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Here’s what you need to have fun

Afish caught on the fly is easily twice as much fun as one caught any other way. Right now is an ideal time to fish the long rod for rockfish and white perch.

The first rule is to leave your conventional tackle at home. If you’ve decided to use the fly rod, it’s best to be fully committed.

A nine-foot, eight-weight rod is a good allaround stick. It can handle just about any sized striper you’re apt to encounter and will still allow a decentsized perch to show its stuff. Choose a floating line as it is relatively easy to cast and can handle such weighted flies as the Clouser minnow or surface poppers as the Blados Crease Fly.

You’ll be targeting areas no more than five feet deep to rocky  shorelines, jetties, bulkheads, piers and docks where stripers and perch hold. As you may lose a few flies to these structures (or else you’re not casting close enough), be sure you have an adequate supply.

The Clouser minnow in sizes No. 1 and larger, in chartreuse over white, is the most popular pattern and color on the Chesapeake for striped bass. However, any fly, both floating and sinking, can produce a strike, especially anything two to four inches long that resembles a minnow or a grass shrimp.

When fishing after dark or on overcast days, nothing beats a black weighted Lefty’s Deceiver crept across the bottom.

For rockfish, leaders can be on the heavy side. Rockfish aren’t typically leader shy, and you will be plying waters strewn with rocks, boulders, timbers or the remnants of steel or concrete structures. Heavier tippets can withstand lots of abrasion both from the fish and the environment. I recommend a short (four- to five-foot) monofilament leader plus 18 inches of at least 15-pound tippet.

You may also make your own leaders by blood-knotting together a threefoot butt section of 30-pound mono to two feet of 20-pound and ending this with a loop knot, which is then easily joined, loop to loop, with a 12- to 18-inch section of your 15- to 20-pound tippet.

If you are targeting white perch specifically, use a lighter leader, constructed similarly to the above but in a 25-15-8 pound mono combination. Flies for perch should also be on the smaller side, with those tied on a No. 2 hook the largest. Shorter fly rods from six feet up can also increase the sport with perch. But lines less than five-weight may cause casting difficulties with heavier, bulkier flies.

A chartreuse-over-white Clouser minnow in sizes No. 2 to No. 6 is an excellent choice for perch. Other great picks are a bead head, Crystal Wooly Bugger or a Crystal Shrimp in pearl, tan, rootbeer or chartreuse. A traditional fly rod lure such as the Hidebrandt Flicker Spin is especially deadly in shallow water. Don’t hesitate to add a small split shot in front of your fly or lure to get it close to the bottom.

If you can pick your days, overcast skies with a solid high tide in the morning and low wind predictions are just about perfect for both rockfish and perch. Both species like the upper phases of the tide when they visit the shallows. Using an electric engine, poling or — at the least — practicing extreme noise discipline will result in larger fish of both species as the older, smarter fish are very shy of noise when they are in the skinny water.

My model is good enough for the National Botanical Garden

The purpose of rain gardens is to reduce surface runoff by capturing water in ponds where it can infiltrate the soil. Many rain gardens begin with dug ponds lined with sand and gravel. Water-tolerant plants added in and around the ponds absorb more water.
    This design can absorb only a limited amount of water based on the soil porosity, a measure of texture and compaction. After a heavy rain, water can stand for days and weeks, so the gardens become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Even tolerant plant species have problems surviving standing water.
    There’s also a septic smell to some newly constructed rain gardens. The odor is caused by soils containing more than three percent organic matter, which is typical with a manufactured medium with compost blended in. When soils and materials rich in organic matter are water-logged, they undergo anaerobic digestion, resulting in odor.

