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What you’ll gain (and lose) — plus how to get started

Growing vegetables in raised beds is highly recommended when there is limited space, or if your soil does not drain well or is stony. But to be successful, the selected site needs at least eight to 10 hours of full sun if your intent is to grow tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, eggplants, squash, cucumbers and snap beans. With less than eight hours of direct sun, you will be limited to growing lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli and kale.
    Raised beds give you the advantages of good drainage, additional growing space and easier management because you have less bending. There are disadvantages, too: having to irrigate more frequently, higher summer soil temperature, colder fall and spring soil temperatures and problems using power equipment such as tillers.
    A common mistake in establishing raised beds is using commercial potting blends, which are engineered for growing plants in pots and small pans. These shallow containers allow water to accumulate at the bottom, in a perched water table, within reach of the roots. Because commercial potting blends are rich in organic matter and porous materials, they have a high air-filled pore space, which does not make for good water retention. This means having to irrigate and fertilize frequently to obtain a desirable crop. The combination of higher growing media temperatures and low water-holding capacity demands frequent irrigations. More frequent irrigations result in a greater loss of nutrients as water moves through the soil.
    You’ll do better by manufacturing your own soil by purchasing subsoil containing 50 to 60 percent sand. Do not purchase topsoil, for it will be full of weed seeds and live roots of perennial weeds. Subsoil, the layer beneath, the topsoil, is relatively free of weed seeds and roots. Blend the subsoil with one-third by volume of compost if your raised beds are a foot or less in height. If the raised beds are deeper than a foot, fill to within three inches of the top edge and cover the soil with a two-inch-thick layer of compost. Spade or rototill the compost into the upper six inches of soil.
    Regardless of which method you use to fill the raised bed, allow at least two weeks before taking soil samples for testing. Since most subsoils tend to be acidic, most likely it will be necessary to add limestone, but without soil test results, the exact amount cannot be estimated.
    If your interest is in organic gardening, top-dress each year with a one-inch-thick-layer of compost prior to spading or tilling in the spring. Compost has a mineralization rate between 10 and 12 percent, which is essential to maintain a proper nutrient level for the garden to be productive. The mineralization rate is highly dependent upon soil temperature, and raised beds have a higher soil temperature than gardens.
    For conventional gardeners, follow the recommendations on the fertilizer bag. Commercial fertilizers tend to be acidic, so your soil should be tested every three to four years. Apply additional compost at least once every three to four years when using conventional gardening practices. Organic particles in compost deteriorate with time, and you are seeking to maintain a three to five percent level of organic matter for carefree gardening.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

First, catch some small spot

As I flipped my live perch over the side, my son did the same. Hoping that we would not have to wait too long for action, I let the small baitfish swim down and away from the boat. The lines streamed aft and out to port as a light wind pushed our skiff over the calm water.
    Within a few seconds, my line was feeding out unusually fast. I glanced around for orientation to gauge just how fast the tide was moving. My son called, “Dad, your line is crossing over mine,” but when I tried to check its flow, I discovered it wasn’t the current that was pulling out my baitfish. It was something far stronger.
    “I’m getting a run already; something took my bait.” I said, “You’ll have to bring your line in.”
    “I can’t. I have a fish on,” he answered. His rod was bent to the corks, and line was pouring off of his spool.
    Throwing my reel in gear, I came tight to my fish to the same effect, my rod bent down and a strong rockfish headed out and away. I did my best to keep my line from crossing my son’s. For long moments it was a delightfully difficult situation.
    Laughing and dodging around each other as we finally got separation, I had to warn John to push his rod tip deep underwater to keep his line clear of our motor’s lower unit. His fish had turned and managed to angle his line under the hull. I thought about raising the motor in assistance, then decided my hands were full. It was every man for himself.
    The response had turned us optimistic. When we arrived, I had been alarmed to see more than 50 fishing craft clustered in the area. Fortunately, most of the others were trolling or anchored and fishing bait. Neither would interfere with our live-lining tactics.

