Chesapeake Outdoors
Mysteries of the Underwater Grasses Revealed
by C.D. Dollar

Mysteries of the Underwater Grasses Revealed

Among the wads of widgeon grass that blanketed the seine net, small blue crabs, hordes of grass shrimp and several large killifish, their distinct bands on display like a sergeant's stripes, all jostled for cover or tried to escape, neither of which was a real option at the moment. Removed from the underwater grasses that provide protection and food for much of the Bay's marine life, these fish and crabs pulled from the grass beds out front of Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Karen Noonan Environmental Education Center were vulnerable.

Yet the overall decline of grasses Baywide makes their situation even more tenuous.

Bay Foundation's Dave Slater and I were dragging the seine as part of Washington News 7 WJLA's series to promote Bay restoration and to celebrate its charms.

When we lifted the seine, good thing the cameras weren't rolling because in the mix lurked a four-inch fish with a huge mouth that housed teeth like a crocodile. It was reptilian: Its cranium was flat as a frying pan and the ventral portion of the body flat, adding to its serpentine appearance. The fish's back was crisscrossed with bars in varying shades of brown. I didn't have a clue as to what species of fish it was. My first guess was a small cobia, but I knew it was a weak guess at best.

Matt Mullin, the manager/educator of the Noonan Center, had been alerted to the discovery and joined the race to reveal its identity. Matt found our mystery fish in Alice and Robert Lippson's Life in the Chesapeake Bay.

It was an in-shore lizardfish, which ranges up to the middle of the Bay in deep as well as skinny water. It grows to about a foot, and uses stealth and surprise to catch its prey. The lizardfish has two substantial pelvic fins that it uses to "sits up" (a Lippson description) to snatch its unsuspecting quarry in one bite. Other times it will bury itself in the sediments up to its eyeballs, which are on top of its head and close together.

The mysteries revelead by the Chesapeake never cease to amaze me - and hopefully will continue to for a long time.


Fish Are Biting

Throughout the Bay, fishing is booming, as boat fishermen and shore anglers alike have been fairing well. By most accounts, the same can be said for offshore and coastal bays as well. Jim from Angler's (410/974-4013) said it best: "If you can't catch a fish out there, maybe you should take up golf."

He and others report that in the Annapolis area there are enough fish on the shell bar, drop-offs and lumps for nearly everyone. From Belvedere Shoals to Hacketts Point to West River, croaker, spot, white perch and rockfish are the mainstays, although flounder are options. Fresh crab and drifted minnows are working well for the bottom fish.

Biking home from work I stopped and chatted with Randy, who was fishing grass shrimp from the College Creek Bridge. When I asked how the fishing was, he smiled and offered his loaded five-gallon bucket of white perch as an answer.

On the Eastern Shore, the last time I fished Kent Narrows it was exceedingly slow, though I have heard that Eastern Bay has rockfish, hardheads and some flounder. Adam from Rod 'n' Reel (800/233-2080) says that people trolling for bluefish at the Diamonds and Sharps Island flats have scored and that the night bite for sea trout and croaker remains strong. The daytime bottom fishing for spot is still pretty hot.

Rick from Rick's Marine (301/872-4355) at Point Lookout says that the fishing has been good, though during the height of the heat wave it waned a bit. Cornfield Harbor is once again very good for rockfish, spot and sea trout, and the flounder are picking up. The ratio of chummers to trollers dragging for blues and rockfish is about even, he says, though the trollers have caught some big sea trout. The Mud Leads is very hot for several species, and he even reports a few smallish cobia being taken from shore with cut bait.

| Issue 29 |

Volume VII Number 29
July 22-28, 1999
New Bay Times

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