Getting It Right
    A well-designed and constructed rain garden should not retain water for more than a couple of days and should promote the growth of plants tolerant to wet soil conditions. Soil for its bottom should contain only well decomposed organic matter, not freshly made compost.
    Here’s how to meet both those goals.
    Water absorbing capacity can be significantly increased by either auguring holes in the bottom of the rain garden during construction or by trenching.
    If the rain garden is big enough to accommodate a power trencher, trenches four feet wide and up to four feet deep should be dug at 18- to 24-inch intervals across the bottom of the pond.
    Fill trenches with pine fines in 12-inch lifts. Pack the pine fines using a eight-foot four-by-four timber between each lift until the trenches are filled. Finally, place a covering of sand or gravel over the bottom of the pond.
    In small ponds, augur four- to 10-inch diameter holes spaced about 18 inches apart to a depth of three to four feet. Fill the holes with pine fines in 12-inch lifts and packed similarly. Cover the bottom as above.
    Pine fines are the fine particles that collect in the manufacture of pine bark mulch. They contain 100 percent lignins, which resist decomposition. When buried deep in the soil and covered with sand or gravel, they will not generate odors. Pine fines are also a rich source of humic and fulvic acids. Both of these naturally occurring acids will help loosen the soil, allowing it to absorb more water. Further, the pine fines will serve as a wick, pulling water down where it can be better absorbed.
    Augering or trenching deep into the sub-soil greatly increases its absorbing capacity. This system also increases the surface area and water-absorbing capacity of the soil.
    To accommodate plants in the pond, place a four- to six-inch layer of a sandy loam soil with two to three percent natural organic matter over the layer of sand or gravel. Never amend the soil with perlite or vermiculite. Perlite will deteriorate into slime after several years of freezing and thawing. Vermiculite flattens into plate-like particles in only six to eight months after they have absorbed water.
    I have used this system many times and never had a failure. The largest project I was involved in was the National Botanic Garden at the base of Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. Following heavy rains, the existing water gardens overflowed into the gardens. To increase the water garden’s ability to absorb more water, we augered 10-inch holes in the bottom to a depth of five feet at 24-inch intervals. The holes were packed and the bottom covered with gravel as described.


Apologies to Flint, Michigan

    In my June 29 column, The Poop on Biosolids, I wrote “Unless the biosolids come from Flint, Michigan, the lead levels in Class A biosolids are far below EPA standards in Compro, Orgro and Earthlife. The same is true for cadmium.”
    A Bay Weekly online reader in Flint who is knowledgeable about the biosolids has corrected me. He has assured me that Flint is generating Class A biosolids. The assumption that I made was based on the research I did with biosolids from Baltimore in the late 1970s before Mayor Schaffer cleaned up the sewer system. I apologize for making that assumption.


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

It’s not all peanuts and mints for the Naval Academy’s Bill the Goat

The Naval Academy’s mascot is a fighting goat. That goat’s name is Bill, after a pet kept by the first president of the Naval Academy Athletic Association. The emblematic mascot is fashioned after the actual animal as embodied over the years by more than 37 goats. The first goat was only a skin, the remainder of a loved ship goat, and worn by naval officers as they danced for the crowd during halftime.
    Since 1893, Bill has been a living goat who embodies the fighting spirit and tenacity of the Navy. To find that mascot, the Naval Academy took out a newspaper ad reading “WANTED: The meanest and fiercest goat possible …”
    Today Bill is not one goat but three, all white Angoras that weigh about 200 pounds at maturity.
    The Bills’ whereabouts are kept secret because of repeated kidnappings, typically by the rivals at West Point.
    Even the identity of Bill the Goat’s caretakers — who “are chosen because of their great love for these animals,” says U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Walter E. ‘Ted’ Carter — is kept a secret as part of a great tradition.
    Yet I managed to get a glimpse into that mysterious world in an impromptu exclusive interview with a caretaker who’s name we’ve ommitted for the safety of all concerned.


Bay Weekly Which goat is the most trouble?

Bill Caretaker    The blue-eyed goat, No. 33, is the naughtiest.


Bay Weekly What is Bill’s typical lifespan?

Bill Caretaker    Twelve years.


Bay Weekly How did current goats, Nos. 33, 34, 36 and 37, come to the U.S. Naval Academy?

Bill Caretaker    Bills 33 and 34 were donated by a farm in Pennsylvania and are now retired. Bills 36 and 37 are gifts from the Texas family of an army helicopter pilot, who wished he’d gone to Navy. They are now the active Bills.


