Chesapeake Outdoors

by C.D. Dollar

Ode to the Patuxent

I went to see a good friend the other day, a steady yet versatile companion exciting enough to surprise you with new twists of depth but subtle enough to welcome you whenever you come calling. For several years, the Patuxent River, my friend and that of countless thousands throughout the years, had been one of my regular stops along the summer tour as a captain for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. For most of these dog days of summer '98, however, my new job keeps me pinned to a computer keyboard.

Asked to fill in as relief captain for a short trip near Benedict, I took all of a second to accept.

The Patuxent has its origins in Carroll County, fed in good part by the Little and Middle Patuxent as well as numerous feeder streams. Cascading mostly south but a touch to the east, the river is straddled by Montgomery and Howard counties and dammed to create Tridelphia Reservoir. It then moves south again with Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties sharing its waters, as do Calvert and St. Mary's, where it spills into Chesapeake with vigor.

The river runs tidal clear past Jackson's Landing, past Wayson's Corner until the bridge at Central Avenue (Rt. 214). In these upper tidal reaches, the white and yellow perch run brings throngs of anglers each spring to Patuxent banks. At its mouth, the high salinity welcomes spot, rockfish, sea trout, flounder, croaker and bluefish.

The river's history is legendary: Joshua Barney and his flotilla, which came to be known as Barney's Barges, effectively harassed the British during the American Revolution, Part II (War of 1812) before the Redcoats burned a good bit of the nation's then new capital. The Patuxent's fame as a producer of seafood - oysters at the Hawk's Nest, clams, eels, crabs and fish - brought watermen from around the Bay seeking to cash in on the river's prodigious natural capital. Sadly, only a fraction of that bounty remains.

I boarded Lady D with great excitement soon tempered by a three- to four-foot chop. There were more big white caps than at a dentists' convention. At six knots an hour, Solomons wasn't going to happen, so I called into Herrington Harbour South and they graciously let me tie up at the end of one their piers.

Morning brought calmer seas, and the run south was beautiful and invigorating. After a brief stop in Bunky's to fuel up and chat with Kathy Connor, I motored upriver to meet the group. Just before 9am a few miles above Broomes Island, a couple of trotliners (one boat had Cambridge as its home port) headed in to sell their catch.

After a great day of discovering the Patuxent's still admirable diversity, the group of Calvert County teachers were on their way home - they by land, me by water, stopping for the obligatory fishing that yielded a few croaker. The late afternoon run down river and the evening run up the Bay (with a following sea, thankfully) were, in Thoreau's words, "tonic for the soul." The Patuxent River will do that for you.


Fish Are Biting

From Mary Gary of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, charter captains and tackle shops, here's what's biting as we await the fall rockfish season.

White perch are plentiful on Bay Bridge pilings and shell lumps off the Magothy and in Chester River. Croaker and spot are still mixed in off Love Point and Snake Reef, with spot just outside Kent Narrows around Buoy #6.

In the middle Bay, Holland Point Bar has been producing some very nice catches of large to jumbo spot, large white perch and occasional croaker and weakfish. The hard bottom from Thomas Point Light north to Tolley Point continues to see big white perch in 27- to 34-foot depths. Hacketts has seen some activity for perch, spot and croaker. Summer flounder can be found inside of Buoy #84 just west of Poplar Island. Experts say the key is good bait: large bull minnows and flounder belly.

The area from The Radar Towers to Parkers Creek has seen nice catches of spot, and the James Island rock piles produce good nighttime catches of croaker with a few weakfish mixed in. Kathy at Bunky's tells me that there are plenty of spot, sea trout and hardheads in the Patuxent River complex.

In Eastern Bay, flounder fishing continues to be steady. Bottom-drifted live minnows and squid strips are the baits of choice. Find hard bottoms in 18 to 22 feet that drop into deeper water, and you should find the flounder. Sea trout have moved into the area around Wades Point and the state fishing reef just inside of Kent Point.

In the lower Bay, action for croaker, weakfish and bluefish continues to be outstanding. The croaker bite continues to be best in the early evening into nightfall in lower Tangier Sound, the Middle Grounds, and Buoy #72. Flounder have been reported off the eastern edge of Buoy #76. Bluefish continue to smash about the lower Bay but have not moved in any great numbers into the mid- and upper Bay. Come on blues!

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VolumeVI Number 30
July 30 - August 5, 1998
New Bay Times

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