The Sporting Life
by Dennis Doyle
Pleased to Meet You
With the change of the seasons comes Bay Weekly’s new outdoor sports columnist
Spring is here, but since I’ve been seduced too often into believing the end of winter was at hand, I am determined to hold back my enthusiasm. If I don’t, I know it is just a matter of time before it is smashed against a spate of freezing, sullen rain and brutish, relentless wind.
Yet I know these rains and winds will flush through the marshes and wetlands. Vegetation that has died and begun to decay under the past winter’s extremes will begin drifting out into the creeks and rivers just as the Bay’s creatures awaken from their slumber. Mummichogs, silversides, Bay anchovies, grass shrimp and the mussels, clams and oysters will feast on this rich soup and grow fat again. During the next several weeks the shad, herring, white perch and rockfish, flexing their vital muscle, will begin to spawn, just as the yellow perch have been for weeks already. Life is bursting forth.
I was not born on the Chesapeake but on another large piece of water, Lake Erie, a rather kindred environment. Sixty some years ago, Lake Erie boasted the largest freshwater commercial fishery in the world and a superb recreational fishery as well. When I left there in pursuit of employment, just 25 years later, the lake had died from neglect. Erie has recovered some of its past glory, but I have never returned.
Chesapeake Country has been my rebirth, and I have been a grateful child. Having once lost a treasure, I value the one I now have with eyes that do not take anything for granted. Every time I cross a bridge, I bless myself on the water below. This country is rich with life, and the rivers and the creeks are her arteries, streaming nutrients and energy wherever they course. They feed the land as well as the Bay, birds and animals as well as fish and crabs. These plentiful waterways are her beauty and the source of her bounty.
I have been an avid sportsman throughout the years, much to the detriment of my professional life. Early on, total commitment to a career in the urban wasteland clashed with my adventures in the field and on the water. Through more than a few years of conflicted struggle, the outside eventually w
Fish Are Biting
The on-again-off-again yellow perch run has peaked, but the persistent angler can still take fish. Spawning white perch have begun to show up in tributaries north of the Bay Bridge and will build in numbers over the next several weeks. The big stripers are starting to show on the Susquehanna Flats, and shad are just to the south of Annapolis. Sandy Point and Matapeake Pier anglers are catching and releasing rockfish, some of them over 30 inches, while bottom-fishing bloodworms for perch.
on. I kept the job, but the outdoors ruled my life.
I’ve gathered a few professional awards over the years in spite of my sporting obsession, but I have no idea where the plaques are. My walls at home in Cape St. Claire are covered with pictures of dogs, boats, birds, fish and friends, some in orange clothes and more in baggy shorts with rods in their hands. They all bring a smile to my face and put a lift in my step whenever I pass by. And when spring is near in Maryland I know the next cycle of my life is also beginning.
Retired some four years now, I’ve made some ambitious outdoor plans for the coming season. Though I’m dedicated, I have to admit that I am not a master of any field. My luck comes late in any effort I make, but I have been blessed with a bundle of enthusiasm, and I value that highly. There are fishermen, boaters and hunters who are more expert, though I doubt any enjoy it more.
In the words I’ll be writing for you to read in Bay Weekly each week, I hope to convey some of the glories of the Chesapeake and to share my outdoor adventures. I’ve been tromping about the Tidewater area for more than 35 years and still have much to discover. I hope you’ll join me as I endeavor to explore more of it and revisit the best of what I have already experienced.
If you’ve not enjoyed Maryland’s outdoors yet, perhaps I’ll entice you further. I’d love to share my addiction. It is one of the few that can enrich a life endlessly.