Bay Weekly Tell us an interesting fact about the goats’ home life.

Bill Caretaker    The Bills are kind of like dogs. Because we get them so young, they like to follow you around and love attention. The Bills also enjoy snacking on peanuts and mints.


Learn more about Bill at the new exhibit in the Naval Academy Visitor Center, established in honor of all the past Bills but in particular the late Bill 35 whose blanket is framed and on display.

Vertical Mulching and Tree Roots

Q    I enjoy your articles. Recently you’ve written about trees & Bloom.
    I have two chestnut oaks that now have slime flux. Do you think your method would help these trees? I have called forestry schools, and they tell me I can’t do anything. Commercial tree companies want to sell me a fertilizing service for $1,000 with no guarantee.
    Would drilling at three feet cut through and damage the roots? I have about 20 of these oaks and all have shown some stress the last few years. I wouldn’t want to hurt their roots.
    Do they sell Bloom in the Annapolis area? Or is there some substitute?

–Dave Bastian

A Making the tree healthy is the best treatment for curing slime flux. Vertical mulching with Bloom ASAP will stimulate those chestnut oaks to generate new growth, which will result in compartmentalizing the region in the trunks that is generating the slime flux.
    I vertical mulched using compost on my own cherry bark oak tree here in Deale 25 years ago when we moved here, and within two years the slime flux stopped. I drilled six-inch diameter holes. Don’t worry about damaging roots. If you hit the roots with the auger, the tree will generate new roots from the damaged area. When a tree is dug, balled and burlapped, the tree loses 80 percent of its roots, and it recovers.
    I have vertically mulched my 200-year-old cherry bark oak five times, and it is healthier than ever.
    Bloom is sold at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville.


Girdling Ivy Kills Trees

Q    I enjoyed your vertical mulching article in Bay Weekly. I have two large silver maples and another mature tree. Vines have almost completely covered them, and I wanted to know if this is harmful and should I remove it. I imagine it would damage the bark to just rip the vines off after they’ve gotten so attached. And the deep vines up in the trees do provide habitat for birds and squirrels. But if it’s killing the tree, then I guess I need to take action.

–Rich Kavanagh, Deale

A The silver maple is a short-lived tree. Yes, I have seen over the years where English ivy has killed trees. This will occur if the vines completely circle the trunk and you can see the bark of the tree growing over the vine. It kills the tree by girdling.  If the vines are mostly growing straight up the tree, like many do, it is not a problem. From the looks of the top growth visible in the picture you sent, it appears that the new growth is sparse, which means that the vines appear to be girdling the trunk.


Replacing a Silver Maple

Q    We have sadly watched a large silver maple die over the past few years. It was probably about 50 years old and the source of a plague of box elder bugs. We are having it removed soon and need to know a good replacement. Also, will we have to wait to see if there is any disease or bugs in the soil that could infest a new tree?
    Do you have any suggestions for a quick-growing shade tree? We are thinking honey locust or dogwood. Our home is in Upper Marlboro.
    We really enjoy your column. Thank you for your advice.

–Leda Kress, Upper Marlboro

A Most fast-growing trees such as silver maple have short lives. However, the Shade Master honey locust is a fast-growing cultivar that has a relatively long lifespan.
    The box elder bug only feeds on female box elder maple trees. We have lots of box elder maples growing in this region. I doubt very much if the bug caused the death of your tree. Silver maple trees are prone to fusarium wilt, which may have been the problem. Since it has had a slow death, I strongly suspect that your tree was infected and you need not worry that it will affect the Shade Master locust.