Tips for Live-lining Success
    A number of details can make big differences in your rate of success. The bait must swim as naturally as possible; ideally no weight should be added to the line. Place the hook no deeper than one-quarter inch just in front of the dorsal.
    To maximize the bait’s freedom of movement, we use loop knots to secure a 6/0 live bait hook to the leader. Using at least 18 inches of no more than a 20-pound fluoro leader helps in the stealth department.
    When fishing open water, make your presentations to marked fish in drift mode to give you a definite advantage. Search until you have found good marks, move up current, then drift down over their location with your motor off. Your electronics will tell you how deep your quarry is and approximately when your bait will drift through them.
    Maintain constant but delicate contact with the baitfish through line tension. Knowing just how the bait is swimming — and lending pressure when it is to your advantage — will trigger strikes. When you feel the baitfish making evasive movements, snubbing it up briefly will make it move more frantically. The stripers are alerted to the bait’s distress and often respond with immediate attacks.
    A long pause, free of all line pressure, is almost always necessary after a rockfish grabs the bait. Unless you’ve got very small perch or spot, it’s difficult to get a hook set until the rockfish has really engulfed the bait. A long five count is the minimum.
    Strike with a firm, measured pull, not a hard strike. Particularly with bigger fish, if it has swallowed the bait, a forceful strike can rip the bait and the hook out of the soft tissue of the fish’s throat. During the fight, keep the pressure moderate for the same reason.
    Do not attempt to horse a fish in the last few feet nor snub a last-minute dash for the bottom. Be patient, set your drag on the light side, let them run and you’ll land ’em all — as we did that day.

Caught live and dressed for you this and every week in Bay Weekly

What do you love to do?    
    Discovering what that is and making the time to do it is a key to a happy life.
    I learned that lesson from Joe Akers, who when I met him had stepped back from the stage of world affairs to take over a small-town Illinois newspaper.
    “When I worked for the oil companies,” Akers told me the evening of the June afternoon I walked into his newsroom, “I’d leave and never know when I’d be back. Three weeks, that’ll be all, my boss said on sending me to South America.
    “By then I was wise to him. All right, I said, but I want one condition. I want to come home once a month.
    “Fine,” he said.
    “That stay lasted 11 months and took me to nearly every county in South America. But he kept his promise. I came home 11 times.”
    Back then, I’d bumped into what I loved to do, and I was making time for it. Discovering people like Joe Akers kept photographer partner Sue Eslinger and me on the road for two years.
    Two years have stretched into a lifetime. After leaving Illinois, and Illinois Times, I joined with my family in creating Bay Weekly so I could keep telling the stories of people whose work and play made this their equivalent of Akers’ “the best life I’ve ever lived — that I can remember.”
    Most everybody who’s ever written a story for Bay Weekly has shared my sustained delight in discovering, first-hand, the dynamism of people doing work they love.
    That’s why you have the pleasure this week of reading The Original Social Network.
    Writer Karen Holmes was dancing at the Davidsonville Recreation Center when she chanced on the Anne Arundel Radio Club reaching out to the world by Morse code, voice and digital over the 24 hours of this year’s nationwide Ham Radio Field Day.
    Find a bunch of people erecting electronic Maypoles, and you take notice. If, that is, you’re like Holmes, whose association with Bay Weekly has turned her into the version of a journalistic hunting dog we call a newshound.
    Like Sue and me in those early years, Bay Weekly reporters catch their stories where they find them.
    Proudly, they bring their catch back to me, and we dress them for your reading pleasure. Just as Karen Holmes has done in this fascinating story about people — our neighbors in Calvert and Anne Arundel counties — whose passion is connecting.
    In the inner sanctums of journalism, there’s a lot of talk nowadays about “rekindling the passion for print” — in other words, how to get people to do what you’re doing, reading a newspaper.
    Of my prescription for keeping print alive and well, you’re living proof: Find writers and reporters who love their work, and send them out to bring back stories of people making the world tick. These are stories people will read.
    We’ve got stories of that sort for you again this week, thanks to writers like Victoria Clarkson, first appearing in Bay Weekly this week; Kathy Knotts, a journalist for 15 years, the last for Bay Weekly; and intern Robyn Bell, our St. John’s College grad who’s discovering what thrills us all in this business: finding good stories and bringing them back to you.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

