by C.D. Dollar
Working the Water at Tangier Island
With uncharacteristically clear blue skies lighting up an August evening, it was as if you could see forever. A light breeze from the north, remnants of a front that earlier in the week brought heavy and much needed rains, keeping the tiny but malicious gnats and green head flies at bay. I was paddling north in a friend's kayak on the eastern side of Tangier, a watermen's community just over the state line in Virginia's part of the Bay. A rich and storied fishing village, Tangier is bordered by the main Chesapeake Bay to the west and Tangier Sound to the east.
Every conceivable way to pull a living out of the Bay's waters is expertly practiced here. All types crabbing: potting, dredging and scraping (a small metal-framed dredge-like tool with a soft meshed liner is dragged across grass beds for soft and peeler crabs). In the winter months, oystering, though no longer the dependable fishery it once was, is still a way to earn some money. Some watermen fish pound nets or use long nets anchored in open water for rock, croaker and trout. A few watermen eel, and more clam the many varieties that have market value: hard or cherrystone and the manninose (sometimes pronounced "man-knowes"), also called a soft-shell clam.
Whenever I visit one of these villages, I am amazed at both the pure sense of community and the ingenious methods that have developed to harvest seafood. It takes more than a good boat and work ethic. It takes a connection to the water that is somehow an innate part of all watermen communities throughout the Bay. Amidst this season of poor crabbing, the harsh realty of depending upon our natural resources for a living is piercingly clear.
Fish Are Biting
As I write this column, Hurricane Bonnie is bringing her considerable forces to bear on the Carolina coast. I would never be so presumptuous to attempt to predict the intentions and patterns of nature's forces, but I think it is safe to say that the residual rains and wind will put the fishing off for a day or two, which may be a good thing.
A good number of anglers have told me that, overall, the fishing has been slow for rockfish this past week. Certainly the enormous pressure anglers are putting on the fish is a factor, so please be very cautious with both the handling and release of rockfish as well as the type of tackle (circle hooks work great) you use. Bear in mind less than a decade ago this fishery was nonexistent.
On the Western Shore, over the last seasons the Patuxent River complex has been the most consistent and abundant of places to catch a variety of fish. Word on the water is that the Gas Docks were the place to be if you were looking for a rockfish limit.
On the Eastern Shore, Bill Goldsborough of Easton told me he and some friends caught seven species of fish, including their limit of rockfish, off Todd's Point in the Choptank River.
In a strange twist, there appears to be more bluefish north of the Bay bridges than in the mid-Bay area. They have been reported as far north as Worton Point and may still be pressing farther north, along with good numbers of stripers. Some boats reported catching as many as 60 blues from two to four pounds. We caught a few nice two- to three-pound blues on the edge of the Hill.
Thomas Point Light and Hacketts have keeper stripers and are hot for white perch, spot and a few weakfish. The weekend pressure in the Narrows is unbelievable, so many people it's like they're giving away money. The trick is to find not only fish but also a place to fish safely.
To the south, the bite for stripers is much more dependable for those trolling along the Western Shore from the Silver Ball to Cove Point. Spanish mackerel have shown up in the mid-Bay area and such fast trolled lures as chrome or gold Clark or Cather spoons.
In the lower Bay, chumming is producing some very nice catches of both striped bass and bluefish. The eastern edge of the channel from Buoy #72 to the SW Middle Grounds is the best location. Spanish mackerel have finally heated up in the lower Bay and are mixed in abundantly with bluefish of two to four pounds from Point No Point to Smith Point.
DNR and charter captains report a decent numbers of Spanish in the Cedar Point Hollow area as well, where they are mixed in with weakfish and blues. Cornfield Harbor in the Potomac, Richland Bell Buoy, Buoy #76 and Cedar Point Hollow are all good locations for weakfish, spot and flounder. Bart Jaeger told me nice-sized spotted sea trout have shown up around Fox Island and around Bloodsworth and South Marsh Islands in the evenings.
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VolumeVI Number 34
August 27-September 2, 1998
New Bay Times
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