Chesapeake Outdoors
On-Island in the Rain
by C.D. Dollar

"Man, they even have this thing catered," said Team Voodoo member Mike McGuane as we walked up to register for the 4th Annual Sporting Clays Tournament. He was referring to the guy with the beard in the chef's jacket slapping marinade on emu, pheasant and venison on the grill.

"That's no chef," I said, "that's Rob Jepson, chairman of the Chesapeake Chapter of Quail Unlimited and one of the driving forces behind the group that hosted the shoot at Pintail Point near Easton." Turned out I was wrong. Rob was, in fact, an excellent grill master, but more importantly, he and the other QU guys represented the quintessential grassroots organization volunteer, doing whatever necessary to promote their cause, quail habitat restoration.

On-Island in the Rain

What a wonderful, mysterious place Fox Island is, a watery oasis where the possibilities literally wash over you. Here on Fox, many times the intended path is not the journey traveled, and often times so much the better.

Located just over the Virginia line where the waters of Pocomoke and Tangier Sounds surge together, Fox Island is one of dozens of remote Bay islands that exude wildness. Over the last four years, I have been lucky enough to visit Fox several times every year. Some five months ago, I was here gunning in Cedar Marsh, a great day afield that culminated in a mad dash to beat out a winter squall. Last week, I went down to Fox for a three-day seminar for work, which was made more bearable by the promise of throwing flies to rockfish and speckled trout in the shallows. But strong winds and steady rain roiled the water, ruining our chances to hook up with fish.

The fact that the fish were put off wasn't a problem. Options are never exhausted on Fox. My friend Bob used to run field trips out of Fox for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and he had only one demand of visitors: "Never ask what we are going to do next."

Unless your imagination and spirit of adventure are suffocated, that is never an issue on Fox. With meetings over and fish not biting, Dave Slater, my Foundation boss and all-around good man, and I cruised the skiff past South Island, a very small but very important spit of land south-southwest of Fox. On South, as it is referred to hereabouts, hundreds of birds - Caspian, royal (I think I saw a few), and common terns as well as gulls and skimmers - squawked endlessly as arrivals and departures flew from the island. Dave and I kept our distance, not wanting to add further to the cacophony that played out in front of us.

My focus was on the skimmers, which, as the name suggests, use their blade-like bill to dip into the water. Excellent flyers, they are similar to the American oystercatcher, though not nearly as boisterous. Also, the oystercatcher has a triangular bill used to open oysters and other shellfish, while the skimmer's lower mandible extends about a third longer than its upper bill, which is a deep red dipped black at the tip. Other birds like brown pelicans (also very cool birds) and plovers kept our attention as we puttered the skiff through the wind-whipped waters.

Whoever said that there is nothing to do on an island during a rainstorm obviously hasn't been to Fox.


Fish Are Biting

In the upper Bay, Sandy Point and the mouth of the Chester River were apparently the hotspots for rockfish this past week, and there may be fish there still. Belvedere shoals and Thomas Point also scored. Steve Linhard and Paul Willey did very well last weekend fishing near Thomas Point in about 35 feet of water. Bluefish, sea trout and several mid-20-inch rockfish answered the siren of the chum slick. The grand prize was a monstrous 37-incher.

The Narrows packs a crowd but has keeper rock and some white perch. Eastern Bay has croaker and spot, as do other hard bottom areas like Tolley Point. The Gas Docks has been very good to chummers, and Punch Island and edges in front of Poplar, Hoopers and James islands have flounder and trout.

The Patuxent River has a great variety of fish: sea trout, flounder, blues, rockfish and spot among others. Wind and rain have battered the lower Bay, even more so than other parts of the Bay because it is so broad. But with calming weather, tremendous opportunities for Spanish mackerel, cobia and other more common gamefish should make themselves available. There are even reports of a pompano caught in a pound net.

| Issue 25 |

Volume VII Number 25
June 24-30, 1999
New Bay Times

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