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

When the days are too hot, try the hours before midnight

The temperature in the low 70s seemed cool after the scorching sun, just a few hours ago, had sent the mercury into the high 90s. The multitudes of motorized craft churning the waters had long ago headed for home. I had the spot to myself, a rather surreal feeling in the silence and darkness.
    I motored slowly into position and lowered my Power Pole anchor firmly into the bottom on the spot I had marked on my GPS. As my skiff swung stern to on the freshening tidal current, I relaxed, reached for my casting rod and fingered the swimming plug rigged earlier that evening. Carefully, I made my way to the bow.
    At 10pm, the waning quarter moon threw little light. But I had fished here often and knew exactly where I was located. I was anchored in four feet of water over the remnants of a jetty reduced by years of relentless storms and currents that swept by the prominent point.
    Surrounding depths reached five to six feet in most places, but I had chosen a shallow-running lure because I intended to target another inundated jetty well down current. It rose up to about three feet under the surface, creating a nice rip occasionally but barely visible in the meager light.
    I knew from experience that rockfish would stage just below that jetty to pick off baitfish swept along and disoriented by the swirling waters cresting the rocks below. The questions that night were two: Would they show up after the disruptions of the daytime boat traffic? If so, just what sections of the long jetty would they prefer?
    I had only an hour and a half to complete my quest, since possession of a striped bass on the water is illegal after midnight, and I needed at least a half-hour to get back to the ramp.
    Casting my plug out about 30 degrees crosscurrent, I let the lure swing, the tidal pull giving it all the action it needed. As my line straightened below me, I pulsed the lure one time, then cranked it back in a slow, steady retrieve.
    Working the rip methodically, I targeted first one area, then another. If the fish were there, would they show up in time? The clock was ticking. If I was to secure a dinner for the next evening, it would have to be soon.
    On the fourth or fifth cast, I can’t really remember, I felt my line stop, then surge out, pulling my rod tip down almost to the gunnel. Lifting smartly, I set the hook and felt a good fish begin its run. Lifting my rod high to keep the line clear of the sunken jetty’s rocks, I was alarmed to feel the grating vibrations of contact.
    Thankfully I was using braided line, which is much more forgiving than mono. Still, one sharp edge and I could kiss the fish and my expensive lure adios.
    The fish continued to take out line against my lightly set drag. I relaxed as its distance from the jetty increased and my line’s contact with the rocks ceased.
    It ran off well to one side as I applied extra pressure with my thumb, lifting, reeling and working the fish gradually to the side of the boat. In poor light I could glimpse a solid swirl from time to time as it neared me. I groped for the net.
    Eventually I led the fat rascal in and brought it over the side. I didn’t have to measure it to determine if it was a keeper. It was a heavy one. Pulling out my small flashlight rigged with a red lens so that my night vision wouldn’t be compromised, I removed the plug from its jaw.
    Burying the handsome fish in the ice, I double-checked my rig for any tangles or line fouling and prepared to cast again.
    A few casts later to the same spot brought a virtual twin of the first.
    As I judged that I had tempted the fates enough that evening, I headed back in with plenty of time to make curfew. At the ramp I was still totally alone. That’s a real rarity in the summer, unless you play in the dark.

Early-rising yellow-bellied sapsuckers

The rings of evenly spaced holes you see in the trunks of smooth-bark trees are the work of yellow-bellied sapsuckers. The birds drill into apple, beech, birch, cherry, linden, peach, plum, red maple and southern magnolia as well as pine and cedar trees. I have received several reports from readers wondering what is causing the holes because they have not seen any woodpeckers on their trees.
    To see yellow-bellied sapsuckers in action you will need to rise early. They do most of their feeding starting about an hour before sunrise, when the sap is at its highest concentration of sugars.
    Most woodpeckers make holes in trees in search of insects. Yellow bellied sapsuckers puncture the bark for the purpose of lapping the sweet sap that lies just inside.
    In most instances, the damage done by yellow-bellied sapsuckers is not sufficient to cause permanent damage to healthy trees. However, I have seen rather severe die-back of southern magnolias at the top of the tree where the stem was about six inches in diameter. In this instance, the holes made by the sapsuckers were about a half-inch apart in a band about four inches wide. I had never seen such a concentration of holes in such a narrow band.
    Sapsucker damage on cherry, peach and plum trees can result in increased borer infestation in the trunk.
    Both flat-head borers and peach-tree borers are always in search of easy entry into the bark of these species. If you see a gummy red resin exuding from a hole started by a sapsucker, you can assume that a borer found its way into the wood and is well established.
    It is not unusual to see some trees heavily damaged while a nearby tree of the same species does not exhibit any damage. One can only assume that the sap of one tree is more appealing than that of the other.
    Yellow-bellied sapsuckers can be repelled by tying foot-long, one-inch-wide strips of aluminum flashing to branches near the stem of the tree. Giving the strips a few twists so as to form them into a spiral will allow for more movement by the wind. To allow for maximum movement of the strips, attach them to the branch with cotton string two to three inches long. Use cotton string that will rot in a year so as not to girdle the branch.


