Volume 14, Issue 20 ~ May 18 - May 24, 2006

The Sporting Life

by Dennis Doyle

The Chesapeake Needs You — Now

Join up with advocates of similar interests

The Chesapeake Bay is Maryland’s principle asset and its greatest distinction. Commercial and recreational fishermen and crabbers, boaters, photographers, beach addicts, sun lovers and those who enjoy the natural beauty that this vast estuary provides know how special it is. But living with this treasure carries a custodial responsibility.

More than five million people live in Maryland, among them more than 700,000 fishermen. Boater registrations number in the tens of thousands. Yet proportionally, few people who avail themselves of the Bay’s recreational riches or benefit from its beauty are involved in its maintenance and protection. Nor do they support any organization that does.

It would be nice to think that the government entities that we have created ensure that this great eco-system is properly cared for. After all, that is their charter. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

Anglers want a bounteous supply of fish to pursue. Recreational crabbers want to be able to catch enough crabs to supply a family dinner. Watermen want to earn a living wage harvesting the resources of the Bay for the marketplace. Real estate developers want to build around it to accommodate those new people coming here. Boaters desire access. Each type of use causes its own stresses and degradation of the Bay’s systems.

Independent organizations have been formed by concerned individuals over the years to counteract these tendencies and to represent the interests of their members. At the risk of oversimplifying, here are four that I believe reflect the most vital aspects of the Chesapeake.

• The Chesapeake Bay Foundation: The cornerstone of Bay ecological organizations, its mission is simple: To restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Founded in 1967 and having a membership of 140,000 it has the broadest based public support of any organization in our state: 888-728-3229.

• The Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland: This group concerns itself with the conservation and preservation of marine life and habitat. It is part of a national organization that’s had tremendous success throughout the United States in restoring and protecting aquatic species and their environments: 410-280-1432.

• The Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association: This is the largest of the state’s sporting organizations. It represents the interests of over 7,000 active members in enhancing recreational fishing and conserving marine resources: 410-255-5535.

• The Maryland Watermen’s Association: Represents the commercial fishermen and watermen who have worked the Bay for over 300 years, providing the citizens of Maryland with seafood from the Chesapeake. Their history, tradition and way of life have helped define the culture of our state. The health of Chesapeake Bay is integral to their lives: 410-268-7722.

If you are concerned about the Bay and don’t belong to one or more of these organizations, or others like them, consider joining one. Membership adds to the political consideration given to the organization’s advocacies and positions. If possible, participate in their activities. And keep this in mind: All that is necessary to ruin our great resource is that enough good people do nothing.

Fish Are Biting

The spring trophy rockfish season is over. A few anglers are still catching large, migrating fish, but the numbers are few. As of May 16, the size requirement for rockfish dropped to 18 inches with a two-fish limit, only one of which may exceed 28 inches. Locating fish may be difficult; they can be scattered and unpredictable.

A few savvy white perch fishermen are doing well, but they are in the minority. It will be a while before the summer patterns emerge and fish can be located with any reliability. Croaker have yet to establish themselves in numbers north of the Choptank. For the time being, have patience or head south. Freshwater anglers are having a grand time with bass and bluegill in the ponds and lakes, trout in the streams.

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