Volume 14, Issue 15 ~ April 13 - April 19, 2006

The Sporting Life

by Dennis Doyle

Accessing Maryland’s Wonderland

Paddle your way into a lifetime of adventures

The lusher parts of Maryland didn’t really become intimate to me until I got my first boat, a Grumman canoe, 17 feet of bright, slick aluminum. Once I got on the water, I was on the big playground, not just looking at it.

Inaccessible jetties, beautiful creeks, islands and miles of fishy riprap were suddenly at my disposal. Quiet coves and backwaters were mine for a few strokes of the paddle. My fishing opportunities expanded exponentially. My scenic appreciation soared. Culinary feasts of fried fillets piled high on yesterday’s newspaper — and washed down by ice-cold, adult beverages — became a regular affair.

The fact that I lived downtown at the time and had no place to store a boat hampered me not at all. I just put an eyebolt through the roof of my car, ran a chain through it and left the Grumman on the roof rack.

Most every temperate weekend, I would head out to exercise the slim beauty, usually to take a few fish or crabs, sometimes just to take an exploratory cruise. I would customarily enlist someone to go along to help with the 75-pound hull and get it paddled. I made lots of new friends that way.

I also quickly came by a certain sense of discretion. Any boast about skill or good

Fish Are Biting

The wind slowed things down considerably last week, but fishing will be picking back up as you read this. The Susquehanna Flats has lots of smaller rockfish, still not many of the larger ones. Sandy Point and Matapeake anglers continue to do extremely well with the big stripers on bloodworms. The trophy season opens this weekend. Good weather is predicted, and there are plenty of fish in the mid-bay.

The white perch run is starting out slower than first expected, while yellow perch have completed their spawn. Lack of rain and subsequent low flow rates at Deer Creek and other nearby waters have delayed the shad runs. Rumors of croaker are beginning to filter up from down south.

fortune was too often followed by an extended period of sour luck. That this occurred in the company of the individuals to whom the brag was originally directed was a certainty. Promising fish that were not yet caught also tempted fate. I once shut down the bite for a week on an entire lake. I had invited a dozen people to a fish fry for which I had not yet caught the fish.

That first canoe was quite a while ago. I have subsequently owned larger, more elaborate boats. While enjoyable, each brought with them their own problems. Currently the family’s watercraft measures 52 feet — divided unevenly into four craft.

The handiest is a 35-pound kayak that I find myself using more and more, though it was originally a birthday present for my wife. The other boats in our inventory — a johnboat, a canoe and a light skiff — have a number of things in common: they are under 17 feet; very simple; very durable; low maintenance and very useful. Only the skiff needs a trailer.

I’m telling you this because if you really want to experience more of the wonderful place we live in, now is the time, and there is no better way than with a small boat. You must limit yourself to sheltered waters and gentle weather, but that is more a focus than a limitation. I find such areas much more pleasant and interesting than challenging the big, open waters that require a significant marine investment.

The kayak, in particular, has made water travel so very accessible. These small, one-person crafts of synthetic materials are incredibly light, agile and inexpensive. I know of more than a few fishermen who have abandoned more substantial boats for the convenience of a kayak. If you prefer to have company on the water, buy two. There are two-person kayaks, but they tend to be heavy and unwieldy, canceling out many of the advantages of the single.

The latest generation of canoes has also benefited from the same technologies. The molded synthetic hulls are roomy, stable, easy to paddle and very durable. If you are determined to possess a two-person craft this is the best choice.

Wondering where to go once you have your small craft ready?

The Department of Natural Resources has two booklets: its Public Access Guide and its Guide to Maryland Boat Ramps and Piers. There is also a canoe and kayak section on DNR’s website. All list a number of excellent public launch sites and water trails where you can experience the best of Chesapeake Country. Some are on the Bay, some on tributaries and more on small lakes and streams. If you visited a different place each weekend of the summer, you’d cover the better ones in just under 30 years. Now there is an adventuresome goal.

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