Volume XI, Issue 22 ~ May 29 - June 4, 2003

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Burton on the Bay | Chesapeake Outdoors | Sky Watch | Tidelog
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Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

Mahogany Tides Signal Waters in Trouble

We waited well past sunup before venturing out of Crab Creek onto the South River. Our plan was to head south toward Chesapeake Beach and troll umbrella rigs and parachutes for the few remaining behemoth rockfish exiting the Chesapeake Bay after spawning.

A season’s worth of the nasty weather — packed into just a few days — had again slammed shut, on my fingers no less, any opportunity to fish. Like probably thousands of Bay anglers, my best-laid plans were unhinged by inclement weather.

Fishermen accept unpleasant weather as part of fishing, and for the most part, rain is almost always tolerable. Wind can be problematic and occasionally dangerous. But oppressive fog, the kind we faced last Sunday morning, dense as Cream of Wheat, is the worst in my book.

It was so bad that when we peeked around Turkey Point, it sealed Capt. Karl Roscher’s decision to push no farther. With the off-shore season right around the corner, we had no desire to follow several smaller craft that made the turn. I couldn’t help wonder why they would push it, especially with no radar. From my perspective, their decision wasn’t borne of prudence but of bravado and inexperience. Didn’t they see the news of the horrendous wreck caused by fog on Interstate 68 in Western Maryland?

When fishermen can’t fish, they talk about fishing. As we motored back upriver, we analyzed our prospects of intercepting large migrating bluefin tuna in coming weeks and welcomed the appearance of slammer bluefish off of the Jackspot, which means ravenous Mako sharks aren’t far off.

Bluewater fishing has infected my blood, a fact made more evident when I watched the coffee-colored river churn past the transom. Excess sediments helped stain the water, and it was particularly bad in creeks where homes encroached unbuffered right to the water’s edge. These green-as-golf-course lawns are no doubt nitrogen enriched. Without native buffers at the shoreline, runoff rushes into the water unimpeded and adds to the Bay’s ills.

Another effect of heavy rain and overall wet years are algae blooms. That morning I saw what looked very much like mahogany tides, which occur in our waters when dinoflagellates such as Prorocentrum minimum explode when conditions, such as light, temperature and nutrients, are ideal. These blooms can severely reduce the amount of oxygen available to local fish, crabs and underwater grasses.

The local watershed group South River Federation, along with the state’s Lower Western Shore Tributary Strategy Team, will try to raise awareness and offer solutions about these issues by paddling the South River on June 14. They’ve also arranged to meet U.S. Congressman Ben Cardin and DNR Secretary Ron Franks at Hillsmere Beach for a wade-in to measure water clarity. (If they tried that last Sunday, I’d bet $100 they wouldn’t have seen down six inches.) For details, check the SRF website (southriverfederation.org) or call Darin Crew 410/990-0628.

Fish Are Biting
Charlie from Anglers told me he would be happy to give me an update, but as I compile this report, he hadn’t talked to that many fishermen. Most of the big rockfish are gone, with residents making up most of the action. Chumming has replaced trolling for the most part. Some anglers targeting croakers and rockfish have done well.

Sea trout
have yet to post in any good numbers in Tangier Sound around Crisfield. Black drum are reported in Virginia waters but are slow to show up in our waters in any numbers.



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Last updated May 29, 2003 @ 1:43am