Summer Fun on the Water
By Dennis Doyle
Maryland is notable for its one incredible geographical blessing, the Chesapeake Bay. Aside from it being the largest estuary in the Western Hemisphere, our waterway is also one of the biggest aquatic playgrounds in the nation. Those reveling in the outdoors have literally the richest experience on the planet at our doorstep.
Fun on the Bay is merely a matter of getting on or next to it. The choices for sport are vast; catching up the blue crab is the first to come to mind, not to mention the most delicious. Catching a crab feast has long been a major Maryland tradition and ritual of its own. If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time you do.
Hiring a charter boat that specializes in crabbing is the surest way to realize the adventure but you can also do it yourself for next to nothing, though success is not guaranteed. The crab is a crafty devil. A license is not necessary for catching up to a dozen jimmies per person (it’s males only in Maryland) as long as you’re only using handlines. Six crabs per attendee will be sufficient for a feast.
A ball of stout cotton crab line, available in most sports stores but call ahead, will provide all the lines needed. There is no legal limit to the ones you put out but it’s only possible to effectively attend to a few. You’ll see. Just tie them off on your boat rail or along the shore or pier, put some bait at the end and wait for a crab to come along and try to steal it. Then you just need a crab net.
A chicken neck or drumstick (you can throw them further and they’ll last longer) will suffice as your bait of choice. If your experience turns into an obsession (not unlikely) chunks of menhaden, razor clams, bull lips and salted eel for bait may come into the picture to lure the bigger ones (5 inches, point to point), the minimum legal size but males up to 7 inches are not uncommon (and that’s a whopper).
The next easiest and almost as delicious project on the Tidewater is catching a few white perch. Fried up crispy they are Maryland’s finest seafood delight. Kids especially have a fun time with this frisky and cooperative fish. Simple tackle such as the Spiderman, Wonder Woman, and Captain America closed face outfits available at most sports stores will do nicely, as well as any light action spin rod. A small cooler with ice will handle the catch, worms, shrimp, or pieces of clam under a bobber will do to tempt the eager fish to bite your line.
There are many locations provided by the state to access and fish the Bay and its tributaries on foot or by canoe, kayak, or boat. Sandy Point State Park, Matapeake State Park, and Jonas Green Park come to mind near Annapolis but there are literally hundreds to choose from throughout the state. Some areas are better than others so ask around. Consult the state DNR website for information on what’s available and how to get there.
If you’re intending to let your offspring have the run of areas anywhere near the water, be sure they are wearing properly sized life jackets. It’s the state law now, not to mention a very good idea. The little ones are brave beyond measure; it’s important to protect them.
The rockfish bite was on fire last week until it wasn’t. The last few days were dead, dead, dead for most anglers. The culprit is rumored to be the dreaded May worm. A small cousin to the bloodworm, the little devils live down in the shell-strewn floor of the Bay, swell and metamorphose into a multi-legged red beastie and rise this time of year, wriggling en masse in a dance of reproduction. All fish love them and swim through the entranced clouds of worms, engorging themselves to the point of bursting. There’s no need for them to even look at an angler’s offering—and they don’t. It will, however, be over soon and our rockfish and white perch, spot and croaker will go back to being seduced by anglers. Hang in there as crabbing is starting up and the males are finally digging out of the mud and looking for sustenance. Summertime is the best.