Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

 Vol. 10, No. 43

October 24-30, 2002

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Help Save a Wetland Today

I had to chuckle watching my friend demonstrate to our buddy’s five-year-old son what a nutria looks like. His impression came out as a cross between Bugs Bunny and Hannibal Lector, an odd pairing but not too absurd since nutria are rodents, and without conscience they wreak havoc on the Eastern Shore’s declining wetlands. But the loss of the Bay’s wetlands and the continuing threats to its future restoration isn’t a laughing matter.

While nutria are damaging areas like Blackwater Refuge outside Cambridge at an alarming rate, the impact of people looms larger in the fate of the Bay’s wetlands.

Wetlands, we know now, are water purifiers, flood containment systems and vital habitat. But less than half of the Bay watershed’s tidal and non-tidal wetlands survive, about 1.5 million acres according to the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program.

These important Bay buffers have been destroyed, filled in and altered because their value was misunderstood and not fully appreciated. From the mid-1950s until the late-1970s, wetlands disappeared at an annual average of more than 2,800 acres.

One reason is that developers have seen wetlands merely as more land on which to throw up strip malls, housing developments and weekend condominiums. Rising water levels, another side effect of human activity, is another reason.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s annual State of the Bay Report rates the Bay’s wetlands at 42 on a scale of 100.

Currently, the U.S. Senate is considering renewing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Many conservation groups, including Ducks Unlimited, are asking supporters to contact their senators to reauthorize the program before Congress adjourns. Visit for more information.

Fish Are Biting
If we could just catch a break from successive days of strong wind, we might be able to string together a full week of outstanding fall fishing. But we’ll have to take what weather comes our way and take advantage of good days on the water, because the fishing action for rockfish is really starting to crank up.

I ran into upper Bay fly guide Gary Neitze at an area ramp. He told me that recently he’d had great success in Baltimore Harbor on breaking bluefish and rock. While he was waiting for his clients, he said he saw a local hook a red drum. Raven fanatic and fisherman Brion Townsend echoes Capt. Gary’s comments about Baltimore Harbor, saying he has been fishing on breaking schools of keeper rockfish and feisty blues for the past month. For light tackle and fly fishing enthusiasts, it’s hard to beat the points and cuts along the shoreline at first and last light.

Chumming for just-legal stripers at the Stone Rock, the Gooses and The Hill has produced, but remember to get there early and on a moving tide. Hiding the hook also helps entice wary fish. DNR reports that several black sea bass (11.5 inch minimum size requirement), red drum (18-inch minimum) and black drum (16 inch minimum) have been caught at the Stone Rock.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly