Volume 12, Issue 3 ~ January 15-21, 2004

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Chesapeake Outdoors ~ by C. D. Dollar

Water Birds on Parade

For eons, seafarers’ connection with water birds has been an odd mix of superstition, both good and bad. Pelagic birds like petrels are well known to ocean sailors, and legend has it that they warn sailors and fishermen of approaching storms. When you also consider that, according to lore, each bird contains the soul of a dead seaman, it’s no wonder it’s unlucky, and perhaps spiritually damaging, to kill one.

Another bird steeped in folklore is the albatross, an awkward gangly bird that attained symbolic fame through Coleridge’s poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Sailors believe the albatross brought bad weather, especially deadly gales. Since Coleridge’s poem about the fate of the careless mariner who kills an albatross, this far-ranging bird is more commonly associated with having some weighty problem, which is characterized, metaphorically, by wearing this avian as an accessory.

Unlike these examples, loons regularly visit our part of the Bay, especially in the fall as they chase menhaden to the Carolina coast. More than once on becalmed fall nights, my tranquil fishing excursions have been shaken by the eerie laugh of a feeding loon. These exceptional divers, capable of reaching depths greater than 200 feet and staying under for nearly 20 minutes, also carry a legendary mantle. Some people believe that the loon possesses great magical powers.

But what would make a solitary pelican brave sub-freezing temperatures and ride the swelling crests behind our gunning rig on a recent outing as we picked up decoys? Was it lost, hungry or just hardcore? Or did it bring some foreshadowing on its wing beats, and if so, was it benevolent or malevolent?

Following the boat’s starts and stops, this gangly flier would settle on the frothy wake, no more than five yards away, waiting, presumably, for some fishy handout.

The story gets more curious. The pelican was the second in a short series of bizarre encounters that day, the first being my tug of war with a great black back gull over a lesser scaup that I had shot not 15 minutes earlier. By the time I got to my scaup, that flying rat had scarfed half of the duck’s succulent breastmeat.

Were these two encounters harbingers? Or were they just weird coincidences that — because you’re there, another happenstance — you’re lucky to glimpse?

Flounder Regs to be Decided
Maryland DNR’s Fisheries Service is seeking public feedback on three possible minimum size/creel limit options for the 2004 summer flounder recreational fishery. Developed in accordance with Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission requirements, the options are subject to approval by the commission.

Citizens are encouraged to attend DNR’s Coastal Bays Fishery Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 20, at 6pm in the Ocean Pines Branch of the Worcester County Public Library, 11107 Cathell Rd.

The proposed options are:

  1. 17-inch minimum size; eight fish per person per day creel; no closed season (status quo)

  2. 16.5 inch minimum size; eight per person per day creel limit; no closed season.

  3. 16 inch minimum size; three fish per person per day creel limit; no closed season

  4. 15.5 inch minimum size; two fish per person per day creel limit; no closed season.

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Last updated January 15, 2004 @ 12:13am.