Skunked at Poplar Island
by C.D. Dollar
As far as fishing trips go, it was a bust all the way around. The lone exception to this, of course, was the company, whose identities I shall protect.
Of the two boats in our tiny flotilla, the boat I was on was new to the fisherman who was somewhat new to the sport. Without delving into the gory details (of which there are precious few), suffice it to say that our narrow window of opportunity (less than two hours) and our specific target (sea trout) never matched up. Tide, time of day, choice of lure and location evidently were all off mark, despite the glowing reports of large weakies farther to our south. Afterward, I heard that people fishing for rockfish caught a few sea trout and croakers with crabs drifted in their chum slick not far from where we were fishing.
Aside from good company (which can only take you so far when you are getting skunked), the other consolation to the day was seeing, albeit through binoculars, the massive reclamation project at Poplar Island. Tom Horton's masterful account of both Poplar Island's history and proposed future in the May 1999 issue of Chesapeake Bay Magazine had further piqued my interest in getting a closer look.
Of course I knew about the reclamation project, and I have fished there several times in the hours when the light was low, but I hadn't been there in over a year. Seeing it this way was different. The jutting metal of the cranes cut a dinosaur image through the haze. Dozers and barges loomed on the horizon, eerily out of place.
Tom notes that Poplar Island is the site for perhaps the nation's most ambitious dredge spoil project. The disappearing island was inhabited up until the onset of Prohibition, when Poplar Island slowly disintegrated into three separate islands (the other two being Coaches and Jefferson), which forced off nearly all residents.
If all goes well, waterfowl will replace machinery in newly created wetlands, and underwater grasses may blanket the waters nearby. Boaters and fishermen will find a haven. Even with a price tag of more than $400 million, the restored Poplar Island should be money well spent to all who hold out hope for a restored Chesapeake.
In restoring the island, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Port Administration have found a productive way to dispose of the millions of cubic yards of Bay bottom that is raked up annually. The maelstrom of controversy that surrounds Site 104 and the overall quagmire that is dredge disposal has not been resolved by the Poplar Island project. Far from it.
However, laid on a foundation of mud and fortified by a rock dike, Poplar Island may rise like a phoenix, and as a result, the Bay may become the beneficiary, rather than the victim, of human impact. Imagine that.
Fish are Biting
Once again, it's hard to top the mid- and lower Bay for sheer numbers and variety of fish caught. Croaker and sea trout in prodigious numbers and excellent size are being reported by Marty from Rick's Marine (310/872-4355) at Point Lookout. Bait like peelers and squid are working well.
Plenty of smaller rockfish are being taken now that the regulations have changed (see Good Bay Times, local tackle shops and DNR Web site for specifics). Marty also checked in a 58-pound black drum taken from Cornfield Harbor on blood worms last week. Some blues and flounder round out the mix.
Kathy from Bunky's (410/326-3241) in Solomons says that the Patuxent River is doing well, with plenty of croaker in the 15 to 20 inch range and decent numbers of weakfish. Fish the edges in the river, under the bridge and Drum Point for hardhead. Sea trout are on Cedar and Cove Points. Rockfish are being taken at the HI Buoy and Gas Docks among other places. Some flounder can be caught on live minnows on edges near James Island, though bluefish (one to three pounds) remain scattered.
Rob from Anglers (410/974-4013) - that fountain of information and guru of quail - tells me bottom fishing for croakers and sea trout south of Bloody Point and Sharps' Island is decent. He's looking for the rockfishing to pick up in the next week.