   Harlequin Beetle Alert   

    Harlequin beetles are already feeding on the leaves of plants. As their population can multiply rapidly, start checking the foliage of your plants now; they are not fussy as to what they feed on. Look for them in the morning before temperatures rise. As the day warms, they will migrate into the more shaded areas. Early on, you can control them manually by either squishing them with your fingers or drowning them in water containing dish detergent or vinegar.


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

Keep an eye out for this nasty pest

It all started with the best intentions. Kudzu, a plant native to Japan, was imported to the southern United States in the 1800s to enrich soil depleted by tobacco. It then came to Calvert County to prevent erosion, stabilizing the Calvert Cliffs. Wherever it came, the woody vine with distinct three-lobed leaves brought problems.
    It’s for good reason that kudzu is known as the vine that ate the South, for it can grow up to a foot a day in temperate climes with mild winters, a category that Maryland falls into.
    Now, we get to worry about the kudzu bug. Megacopta cribraria, an oblong olive-greenish bug with brown freckles, has made its way from Japan to our shores. How it came is a mystery; what it’s doing is not.
    The bug is partial to the kudzu plant but its appetite extends to other relatives like wisteria (an invasive that ought to be eaten) and legumes like soybeans.
    “The soybean is most closely related to the kudzu, as can be seen in the leaves of both plants, which is why the bug potentially poses a big threat,” says Bill Lamp, University of Maryland entomology professor.
    The kudzu bug is a relative of the stinkbug, releasing a similarly unpleasant odor when disturbed. Worse, they also leave a stain and can cause skin irritation. The kudzu bug likes to seek shelter in the siding of homes over winter. In the South, they’ve been reported to have swarmed whole communities.
    If you see a kudzu bug, report it to the Maryland Department of Agriculture Plant Protection and Weed Management hotline: 410-841-5920; extension.umd. edu/learn/ask-gardening.