A thrifty couple’s guide to having your cake and eating it, too

Come this fall, I am officially adding strategic planner to my resume. After moving, working two jobs and planning a wedding from 700 miles away, I’ve earned it.
    Some couples hire a wedding planner to help design their special day from top to bottom. My fiancé and I knew from the start we’d be taking on the planning ourselves. So when I got engaged, I started by reading magazines and web blogs. These resources can be a great help, but they lured me into a false sense of confidence. Doing this yourself is a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong: It’s an exciting time, but keeping so many balls in the air takes serious organizational finesse.
    As a bride-to-be, I’ve been determined to create a wedding that is true to my fiancé and me and sustainable for our finances, family, friends and our planet. By sharing my experience, I hope to help other ambitious brides create their own dream weddings.

About Us

My fiancé and I met in graduate school at Duke University, where we were both pursuing master’s degrees in environmental management. From friends, we quickly evolved into something more. Four years later, he popped the question in front of the Jefferson Memorial in D.C.
    Surprised with a photographer to capture the moment, an antique ring I had fallen in love with (that he had hidden in our closet for two years), some beautiful words and a round of applause from the onlookers, I said Yes. It was perfect.
    That was April 2015. We have been wedding planning almost nonstop since, first from D.C. and most recently from our new home in ­Cambridge, Mass.
    My fiancé and I both work in the environmental field, I most recently at Chesapeake Conservancy in Annapolis. We are both conscious consumers. We wanted our wedding to support local businesses, have a very natural feeling and be as gentle on the earth as possible. Through all our planning and decision-making, these values were non-negotiables.

Let the Planning Begin

Get out a new notebook, start a Google Doc or buy a pocket calendar; it’s about to get organized in here! Whatever works for you, use it to track conversations, contracts, payment deadlines and lingering questions. Keep it all organized and in one place. In the future you will appreciate your organization.
    I’ll talk you through my notebook, now nearly full. But first, a few general guidelines.
    Decide up front what wedding elements are most important to you and your fiancé. Develop a budget accordingly. Track your monetary commitments as you go to avoid surprises later.
    The internet is your friend. Good places to start are WeddingWire.com and TheKnot.com. Pinterest is also great for figuring out your style, colors and décor.
    Be willing to make tradeoffs. It was important to us to have a seated meal, but we were perfectly happy with a DJ instead of a band. Making compromises in some places will allow you to comfortably spend more funds in others.
    Ask for references. Hell hath no fury like a disappointed bride, so you are likely to get very honest responses. We have done this for most of our vendors, and it has been hugely helpful.
    Don’t overextend yourself financially. If it sounds too expensive, it probably is. The wedding business is priced through the roof, but there are great options if you’re willing to look around and think outside the box.

Where to Marry

Start with choosing your venue.
    For us, this was easy. In graduate school, we spent countless hours exploring the Sarah P. Duke Gardens adjacent to Duke’s campus. That’s where we wanted to tie the knot.
    Popular wedding venues book up quickly, especially in the spring and summer, so we traveled to Durham to secure our spot right away. Even a year and a half in advance, only two Saturdays were available in October 2016.
    If you don’t have such strong feelings, think about places special to you as a couple: a favorite city, vineyard or ambiance. As you dream, consider the time of year you want to marry, the number of guests, whether they will be willing to travel and your budget. Then, visit the contenders.
    Walk the grounds, talk to the staff and envision your day. Some venues require that you use pre-approved caterers and services, which may be a deal-breaker for you.
    Once you book the spot, you can dive into the details.

