeake Ferry launch at the terminus of Prince George Street all the way to what is now the Triton Light on the Naval Academy seawall.
→ Click here and make thumbnail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Nu90hofjrM to view the video “Fishing Tale – the little Greek American boy and his Papou”
In the photo gallery below, The old photos demonstrate how Annapolis harbor was lined with wooden workboats (instead of today’s yachts and sailboats), where the Severn River fishing grounds used to be (blue arrow), and where seafood was purchased (red markings), as described in the video above.
The Greek-American Fisherman’s Son: Ted Siomporas
by Linda Siomporas
It was the 4th of July, 1987. It was our annual tradition to go see the Annapolis Fireworks from our boat, the “Bad Moon Rising”. She was a Caravelle 24′ cabin cruiser.
She had an inboard with an out-drive. The Captain was Ted Siomporas, First Mate was Linda Siomporas and the crew was our four children and two of their friends, ages 3 to 17 years.
Ted’s father Tom Siomporas had a house on the South River and was kind enough to let us keep our boat at his dock. When we arrived at his house he told us in his thick Greek accent: “The water is too rough! It’s not safe to take the children out on the boat!”
Of course Ted “knew better,” and besides, 4th of July only happens once a year. We had to see the fireworks.
Ted’s Father said things in Greek that I am glad I didn’t understand. Their discussion was quite animated!
Well, we never got beyond the mouth of the South River. The closer we got to the Bay, the rougher the water was. The out-drive prop got tangled up with the rope from a crab pot. Then the engine overheated: we were dead in the water.
Ted jumped into 5′ of water from the stern of the boat to guide her around large jetty boulders, to safely beach the boat. Unknowingly, he jumped right into a bunch of sea nettles, getting stung multiple times. We helped him back up in the boat. Our oldest daughter, Anastasia, jumped in the water to take her Dad’s place, and then I joined her, both avoiding the nettles. The two of us were able to safely beach the boat at a waterfront house directly on Thomas Point itself.
Well, if that wasn’t hard enough, we now had to call Ted’s Dad to come get us. Ted went to the nearest house at the eastern tip of Thomas Point, to ask to use the phone (no cell phones in 1987). Dad showed up in 20 minutes and didn’t open his mouth. He said nothing. But it looked like he might fracture his jaw by how tightly he was gritting his teeth. Six of us sat in the back of his car and the rest up front. He didn’t speak the whole ride home.
I knew that the children were disappointed to have missed the fireworks and I expressed my regrets. Anastasia’s friend Heather said, “That’s okay. Every time I go out on the boat with you, it’s a Gilligan’s Island Adventure!”