Volume 12, Issue 23 ~ June 3-9, 2004
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Chesapeake Outdoors
by C.D. Dollar

The Waste-Not, Want-Not World of Wild Things
I’m fascinated by the manner in which living creatures make a living. In my line of work, I often get to see these endeavors firsthand. I’m enthralled by the recycling ethic that nearly all wild things have. Wanton waste isn’t a luxury, and super-sizing just isn’t done.

To succeed afield, I count on the fact that fish and birds must eat. They simply cannot evade one of their fundamental urges, and that can work in a sportsman’s favor.

For example, successful ruses work by tricking rockfish and other gamefish into believing a man-made food facsimile fabricated of feathers and thread is the real-deal meal.

When broken down, flies such as Clousers or Deceivers are often nothing more than animal hair (natural or synthetic), steel (the hook) and thread. Yet when these same parts are assembled correctly, they become live prey, such as spot, bunker or crab. (Fly-tying experts create works of art; I’m happy just to spit out functionally tolerable works of fiction.)

Ducks and geese can be hoodwinked by deception as well. But to get them to toll to you, the reality of a blob of cork or plastic dekes must become the illusion that gently whispers sanctuary to these feathered fowl.

So every chance I get, I look around to see how animals carve out a living from often hostile environs. I see what eats what, when and why. I think how I might use it in my fishing. Often I ask: Could I fool a striper or perch with a fly that looks like that baitfish? Would a redfish fall to a hoax constructed of epoxy with red-tinted lead eyes?

Two examples of this fixation occupied me recently in a small tidal creek off the Choptank River and on a beach near Annapolis.

A crab had perished, or it had sloughed its shell, becoming the main course for a gang of ravenous minnows (killifish), swimming in and out of its carapace like grade-schoolers on a jungle gym. To some, their efficient dismantling of any remaining edible parts might be gruesome; to me it’s a wildly odd 15-minute study in animal behavior.

The second occasion highlighting nature’s recyclers came after a recent rain: a plethora of cicadas, with wicked-looking buggy red eyes adorning insect heads.

For 17 years, billions of these black insects have lived below ground, from the Eastern Seaboard to Indiana, feeding on tree roots. When they resurfaced in recent weeks, it marked the beginning of the end of life for nature’s longest lived insects.

Once freed from their holes, the inch-long nymphs get vertical, hauling themselves up trees, fence posts, walls, whatever as long as it’s up. Once securely latched onto something, the nymphs transform overnight into adults with wings and darkened body.

And then it’s time to feast. It’s nature’s smorgasbord. Insect experts aren’t surprised at the long list of guests who take part in the banquet. If it eats, then cicadas are on the menu.

I walked on one such cicada party hosted by several greater black backed seagulls that were joined by a handful of ring-billed gulls. Herring gulls hung around the fringe.

It’s a waste-not, want-not world among the wild things.

Fish Are Biting
Not much action in keeper rockfish for the chummers, according to several fishermen. Mark Galasso is still trolling to scratch out legal rockfish for his clients.

The fleet out of Rod ’n’ Reel — trolling the Gooses and in front of radio towers — is catching some rock in the lower 20-inch range. Headboats Tom Hooker and Lady Hooker are waiting for the croaker and spot bite to get right.

Spot and croaker numbers are increasing daily, and some sporadic bluefish catches are reported below the Patuxent River.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.