The Caterer

Catering was our next stop. Duke Gardens had a limited list of approved caterers, which made our decision easy. We were flexible on the cuisine, as long as most was sourced locally. Ultimately, we chose the caterer that presented us with a menu that spoke to our tummies and to our worldview.
    If you have a particular food preference, let that guide you. And, if you’re nearby, definitely meet with caterers in person and try their food.
    Next came choosing between a seated dinner and a buffet. Each has tradeoffs. Buffets generally have lower costs for wait staff but may require you to order more of each dish. Buffets tend to be cheaper overall, but seated dinners seem more elegant. After a lengthy debate, that’s what we choose. All our guests will be coming from out of town, so we felt it important to treat them to a relaxing meal.

The Dress

My dress gave me the most anticipatory heartburn. I am not one to spend a lot of money on clothes, especially on clothes I will only wear once.
    My mother eased my pain with her suggestion of Cherie Amour Bridal Resale in Howard County’s Historic Savage Mill. Cherie Amour sells donated wedding, bridesmaid and mother-of dresses. All proceeds benefit Success In Style, an organization that works to dress people in crisis for employment.
    I saw my perfect dress in the window. Originally priced at more than $4,000, it cost me $550. Mom and I had a special afternoon together, and I was smitten with both my dress and helping others.
    Whether you find your dress at a bridal salon, your mother’s cedar chest or a bargain alternative, remember that you will need fitting and tailoring, so include those funds in your budget.

Photography

Making this decision was fun. Hours of looking through photos online helped us decide on a style that suited our wedding vibe and venue. With those elements and our price point, it was easy to find a photographer that fit our needs. Again, online reviews and phone calls to discuss our vision were invaluable.
    Be on the lookout for specials. During the month we booked, our photographer was offering a free engagement shoot. We hadn’t planned on engagement photos, so this was a happy surprise — and a rehearsal for getting past feeling awkward.

Flowers

Flowers can really rack up your tab if you’re not careful. We found that smaller operations tend to be more reasonably priced. We also supported a small business by choosing a mother-daughter team who grow flowers in their back yard. Their passion for flowers was infectious, as was their delight in using flowers to bring joy to others. It was a perfect fit.
    Using local, seasonal flowers helps cut both costs and your carbon footprint. But the flower industry is weather-dependent, so you need to be flexible. If a flower we want isn’t blooming when we marry, our florist won’t be able to use it. We were fine with that, but you should let your florist know your must-have flowers.

Music

Music was the hardest booking from afar. We knew we’d hire a DJ, but it would be sight unseen. Online reviews and references saved our day — we hope. I’d rather have trusted my ears, and I hope you can.

Hair and Makeup

I knew I’d need help with my hair, and I trolled photos on Pinterest to decide on the look I wanted. Then, I found stylists that demonstrated my aesthetic and chose the one I felt most comfortable with over the phone. I’ll visit Durham before the wedding for a trial run.
    In terms of makeup, I decided to invest in some good makeup and training, rather than a makeup artist for the big day. I went to a makeup store for lessons from a professional, which I see as an investment in my bridal shower, bachelorette party and rehearsal, as well as my wedding.

Plus …

I wish I could say our planning is complete, but we still have a few decisions to make, including choosing our wedding rings. Despite my best planning, others will come up. Yet so far, my type-A personality, obsessive organizing and thorough note-taking is paying off. I look ahead confident that we will have created a wedding true to our ethic and to ourselves, happily shared with our best friends and family.
    Good luck to you, too!

