Chesapeake Outdoors By C.D. Dollar
Vol. 9, No. 25
June 21-27, 2001
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The Shell Remains the Same

When my Chesapeake Bay retriever Huck came snout to jaws with a snapping turtle, I told myself I was prepared to do whatever it might take to separate the feisty turtle's powerful chompers from my favorite hunting companion, but I wasn't entirely convinced. Growing up on Blackwalnut Creek, a shallow, slow-moving, brackish marsh inside the bight between Tolly Point and Thomas Point that was prime snapper territory, I learned not to mess with snapping turtles. I still have a vivid image of my crazy uncle taunting a large male, first with his hand, then with a thick tree limb, which the turtle violently latched onto. When my uncle tried to hoist it over the water, the turtle decided it had had enough and snapped the branch like a toothpick. It then reeled and lurched at us like a shielded menace sent up from Hades and sent us scampering through the cattails back to the safety of dry land.

This most recent encounter with my dog, however, proved far less dangerous and exciting. The snapper simply hissed apathetically and didn't display any of the aggressive behavior that has earned their species its pugnacious reputation. I reckoned it was either sick or dying since it was some distance from water and lethargic, so we let it be and continued on our way.

As snappers go, this was a young turtle, weighing less than 10 pounds. In Chesapeake Country, snapping turtles generally max out at 30 pounds, but they can reach weights of up to 60 pounds. Not sure I’d want to swim past a behemoth like that.

Snappers are common in various watery habitats throughout North America, and if their watering hole dries up, their powerful legs allow them to travel impressive distances - for turtles, that is. The drawback of this ability is that these large legs are too big to fit under the protective cross-shaped plastron. Fearless and aggressive, snappers have reportedly attacked swimmers, which may be a reason why people kill them, other than for soup.

Common snappers eat plants, small birds and fish, and, apparently, their sense of smell is so acute that they easily locate carrion. The species’ uncanny talent has been put into service by law enforcement to help search for human corpses.

Fish Are Biting

In the Upper Bay, the chumming action has started to heat up for rockfish from Rock Hall south to the Bay Bridge. A fair number of these fish are in the 18 - to 30-inch range, but expect some undersized fish, so use circle hooks and release them quickly. It is good to bear in mind that as the water temperature increases, so does the striper’s vulnerability to stresses. Fishing moving water is the key for good catches. Particularly good is a tide change from flood to ebb. Other chumming hotspots include the green can off West River, the Diamonds off Choptank River and the Gas Docks near Cove Point.

DNR is reporting that drifting for flounder with bull minnows was productive last week on channel edges from Love Point south, and flounder up to 20 inches are in Eastern Bay along drop-offs in 18 to 23 feet of water. A good croaker bite has been happening after dark in Eastern Bay, and evening bottom fishing with bloodworms for croakers is great at James Island, The Gooses and the mouth of the Choptank.

Brion Townsend, Dave (RC) Cola and Paul Bayne threw Bass Assassins to the eddies off Thomas Point and caught a fair number of feisty, albeit undersized, rockfish. Although I’ve heard that commercial crabbing is on the rise, but overall the chicken neckers haven’t done too well to date except in parts of the Patuxent River, West River, some parts of the Severn River and a few spots on the Eastern Shore, like the Miles River.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly