Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar
Rum, Sun and Sharks
While the Bay region slugged through the last piercing gasps of cold, I sought rejuvenation in climes south, sun-starved and hungry for the bittersweet nectar of warm saltwater.
Oceanic pied pipers Bob and Laurie Carroll, purveyors of fun and adventure, assembled a fellowship of 15 winter-weary souls at Dolphin Beach (www.dolphinbeachresort.com), owned by Kent Smith and run by Bobs sister, Nancy, and her surfer husband, Bruce McDaniel. You couldnt have asked for better hosts than those two, or more comfortably laid-back environs than Dolphin Beach.
The small island boasts soft Atlantic beaches and coral reefs crammed with fishes of shapes and color only an imagination of a marine version of Willy Wonka could conceive. White perch and spot can never hold the same appeal.
The ensemble cast was comprised of artists, marine scientists, educators and even a couple financial types, ostensibly for balance. Almost to a person, the common denominator was a fascination with the world under the sea.
We descended upon Great Guana Cay in the Abacos like a ravenous horde of locust, desperate to inhale an equatorial sun and expel the foul humors infused by a harsh winter.
The reefs off Guana hold several species of groupers, snappers and triggerfish. Other fish and critters with exotic names and oddball markings abound. Spiny lobsters and slipper lobsters, which look like giant pill bugs, hide under rocks and ledges though sometimes not cleverly enough to evade the hunters of our clan.
Apex predators like barracuda and reef and nurse sharks also made appearances, looking for an easy score. One determined shark gave Bart Jaeger and me a refresher course in survival of the fittest.
We were taking turns with a Bahamian sling, a type of hand-held spear gun, to get dinner. Jaeger cleanly nailed a hefty 10-pound hogfish. (I later read that very large hogfish 30-pound range can be poisonous in Cuba and other Caribbean areas due to diet).
Out of breath, Jaeger surfaced as I retrieved his kill and the spear. He noticed a small shark swimming beneath us on our left, 30 yards away and said, Lets swim to the boat. Good idea.
As I kept my eye on the shark, Jaegers eyes lit up and his exhale was frantic.
From our right, out of the depths came a flash of gray that swept beneath us, close enough to touch. This larger shark, at least a six-footer, reversed course and swam toward us as we futilely kicked into high gear. High gear? Ha! More like a pair of three-legged farm goats trying to outrun a T-Rex; we were no match for its awesome speed.
In an instant, it was behind me, attracted by the scent of the fresh kill wafting over my head. Methodically, it mauled my fin. I kicked at its head. When the shark didnt recognize hard rubber as food, it broke off the chase.
Although the fish was dropped, its pungent scent apparently remained strong, and again our nemesis torpedoed toward us. In a menagerie of fear and excitement, I spun around. I have no idea why; perhaps my fear of being pursued was greater than the odds of a standoff.
My world slowed to a frame a second as the shark was on me. It wasnt a frenzied attack but so deliberate it was eerie. When it was less than three feet away, I landed two quick, hard jabs of the spear into its snout. Both glanced off its tough hide like a sewing needle against a tank. But the blows were enough to make it look for easier prey. At the boat, I catapulted into the cockpit. Id wager that no one has launched himself into a boat more quickly than I did that day except maybe Jaeger.
Two nights later during an evening snorkel, shrimp and other small creatures were drawn toward my flashlight. A young nurse shark napped beneath a ledge. From nearly 30 feet, I wafted weightless through the sanguine liquid, heavenward. The constellations came into focus as I broke through to a world that youd never know was so far out of whack with natures tune.
Fish Are Starting to Bite
The osprey have returned, so it must be fishing season once again. Over the past weekend, anglers fished the Morgantown, Calvert Cliffs and Patapsco power plants for catch-and-release stripers. On March 15, the Susquehanna Flats rockfish catch and release season opened, but deep freeze may have killed most local bait so the action might not get right until herring and shad show up.
The yellow perch run has started on rivers and creeks including Waysons Corner, Nanjemoy Creek and Allens Fresh. Overall the action remains slow.