Two dogs learn how to navigate the big city in this cute comedy

Max (voiced by Louis C.K.: Horace and Pete) is a terrier living an idyllic life in New York with his owner/soulmate Katie (Ellie Kemper: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). They go for bike rides, share dinner and snuggle up to sleep. Max couldn’t be happier.
    Except that every day Katie does the almost unforgivable: She leaves. Most pets in Max’s apartment building spend their time alone socializing and binge eating, Max waits doggedly for Katie’s return. He stares at the door. He whines. He consults the neighbor cat.
    Max’s loneliness ends when Katie brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet: Modern Family). The new dog is loud, big and attention-getting. Max hates him on sight and plots to rid himself of the interloper.
    Duke thinks the same about Max.
    Trying to one-up each other, the feuding dogs get lost far from home. It’s a big city out there, filled with loud noises and scary creatures. With no idea where home is, they find themselves hunted by a demented band of human-hating ex-pets.
    If the story sounds familiar, it’s probably because you saw it in 1995 when it was called Toy Story. Similar in plot points and major themes, The Secret Life of Pets is a furry version of the Pixar classic. It doesn’t delve so deeply into themes like fear of being replaced, jealousy and learning to accept others. But it does provide some great jokes about dog and cat behavior.
    Chances are, if you’re a pet owner, you’ll find a character that reminds you of your own fuzzy friend, from loyal Max to indifferent, taunting Chloe (you guessed it, a cat). The world of pets is given interesting little touches, and it’s fun to watch dogs shout at squirrels to get off their turf.
    The brilliant voice cast is loaded with comedians, from C.K. to Kevin Hart to Jenny Slate, each knowing exactly when to push a line or pause for comic effect. Albert Brooks (Finding Dory) is particularly delightful as Tiberius, a hawk who wants friends but must fight his raptor urge to eat them.
    Filled with silly laughs, clever observations and just a bit of scatological humor, The Secret Life of Pets will appeal to little ones and keep adults entertained. Jokes are solid and performances strong.
    If you have children who don’t like creepy crawlies, be aware that the 3-D show features snakes and gators snapping directly at the audience. There’s no need to pay extra to traumatize your child.

Good Animation • PG • 87 mins.

Spin dreams and refresh fond memories with Bay Weekly’s first-ever Wedding Guide

Does it take an advanced degree to plan a wedding?    
    Our longtime contributing writer Emily Myron claims equivalent credit to a master’s in strategic planning for organizing her upcoming October wedding. She’s been working on it since April 2015, when her guy dropped to one knee at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. It didn’t take much longer to earn her first master’s degree, in environmental management, at Duke University.
    Obsessive Type A personality that she confesses to be, Emily has turned her well-documented planning into a how-to that will guide couples through the complex geography of getting married.
    If that’s not you, don’t feel left out. We get the fun of peeking into her story.
    On the how-to side, she sets up seven categories — Where to Marry, Caterer, The Dress, Photography, Flowers, Music plus Hair and Makeup — and tells you how she and her fiancé (replaced by her mother for dress shopping) researched and decided in each.
    In most of those categories, we readers will have to wait until after her big day to find out what her choices were and how they worked out. Location the couple know well, as they courted in that garden back in their days at Duke. Dress is bought, but despite my editorial blandishments, she refused to send photos before her wedding day, lest Bay Weekly readers know more than her groom. Everything else is pretty much a gamble. You make your study, pay your money and hope for the best.
    That’s where Bay Weekly’s advertising partners take over.
    In this issue, 30-some local businesses with special wedding qualifications step in to describe how they can help you. Thus you’ll learn that family-owned Willow Oak Flower and Herb Farm is a close parallel to the North Carolina, mother-daughter cottage garden business that is growing and designing Emily’s wedding flowers.
    Emily’s wedding venue is the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham. Where is yours? Chesapeake Country is so rich with wonderful options that I’m glad this choice is yours and not mine. In these pages you’ll read about the outdoor settings of Annmarie Garden, Darnall’s Chance House Museum, Friday’s Creek Winery, Historic Sotterley Plantation, Maria’s Love Point Bed and Breakfast, Running Hare Winery, the Town of North Beach and Two Rivers-Maryland Yacht Club. Each offers unique, spectacular settings.
    You’ll also learn about favorite Chesapeake Country places with special ambiance and good food both casual and upscale: Babes Boys Tavern; Brick Wood Fired Bistro; Pirates Cove; The Old Stein Inn; Two Rivers Steak & Fish House, The Reserve, Catering, & Bakery.
    Of course you may have your own dream spot. A half dozen more of our wedding partners describe how they’ll set the stage for a party or wedding in a garden, on the beach or a favorite back yard.
    Other partners, including DJ Dave and Last Call Entertainment, will satisfy your musical tastes. Diamonds and dresses are here too, to set your imagination spinning.
    We’d like to help you eat your cake, too, for Cakes and Confections and Kirsten’s Cakery have set our sweet teeth longing, while Kilwins Chocolates has us dreaming of sugarplum favors.
    If you can’t fit us on your guest list, do send photos — or, better still, your wedding painted on the scene by live-event painter Amy Moreno. (Without reading about it here, who would have thought of a painting of your wedding, done on the spot?)
    You’ll also find framing and preserving helpers in these pages.
    Send us your wedding photos, like the 26 readers whose wedding memories start on page 18 in “I Do”, and we’ll include you in next year’s Wedding Guide.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