10 tips to keep you catching

Chumming is one of the simplest ways to catch your limit of nice rockfish on light tackle. It involves a minimum of fuel, since you’re fishing anchored, and that helps cover the cost for the chum and bait. It is also an excellent way for anyone of any experience to tangle with the Bay’s premier gamefish.
    Hang the chum bag over the stern and cast out a few rods with chunks of menhaden on your hooks, weighted down by two-ounce sinkers. Then wait for the bite. It’s a simple formula and a recipe for some great action. That is ... until it isn’t.
    By mid-summer our rockfish will become somewhat accustomed to the presence of the chumming fleets, often as large as 30 to 40 vessels, all streaming ground-up menhaden into Bay waters and fishing with pieces of menhaden. Many of the smarter (and usually larger) fish will have become wise to the anglers on the other end of the line.
    Simple variations on customary chumming techniques can often give you an edge when the fish are getting finicky.
    1.    Use the very freshest bait. If you can get menhaden (alewife or bunker, same fish) netted the night before, you will out-catch anyone using older or frozen bait. Grinding your own fresh menhaden over the side will also attract more and better fish.
    2.    Chunking fresh menhaden (cutting whole fish into small pieces) and adding them into your chum slick can also increase your setup’s effectiveness. Stripers are school fish. If one fish starts to feed actively on the chunks drifting back, others will eat as well, eventually finding the pieces with your hooks in them.
    3.    Use lighter test, less visible lines and leaders. I like going to 15-pound mono with no more than a 15- or 20-pound fluorocarbon leader. Replace your leaders often, as worn leaders are far more noticeable to the fish. It’s one of the little things that can make a big difference.
    4.    Fish lines both close to and far from your boat. Some days the big guys will hang way back in the chum slick, while other days they may be right under you. That can change with the strength of the tidal current.
    5.    Change your sinker weights. The rule is to use as little weight as possible and keep your baits where you want on the bottom. But sometimes we get lazy. Switching out to one-ounce or less when the tides are slow, then gradually increasing the weight as the current increases, can make a real difference.
    6.    If you’re marking fish suspended off the bottom under the boat, they’re probably suspended out behind the boat as well. Though these fish are often not feeding, try dropping a lightly weighted bait a little ways back. Don’t try this with multiple rigs (unless it really starts working) because of the possibility of tangles. Just one rod can often let you know if this is the trick of the day — or not.
    7.    When cutting bait, don’t throw the menhaden heads over the side until the end of your trip. Sooner or later during the season some of the smarter (and bigger) fish will figure out that the heads are always hook free and concentrate on them. Fish a menhaden head as a bait from time to time down deep, and you’ll often be surprised at the size of the fish that eats it.
    8.    Vary your bait sizes and cuts. Try a saddle (the top fillet just behind the head), a side strip or a belly strip as well as the traditional steak or half-steak cut. The linesides can get just as particular (or difficult) as any diner on the Bay.
    9.    Don’t neglect the gut gob in the body cavity of the first cut just behind the head of the menhaden. In the middle of the gob you will find a tough piece of innards (the heart). Pierce the heart with your hook to hold the gob together. You can fish it alone (if it’s cast carefully) or add it onto a piece of menhaden. Either way it will often tempt the most reluctant rockfish to eat.
    10.    Change your baits every 20 minutes, and don’t throw the old whole pieces over the side. Cut them up into smaller portions, then gradually add them to your slick.
    Finally, it doesn’t hurt to flip a shiny penny or two over the stern as an offering to Lady Luck. That trick sometimes works for me.


Support Female Crab Protections

    Maryland Department of Natural Resources has announced the female blue crab season will likely close November 20. This is great news for firmly establishing crabs by ensuring enough females to keep the overall population healthy for the long term.
    However, that date can change. This year’s Winter Dredge Survey ranked the population of juvenile crabs down almost 50 percent from last year. As the number of mature crabs declines with the advancing season, commercial crabbers could lobby to open up the female harvest to protect their incomes.

Composting and PFRP make them safe for your garden

Readers continue to write with concerns about composted biosolids and Bloom. To calm your concerns, I’ll lead you through the processes that make fully treated biosolids safe to use in your food garden.
    Since the early 1980s, thousands of tons of composted biosolids have been sold and used in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area and surrounding states. All made according to EPA and USDA specifications, Compro (biosolids treated at D.C.’s Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant); Orgro (made at Baltimore Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant); and Earthlife, (made at City of Philadelphia Wastewater Treatment) have been used effectively by home gardeners, landscapers and growers of nursery and greenhouse crops.
    I have been involved in conducting research growing numerous crops using composted biosolids from all three major producers in this region. In addition to ornamentals, I have grown and eaten fruits and vegetables from compost-amended soils. I have reviewed numerous research manuscripts that support the use of biosolids compost in horticulture. Even agronomists who have studied the effects of biosolids and composted biosolids in the production of cattle feed and grain crops have reported no adverse effects when biosolids are used properly.
    To be cleared for composting, biosolids must reach Class A standards. At Class A, all nutrients and heavy metals are below EPA allowable levels. Wastewater facilities submit samples for testing monthly to keep this certification.
    During composting, PFRP (Processed Further to Reduce Pathogens) standards must be achieved, meaning the composting materials are maintained at 150 degrees for 10 consecutive days. Achieving these temperatures is not difficult because at the middle stage of composting temperatures often reach 180 degrees. EPA also requires that equipment used for loading the composting system be independent of the equipment used for moving the finished compost.
    The microorganisms at work in composting are bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes, which destroy organic and even inorganic compounds. Scientists at the Biological Waste Management Laboratory have used composting to destroy PCBs in contaminated soil. I have used composting to destroy dioxins in bleach-contaminated paper-mill sludge.
    The metals of greatest concern are lead and cadmium. Unless the biosolids come from Flint, Michigan, the lead levels in Class A biosolids are far below EPA standards in Compro, Orgro and Earthlife. The same is true for cadmium.
    The system used for making Bloom is even more aggressive. First the biosolids are steam sterilized under pressure; then they are digested by anaerobic organisms, which are more aggressive in destroying compounds than aerobic organisms.
    The roots of plants are selective in what they absorb. Plant roots can only absorb minerals; they do not absorb compounds and chemicals. In soils containing more than three percent organic matter, heavy metals such as lead and cadmium become fixed, thus making them unavailable for absorption. Much of this research was published by Dr. Rufus Chaney, a research scientist of worldwide reputation, at USDA Beltsville. He did most of his lead studies in lead-contaminated soils in Baltimore. I had the honor of working with Dr. Chaney while associated with the Biological Waste Management Laboratory.
    Skeptics who have forwarded warnings against biosolids, please note the distinction between raw biosolids, whose use I do not advocate, and composted and processed further biosolids.

