Volume 12, Issue 25 ~ June 17-23, 2004
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Chesapeake Outdoors
by C.D. Dollar

Beauty and the Beast in the Bay
Our Chesapeake — this once prodigious protein factory, as described by Baltimore bard H.L. Mencken — is constantly showing us her two sides.

Not long ago, I enjoyed a fine cruise on the Choptank, with a fat and happy belly full of local soft crabs and rockfish fritters. The tranquil upriver cruise showcased the river’s ebullient estuarine beauty, where myriad plants cascade out of the freshened brine. Here, blue flag and arrow arum thrive in the submerged wetlands, as pickerel weed and common cattails dominate waters shoreward.

I saw the other side in a swimming race down nearly the same part of the river.

To be sure, there’s beauty aplenty in niches of habitat along numerous river and Bay miles. Yet beneath the glimmering surface wheezes a water body sick with pollutants and dead zones.

This two-faced principle surfaced in another part of the watershed June 13, when longtime Bay champion Bernie Fowler marched into his beloved Patuxent River for the 17th year in a row. Using white sneakers to determine the clarity of the water, he wades in until he cannot see his shoes to bring attention to the river’s plight and to spur action to reverse the pollution that has devastated the water he grew up on.

The former state senator has himself seen both sides of the river, from robust provider of crabs and oysters to a pollution-riddled shell of its former self. At 80, Fowler makes no bones about the fact that the politicians who wade with him must act, and act swiftly.

Sadly, the Patuxent is just one of scores of Bay rivers driven to the brink by pollution, with effects on people and fish more evident every year.

Two additional reports underscore this sad fact: the Maryland Department of the Environment’s rockfish advisory and a report released by John Hopkins University.

The department is cautioning people to limit their consumption of rockfish. Chesapeake residents must eat only one or two servings (depending on if you’re a man, woman or child) of the state fish — commercially viable and passionately chased by anglers — for fear of toxic contamination.

Next, Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, in conjunction with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, issued its first major report on how Chesapeake Bay pollution levels affect the health of the Bay watershed’s 16 million residents.

According to the report, the frantic pace of growth in the region puts “both the ecosystem and human health at risk.”

Sometimes it seems it’s better to stick your head in the spartina and hope the problem goes away on its own. But if you did that, maybe all of it would. Forever.

Fish Are Biting
Kathy from Bunky’s Charters (410-326-3241) in Solomons says that the spot and croaker run has been gangbusters, including many state citation fish, in front of Patuxent Naval Station, Drum Point and Cove Point.

Of rockfish, trollers still get their limit, and most of the fish are in the mid-20-inch range. Try dragging bucktails and spoons around edges off Hooper’s Island Light and the Gooses. Capt. Mark Galasso has been guiding clients using light tackle for decent striped bass in the two- to three-pound range, as well as croakers and perch. He’s hunting up good fishing from Chester River down through Eastern Bay.

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