These talented kids will get your laughs

Annie Get Your Gun is a classic musical based on real people in the days of America’s western expansion. Buffalo Bill’s traveling performance entertained people from all walks of life with the best shot around, Frank Butler. That is, the best shot around other than Annie Oakley.
    The story of the girl who could shoot better is brought to life by Talent Machine, a local theater company that has been getting kids on stage since 1987.
    Talent Machine’s president Lea Capps believes in her young troupe, so there’s no “dumbing down” anything — as youth theater companies may do, performing junior versions of famous plays and musicals.
    Capps’ dedication to performing the authentic plays and musicals pushes her pupils further, allowing their talent to grow. Talent Machine’s Annie Get Your Gun delivers belly-busting laughter, foot-tapping music and talented actors to boot.
    “There’s no business like show business,” proclaims the fame-hungry Wild West ensemble. The message resonates with the budding thespians, children from ages seven to 15.
    “It’s my favorite song in the musical,” says eighth-grader Thomas Crabtree, who plays Mr. Adams.
    Talent Machine cultivates kids’ interest in theater into real talent with the help of dedicated volunteers who for this show created costumes and sets that seemed to step right out of the sharpshooting days of Annie Oakley.
    Michelle Nellum, who trained the spotlight on the young stars, had never planned to get involved. When she and her family moved locally a decade ago, a cousin invited her to one of Talent Machine’s extremely popular Easter breakfasts hosted by Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs. When daughter Maya, then around three, saw what kids not much older than her were doing, she wanted to join them. Maya wouldn’t be satisfied with dancing in the aisle. Now Maya and her mother encourage other friends to join.
    “As it’s 100 percent volunteer, Talent Machine keeps costs low for everyone,” Nellum says.
    On stage, actors and actresses lose themselves in their characters. From Annie’s rustic accent to the mesmerizingly perfect tap dancing and the children’s ability to push through sound equipment malfunctions, Talent Machine knows how to prepare its actors for their big night. Off stage, the actors were more than happy to meet new fans.
    Nine-year-old Lucy Dennis, answered my questions about the musical as though she was regularly hounded by the paparazzo. Lucy, who has been in seven Talent Machine productions, was also inspired to join after watching a breakfast show. Much as she loves acting and dancing, she aspires to be a vet.
    If you have a free night this weekend and want to change up the usual Netflix routine, see Annie Get Your Gun before Talent Machine moves onto its second summer performance.
    Remember, there’s no business like show business!


Thru July 17: ThFSa 7:30pm, Su 2pm, Key Auditorium, St. John’s College, Annapolis, $15, rsvp: ­www.talentmachine.com.
 

