Chesapeake Outdoors
Too Hot for Fish
by C.D. Dollar

It is hotter than Georgia asphalt out there, as the saying goes. How about 'Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk' or such a scorcher that we should do a remake of the road gang scene from the classic sweat film Cool Hand Luke?

Despite recent rains, a drought bad enough to force the National Weather Service to issue a state-wide warning has hung over Maryland like a hot towel the past month. As well as making people reach to metaphoric comparisons, it has severely depleted oxygen levels in the Bay's tributaries.

Last week, the prolonged hot spell wreaked havoc with fish in the tributaries of two upper Bay Rivers. Several creeks that feed Patapsco and Magothy rivers suffered major fish kills as a result of extremely low dissolved oxygen levels. Dead of oxygen deprivation are perhaps thousands of fish, including yellow and white perch, large mouth bass and chain pickerel.

There has not been such a widespread depletion in oxygen levels in these waters in more than a decade, say officials at the Maryland Department of Environment. The problem is fueled by the Bay's nemesis: excessive nutrients. Made up largely of nitrogen and phosphorus, these nutrients feed algae, which dies quickly and decomposes, consuming surrounding oxygen.

Colder waters hold more dissolved oxygen, and in the summer there is naturally less oxygen in the water. Breathable amounts of dissolved oxygen are about two parts per million, while the healthy levels of oxygen for fish is two parts per million according to most government agencies. Many private environmental organizations put that number at five parts per million. In the impaired waters of the Magothy and Patapsco, state environment officials recorded levels at one part per million, virtually assuring death.

Another factor that hurts fish during high heat and low dissolved oxygen periods is angling stress. Should we stop fishing? Of course not, but there are things fishermen can do.

We should handle fish more carefully, bring them to boat quickly, reduce the time they are out of water (avoid removing fish to be released from the water if possible) and use tools like dehookers and a wet towel to prevent our hands from removing the fish's protective slime.

And pray for rain.


Fish Are Biting

According to my sources, there are plenty of fish of good size and varieties in many areas of Chesapeake Bay. Several people have told me that the edges (30 to 37 feet of water) off Thomas and Hacketts Point are doing very well chumming for rockfish. Tolley Point has small spot and decent white perch, though the bigger perch still seem to be up the rivers for the most part.

Fishin' Charlie from Angler's (410/974-4013) in Annapolis says that his customers have been catching rockfish at Pidickory Point and Belvedere Shoals. Also spot have moved into the mouth of the Chester River. Eastern Bay has flounder, croaker and spot. Poplar Island, the mouth of the Choptank River and the Summer Gooses are holding rockfish, many of which are taken by trollers using umbrella rigs and chartreuse and green parachutes.

Also on the Eastern Shore, Punch Island and the Diamonds are scoring for some anglers. Fred Donovan from Rod 'n' Reel (800/233-2040) says that the croaker and sea trout bite at night is still very good at the Gooses and James Island. Bluefish in the two- to three-pound range are also showing up in the Patuxent quadrant. And the Gas Docks and Cove Point, among other places, have good numbers of stripers and decent numbers of blues.

The lower Bay has sea trout, spot, bluefish, rockfish and croaker in all the fishy spots: mouth of the Potomac, Cornfield Harbor, the Targets Ships and Tangier Sound. Speckled trout can be caught on crab baits and Deceivers and Clousers at low light in the Honga River area, Smith Island flats and the flats around Tangier Sound.

| Issue 26 |

Volume VII Number 26
July 1-7, 1999
New Bay Times

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