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Volume 14, Issue 24 ~ June 15 - June 21, 2006

The Sporting Life

by Dennis Doyle

Fish Are Biting in Crisfield

This Eastern Shore area is an angler-friendly environment

Croakers, a.k.a. hardhead, are one of the most popular sport and pan fish in the Chesapeake. A few years ago, while we were experiencing an unusually good run in the mid-Bay, I took my 13-year-old son and a friend out to Podickery Point for a try at them.

Within two hours there were almost two dozen fish in the box, many of them over 18 inches, and the boys were already begging to stop. Their arms ached so much from hauling on these brutes they could barely hold their rods. I didn’t blame them; my arms were aching as well, and I was just the netter.

Since that memorable run, the fish have been scarce this far up the Bay, and we have had to travel to find them. Fortunately we have been long aware of one of the best locations on the Chesapeake for these muscular and tasty rascals: Crisfield.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, just 30 miles south of Salisbury, Crisfield is only about a two-hour drive from the Bay Bridge. Situated on the Chesapeake at the junction of Tangier Sound and Pocomoke Sound, the city is a shallow water haven for a multitude of game fish.

On a trip to the area this time last year, we found concentrations of croaker in about four feet of water at the edge of Pocomoke Sound. With my 14-foot skiff, we drifted the edges of the Sound, throwing small flies and jigs as well as using bits of peeler crab suspended under floats. All were effective baits, but the croaker especially loved the crab.

We had no trouble getting limits of fish up to 18 inches, as well as a few very nice rockfish and flounder. There are also good opportunities in these waters for speckled trout, weakfish and even redfish.

If you haven’t tried Crisfield yet, it’s a location you must visit. Launching at one of its numerous boat ramps, you can hardly go in any direction without encountering excellent fishing. It also has a public fishing pier in the center of town and a number of charter and head boats.

Founded 340 years ago, Crisfield was once the second largest city in Maryland. The seafood industry, the railroad, a willing workforce and one of the finest ports on the Chesapeake combined to make it a bustling, rambunctious population center. However, over the years with the decline of the seafood industry and the railroad, Crisfield has had to adapt to less fortunate conditions.

Built on an oyster-shell foundation, the downtown harbor retains much of its earlier charm. Crisfield holds two firsts in my life: my first fly-fishing experience on the Chesapeake and my first soft crab sandwich. I have never forgotten either, and that was over 35 years ago.

What is remarkable is that the fishing is just as fantastic today as it was then, and the Crisfield restaurants still serve some of the finest Chesapeake seafood I have ever eaten.

One of the best aspects of Crisfield is that you can spend the weekend there without spending a week’s income. Everything is reasonably priced and accessible. Somers Marina, situated close to downtown, is a particularly spacious and well-maintained facility with fish cleaning conveniences, boat ramps, electrical hookups and slips for all sizes of boats. There are also a number of comfortable motels. It is truly an angler-friendly environment, and right now is one of the best times of the year to fish there.

Note: For information on boat ramp locations, request a copy of Department of Natural Resources’ Guide to Maryland Boat Ramps and Piers: 800-688-fins. Get lodging, restaurant, boating, charter and marina information from the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce (800-782-3913), and the city Visitors Center (410-968-2501).

Fish Are Biting

FFishing for stripers has become inconsistent and frustrating over the last week as a result of a period of northerly winds, sometimes brisk, alternating with thunderstorms. The chilly temperatures haven’t helped, either. Warmer weather and southerly breezes should restore our summer ambience as well as the bite. Live liners using small perch for bait have been managing to boat good-sized rockfish by working near mouths of the tributaries early mornings and evenings. When the conditions have allowed, chummers using fresh menhaden, and live perch, have been doing decently, while many charter skippers continue to troll to avoid the smaller fish.

Bigger perch are still hard to pin down but showing up more often than not on hard-shell bottoms in the Bay and near bridges and other structures in rivers and creeks. Croaker and flounder in the mid-Bay remain elusive, but the bite south, near Crisfield, continues hot.

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