Find out at Calvert Marine ­Museum’s Sharkfest

Millions of years ago, long before there was a Chesapeake Bay, sharks thrived in the saltwater marine environment of the flooded river we now call Susquehanna. Big sharks that could have swallowed a man whole, had any men or women been around to be eaten.
    The megalodon, ancestor of the great white shark, was the apex marine predator of those waters. Rivaling today’s blue whale, the megalodon grew up to 50 feet long.
    He’s long gone, but his kin are still with us.
    Perhaps a dozen kinds of sharks visit the Chesapeake. Atlantic mako sharks, sand and sandbar or brown sharks, hammerheads, bonnetheads, dusky, sharp-nosed, smooth and spiny dogfish sharks, chain catsharks. And bull sharks.
    “Bull sharks are one of the notorious sharks we need to watch out for,” says David Moyer, curator of estuarine biology at Calvert Marine Museum. “They’re the inspiration species for Jaws. They come all the way up into fresh water. That story came out of a whole lot of real-life shark attacks over a short period of time in fresh waters in New Jersey.”
    At Calvert Marine Museum’s Sharkfest on Saturday, July 9, you’ll learn all that and more.
    “The annual festival is the museum’s way to teach people that sharks are not the enemy and without them the entire ocean ecosystem would collapse,” explains museum educator Mindy Quinn. “Humans kill sharks at the rate of about 11,415 per hour.”
    At Sharkfest, you’ll meet the musuem’s resident chain dogfish, all about a foot long. Their better name, says their keeper Moyer, “is chain catsharks, for their eyes have slit-like pupils like a cat’s.”
    That adaptation may be because they live in deep waters without natural sunlight. They also luminesce, perhaps for the same reason, or perhaps to attract food or their own kind or to discourage predation.
    Also on hand this year is a horn shark from the north Pacific, a shark that creeps along the bottom rather than swims.
    You’ll see shark cousins, clearnose skates and cownose rays. Like the catsharks, rays are regular visitors throughout the Chesapeake. Skates, which prefer the saltier water of the lower Bay, are a specialty of the museum, which breeds the flat fish to share with other museums and aquariums.
     Also visiting are another shark cousin and Chesapeake Bay native, the Atlantic sturgeon, an endangered species being bred by GenOn Aquaculture in Virginia for reintroduction to the upper Potomac River.
    The scariest shark at Sharkfest is the full-sized megalodon, a 50-foot-long behemoth model created at the museum 15 years ago to put the past in chilling perspective.
    The biggest draw is the chance to touch the live sharks.
    The most fun is sliding down the jaws of a giant inflated shark.

SharkFest: Sat., July 9, 10am-5pm, Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons, $9; www.calvertmarinemuseum.com.

Neither scary nor entertaining, it may be time to kill off this franchise
 

In a semi-near future, America has a novel way of coping with crime: The Purge. One evening a year, all crime — including murder — is legal. The New Founding Fathers tout the Purge as a ritual release that’s good for society. In practice, it’s opportunity for social engineering as rich whites kill poor minorities.
    Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell: Crossing Lines), a Purge survivor, seeks to end the bloody tradition. It’s her campaign pledge as a presidential candidate. Lest she ruin their murderous fun, the New Founding Fathers make her the target of this year’s Purge.
    Roan’s ally is Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo: Captain America: Civil War), who couldn’t bring himself to purge his son’s killer.
    Will Leo change his mind about the benefits of the Purge? Can Roan survive the night? Will this franchise survive its simplistic philosophy?
    The problem with The Purge: Election Year is that its message comes before its story. Rather than sympathetic characters, you get preaching about bad old white men. Worse still in a film about the oppression of racism, most of the minority characters are underwritten, stereotypical and appear only to save whites or offer them emotional support.
    Leo, the star of the second film, has little to do in this one. Once his character had a full emotional arc; now he’s reduced to grimacing, running and shooting. Roan is a screaming damsel. She chides all the killers, while the movie makes it obvious that killing is the only way to survive the night. This paradox makes her look weak and foolish.
    Director James DeMonaco (The Purge Anarchy) makes the colossal mistake of abandoning the gritty B-movie feel that made the second Purge fun. On three he’s returned to his roots, ineffectually proselytizing to the popcorn-eating masses. This film sounds like a poorly researched philosophy paper. Without charm, pacing or creativity, it becomes a slog on par with surviving Purge night. Even the threats are laughable: Half the movie features a pack of teen girls in skimpy dresses menacing people in a car illuminated with twinkle lights. The other big bad is a pack of frail old men who may gum our heroine to death.
    Neither scary nor entertaining, The Purge: Election Year is the kind of mass-market thriller that will satisfy no one. There’s not enough blood to satisfy horror buffs, and political thriller junkies will find the simplistic story unbearably dull. Avoid this purge night.

