Volume XI, Issue 37 ~ September 11-17, 2003

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Chesapeake Outdoors ~ by C. D. Dollar

Call of the Wild

Just when I thought the first inklings of fall would never reveal themselves, signs of the changing seasons burst all around me. Cool nights deliver much welcomed relief from heat-induced sleep deprivation (I don’t have AC). Rockfish and bluefish are busting bait, and my tomatoes are busting on the vine. The full moon tells me the season’s last major molt for blue crabs is on, which means at least one more hearty meal of fat Chesapeake crabs.

However odd it may seem, with this change comes a slight angst about fleeting opportunities. Years past, I’d have camped several times already, making forays to the hills of Appalachia or the barrier islands along the Atlantic coast. These days I’m lucky if I take one trip to wild areas of the Chesapeake watershed. This year’s grand total? None. I have no explanation, except that perhaps more recent fishing interests have cut into these adventures. But it’s definitely not too late.

Illustration by Gary Pendleton
Our Bay is one of edges where the shallow water and land merge to form thousands of miles of diverse tidal shoreline that beg for exploration. Throughout the area, scores of state-run parks, wildlife management areas and other public lands welcome the traveler looking for refuge from too much civilization.

I just might paddle or skiff out to Cedar Island, South Marsh Island and several other lower Bay islands. Birds galore and bountiful fish are the best part of the allure. How about the Pocomoke River State Park, where a cypress forest still stands? Out west there are numerous choices as well, including Rocky Gap and Swallow Falls, both state parks.

Whichever spot I pick to pitch a tent, I’ll have tons of gear to chose from, including lightweight tents made of space-age materials, portable chairs and even solar showers. No need to suffer from culinary shock either. After I catch supper, if I can’t have an open fire, I’ll cook it up on my lightweight single-burner stove, which is great when I don’t have much space in the pack, kayak or boat. If I skiff and have enough room, the four-burner camp stove might be my best bet.

Clean wild air, be it drenched in salt or perfumed with mountain pines, is a fundamental right of being alive. It’s cathartic, primitive and reinvigorating. And the best part is it’s not too far away.

Fish Are Biting
According to DNR’s Angel Bolinger’s fishing report, anglers jigging on the scattered schools of breaking fish have hooked both legal and sub-legal striped bass, chopper bluefish and even an occasional Spanish mackerel. Trollers get a better class of rockfish, and the ratio of keepers to small, undersized fish is significant.

Crabbing has picked up, especially at creek mouths and edges of river channels. Several reports have ratios of undersized and females outpacing legal male blue



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Last updated September 11, 2003 @ 1:42am