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

For good sport and good eating, white perch deserve respect

The day was a success from the beginning. Son Harrison and I were on a perch outing, and the very first structure we targeted was rich with sizeable whities. Both of us were fishing six-foot light-action spin rods spooled with six-pound line and baited with one of the most productive lures in our box, spinner baits. Our tackle was constantly being strained to its limits.
    That’s not to say that a big white perch can pop six-pound test line. But fragile mouth structure makes it easy for the bigger fish to tear off if they’re reined in too tight. Plus after an hour or so of working the kind of rocky structures this bantam rooster of the bass family prefers, the thin mono usually accumulates nicks and stress fractures.
    We hadn’t fished together for some time as Harrison’s art career in Baltimore has taken much of his time for the last few years. Today, a Father’s Day promise was being made good — and making an occasion both of us will remember.
    Don’t dismiss white perch as a distant second-best after rockfish. When properly pursued, the species is both sporting and rewarding.
    The most numerous fish in the Bay, white perch are ample from the headwaters at the Susquehanna Flats almost to the ocean. The fish can reach 19 inches long, but in our waters 10 inches is usually tops, making an 11-incher a lunker, a 12 a-once-a-year occasion even for a devotee, and a fish 13 inches or over a Maryland citation and cause for extreme celebration.
    Despite its size, the white perch is also a sportfish in the best sense of the term. Its unguarded willingness to attack virtually any variation of lure and a wide variety of live baits makes it available to even the most inexperienced angler. When hooked, it gives an outsized performance in its bid for freedom. There is no minimum size or possession limit on white perch.
    The scarcity of fish over 10 inches makes the pursuit of the big guys a challenge, and the methods to target them are many. The primary strategy is a lot of throwbacks.
    Like-sized perch tend to school together, but concentrations most always include at least one big lurker. Employing larger-sized Super Rooster Tails or similar spinner baits in one-sixth, one-quarter and even the one-half-ounce sizes (or No. 12 Tony Accetta spoons) gives you a better chance at the bigger ones. Throwing Rat-L-Traps in the one-quarter-ounce sizes (with one of the treble hook shafts clipped off) can eliminate most midgets, giving your bait a better chance of finding a thick black back.
    Fishing areas that are out of the way or difficult to navigate is also a strategy for lunkers. Small creeks and tidal ponds with very shallow access and deeper backwaters discourage both commercial netters and sport anglers with lesser determination. So these can harbor some really big fish.
    In the deeper channels of more open waters, bouncing a small jighead trailing a three-inch or longer strip-bait cut from the belly of a perch or spot can be effective. Only the bigger fish can inhale the whole bait and get the hook, and the belly strips are tough and can withstand multiple strikes before they have to be replaced.
    At the end of the day, however, no matter what size fish you’ve caught, rolled in Panko flakes and fried in an inch or so of hot peanut oil, a crispy white perch fillet is the finest treat on the Bay.