Poor Thriller • R • 105 mins.

When spot are missing, will they bite on white perch?

It was sunny and flat calm on the Bay, and I had made record time to get on site. But the area I had chosen was empty of boats. With such great weather, I assumed that at least a few sports would be working the flat. The schools of good-sized rockfish that had been teeming there were certainly no secret.
    On my fish finder, the water looked as vacant underneath as on top. With a sinking heart, I cruised slowly an irregular pattern in the general direction of previous good fortune. The bottom appeared featureless and empty; my scan of its 20-foot depth ran steady flat.
    I searched for a half-hour before my screen lit up. Netting a small but lively perch out of my bait bucket, I fitted a 6/0 hook just under the skin in front of its dorsal. I wanted that hook to break free with just a bit of a tug so it could easily find purchase in the rockfish’s mouth.
    One of the most frequent causes of losing big fish when live-lining is placing the hook too deep in the baitfish. Deep hooking obscures much of the hook gap, and it makes it more likely that, when the striper takes the fish down, the hook will turn back into the bait’s body and not into the rockfish.
    Motoring up current, well past the marks, I flipped the small perch out away from my skiff and felt it shoot down toward the bottom. I settled my nerves and waited out the drift with my thumb lightly on the reel spool. It was almost mid-day, and though the sun was high, its heat was not oppressive. The day couldn’t have been more pleasant.

What to Feed a Rockfish
    My trip had started out that morning, as it often does, with an unwelcome surprise. The perch I had planned to catch for bait were no longer where I had been finding them. Just a few days past, the area had been choked with schools of the little white devils, many just the right size, no more than five inches. This morning the bottom looked like a desert on my finder; no life anywhere.
    Moving about with my eyes glued to the sonar produced nothing but eyestrain. I gave up and headed for a sizeable creek where I had occasionally caught a few small perch. It appeared, at first, to be just as empty, but by moving about and trying every piece of structure, I finally found a small school of whities.
    It took another hour to get about 10 decent sized scrappers in my aerated bucket. The morning was wearing late when I finally fired up the Yamaha and headed for rockfish water.
    Would my perch baitfish work?
    The last few years, it has been virtually impossible to get rockfish to eat a white perch. If a live-liner didn’t have a supply of small Norfolk spot, it was unlikely a striper would be tempted to bite. Last year, the number of small spot in the Chesapeake dropped. This year, spot of any size seem to be missing. Since rockfish have to eat, I reasoned, perhaps it was finally time for white perch as bait.
    As I drifted over the area where I’d had likely marks, I felt my baitfish making a number of sudden dashes. Then it stopped. My line started up under my thumb in long, erratic bursts. I fed into the action, guarding against a spool overrun while trying to minimize resistance on the line. Giving the situation a long 10-count, I came tight again.
    When I felt solid resistance I struck, and the fight was on. The hiss of a smooth drag is lovely music to an old angler’s ear. It says big fish and means you’d better be extra careful. There are lots of ways to lose a big guy, as I well knew, but only one sure method to land it: patience combined with constant pressure and focus.
    Eventually that fat, healthy 32-inch fish came to the net and into the boat. As I buried it in ice, I marveled at how well things had turned out. My white perch had carried the day and I had more than enough to get another striper to fill my limit. But another fish didn’t really matter. Everything was already fantastic.