Every Creature Has Its Role in Chesapeake Country
by C.D. Dollar
Hughesville-At the edge of a sunflower patch, a slight breeze eases (albeit temporarily) the heat of this Indian summer day. I look southward, past the hundreds of acres of soybeans turning a dirty yellow from lack of rain. Throughout the afternoon, doves had flown in concentrated but unpredictable intervals, making for an exciting day afield. As the hunt wound down, my attention was drawn from the treeline skyward, where several large birds circled effortlessly hundreds of feet above the fields.
Soon I became mesmerized by the wide, concentric path they cut as they rode the zephyrs, waiting patiently to fulfill their natural obligation. The expansive, two-tone blackish wings (the flight feathers are paler) tipped me off to their identity: turkey vultures, sometimes referred to, although incorrectly, as buzzards. Along with black vultures, which are smaller with blunt, square tail that stops abruptly at the end of the feathers and white patches underneath wing tips, turkey vultures are the harbingers of death, the last call for land animals in Chesapeake Country.
The mature turkey vulture's head is red-hooded and naked, quite a sinister sight viewed up close as it perches upon the carcass of an unfortunate animal. Yet as menacing and foreboding as vultures appear, they serve a vital role in our ecosystem. Vultures are carrion feeders and, subsequently, the ultimate recyclers, processing the discards of predators and roadkill into energy. When vultures cluster over an expired and unknown creature, it is more than slightly eerie, a perfect companion to Halloween's pending arrival.
It also is indisputable proof of the finality of life, that in each step of the lifecycle each animal must at some point step forward and reveal its true nature. Yet it also is a reminder that the healthy diversity of the Bay's watershed depends on all animals playing their roles - even those that look more suited for a horror flick than a postcard celebrating the Chesapeake.
Fish are Biting
Striped bass catches continue to be erratic: lots of small fish and some keepers. Trolling and jigging along the Western Shore from Belvedere Shoals to Sandy Point has produced a few larger stripers to 34 inches. DNR reports that there are still a few larger fish being caught on drifted eels near Tea Kettle Shoals. This past weekend, Michael Bogdon won the Fourth Annual Val Eshleman Memorial Rockfish Tournament with a 35116-inch striper. The tournament donates all proceeds to Camp Sunrise for kids with cancer.
Fred Donovan, of Rod 'n' Reel in Chesapeake Beach, tells me chumming has picked up for good-sized rockfish and bluefish at Stone Rock and the Gooses, and trolling along the Western Shore in depths of 28 to 40 feet from Chesapeake Beach south to Parkers Creek has produced some nice striped bass to 36 inches. He says the headboat Tom Hooker will start to chum for rock this week, but that spot are nearly done. Bluefish are scattered all through the region, but it is hit or miss. Some of the blues are up to seven pounds. There have been some reports of weakfish catches, but Martin Gary of DNR says with the warm temperatures it is probably a late October-November fishery.
Fishin' Charlie from Angler's in Annapolis says there are plenty of sea trout and white perch at Hacketts, Thomas, and Tolley points.
Still good reports of flounder in incredible numbers along the eastern edges from Buoy #84 south to Buoy #80 and on the edges of the False Channel. Most are just under the minimum size of 15 inches.
The striper bite in the lower Bay seems to be more consistent than anywhere else. Point No Point Light, the edge along Buoy #72 and the Eagle's Nest hold rockfish from 20 to 24 inches.
After the next cold front, Spanish mackerel will be gone, but charter captains and DNR report that they are well schooled on the southwest Middle Grounds and the vicinity of Smith Point Bar. Also, spotted sea trout fishing is red hot in the shallows of the Honga River, periphery of Smith and South Marsh Islands and off Punch Island.
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VolumeVI Number 40
October 8-14, 1998
New Bay Times