|Students for the Bay
They came from the farthest reaches of Marylands Delmarva Peninsula Dorchester, Wicomico and Worcester counties to Martinek State Park on the banks of the Choptank River, where spatterdock and arrow arum, two important freshwater marsh plants, line the banks and largemouth bass lay in ambush among the thick vegetation.
Scores of elementary, middle and high schoolers poured off several Big Cheese Boxes to complete the final leg of their participation in the innovative Bay Grasses in Classes project, an education and restoration initiative developed cooperatively in 1998 by Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Marylands Department of Natural Resources and partly funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. This year, 120 elementary, middle and high schools participated in the program that grows underwater grasses also called SAV or submerged aquatic vegetation.
The kids were fired up despite the cloudy, cool day; their enthusiasm infectious. The project began in March, when students, with guidance from the sponsors and their teachers, used a simple but innovative growing system (basically a water pump/filter, lamps and common landscape tub) to grow wild celery (Vallisineria Americana) from seed indoors. The kids monitor and care for the plants as well as check water quality and measure growth rate.
This is a great project, said Jamie Baxter, the Foundations restoration education director, because the students become invested in restoring the Bays health, and it follows Marylands standards for effective service learning.
The beauty of the project is its simplicity: Take seed, plant and help it grow, then transplant the maturing plants in water. Students learn the value of underwater grasses, which, according to most Bay scientists, are only about 12 percent of estimated historic levels. Underwater grasses release oxygen into the water, provide food for waterfowl (canvasbacks and wild celery share the same Latin name, Vallisineria), settle out sediment and are key habitats for scores of aquatic animals.
Later that day, we saw firsthand those benefits when we seined the shoreline and came up with six different species of fish, including banded killifish and American eel.
Tom Parham, DNRs underåwater grass specialist, led groups of 10 to 12 students, all wearing life jackets, through the transplanting. Most of the kids overflowed with pride at having grown such beautifully lush plants to jump-start other grass beds in the river. When the plants were placed underwater, some students were a bit melancholy, but all seemed to have gained much from the endeavor. And so did the Bay.
Fish are Biting
In the freshwater angling world, the state has confirmed that two Maryland state records recently fell. Ray Ferstemann of Essex took a monstrous 12-pound, 14-ounce brown trout at Deep Creek. The fish had girth of 191 inches and measured 291 inches long. David G. Martin of Cumberland, Maryland caught a seven-pound, nine-ounce cutthroat trout in the Barnum area of the North Branch of the Potomac River. The big cutthroat measured 28 inches in length with a girth of 14 inches.
In the salt, the Eastern Shores Chuck Foster landed three monster rockfish on light tackle near Poplar Island over the long weekend. On June 1, the states fishing regulations for rockfish change for size and creel limits, so check DNR or your tackle shop before you head out. Chumming will once again probably be the tactic of choice for most anglers. We encourage you to use circle hooks to reduce impact on fish that dont meet the legal limit.
Try chumming for rockfish at Love Point, The Hill or the Diamonds. The Patuxent River, middle and lower Bay areas are still hot for croaker, and Buoy 76 and HI Buoy are good bets for rockfish. The drop-offs near Punch and James Island have produced nice flounder, and gray trout are moving up the Bay.