Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

 Vol. 10, No. 34

August 22-28, 2002

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Ancient Mariners

I know it’s a bit odd that at the height of the summer fishing season I chose to dedicate an entire column to turtles. But given the recent frequency of my encounters with them, I couldn’t ignore the obvious Mojo.

First sign came when Bobby Mazingo brought a sickly, and very young, snapping turtle into work at Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He, Dawn Stoltzfus and I nursed it back to health in the grow-out tank we have set up for wild celery and redhead grass. Snap, as she (or he) is affectionately known, let us know it was time to return to its wild environs by snapping at a live cricket. Adult snappers average 35 pounds, with some growing toward 70 pounds, so better now than later.

Then, cruising across the Bay to circumnavigate that nightmarish mess called Beach Traffic, Chuck Foster saw it first, and — as they usually do — the behemoth caught me off guard. As Chuck threw the motor in neutral, the young loggerhead, maybe 100 pounds, sensed our presence, took a quick look around, then dove for the safety of the depths.

We are lucky enough to share our Bay with four of the seven sea turtle species found throughout the world. Young loggerhead turtles, aptly named because the head is shaped like a log, are the most common. Scientists estimate that visiting the Bay each summer are between 2,000 and 10,000 young loggerheads, most of which are much smaller than the 300- to 400-pound adults.

We also get the world’s most endangered sea turtle, the Kemp’s ridley, during the summer. Far more rare visitors are leatherbacks and green turtles. In a coastal bay near Hog Island I’ve seen a dead leatherback that pushed 1,500 pounds, which is amazing considering their main food is jellyfish.

For more than 150 million years, sea turtles have remained virtually untouched by evolutionary shifts. We have for years exploited them for their meat, shells and eggs; now they deserve our respect and protection. All sea turtles are either on the federal endangered list or the threatened species list; in fact, it is illegal even to collect the shells of dead turtles.

If you happen upon a live sea turtle, take a photo if you want — but give it a wide berth. If you encounter a dead or sick turtle, report it to either the Maryland (800/628-9944) or Virginia (804/642-7313) stranding programs. Researchers and natural resources managers use this information to make sound management decisions to protect and increase the families of this magnificent ancient mariner.

Fish Are Biting
From Point No Point to Swan Point, numerous pods of fish — predominantly bluefish and rockfish — are breaking. Spanish mackerel and sea trout are also in some of these bands of marauders. Alan from Rod ‘n’ Reel reports that trollers dragging spoons and surgical hoses are catching three- to five-pound bluefish at the Stone Rock. He also mentioned that trollers are having intermittent success with rockfish off Parkers Creek and that bottom fishing off Holland Point was excellent, especially at night.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly