Angler Clean Water Story: Where Have All the Stripers Gone

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Photo by Blair M. Seltz.

The impact of pollution on the Chesapeake [and its] fish is very significant. Pollution in the form of too many nutrients causes low oxygen levels during the warmer months and this causes the stripers to move around quite a bit. The areas where they can find tolerable oxygen levels seem to be shrinking each year which makes the Bay less habitable. Traditional locations where stripers have been caught for years are no longer productive.

You can have wonderful structure with loads of baitfish on it but no stripers because there is not enough oxygen in the water to support them. Finding fish consistently in the warm months has become much more challenging because they are moving all the time and one cannot see nor determine oxygen levels without expensive test equipment. An area may look good and have lots of bait but there is no way to tell if the oxygen levels will support the [top] predators.

Capt. Richie Gaines, Queenstown, MD
Capt. Richie Gaines has been guiding anglers in the region for more than 20 years and has earned a reputation as one of the top light tackle guides on the Bay. Richie is a "guerilla" guide and fishes the entire Bay, moving with the fish to follow the best bite. Fishing the Bay year-round from the Susquehanna Flats to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel has provided a great deal of experience and taught Richie how to be versatile in applying techniques and locating the fish.

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: Clean Water Laws Need to Have Teeth

 

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Photo © Neil Ever Osborne

I am a brook trout enthusiast. The fish is arguably one of the most striking freshwater fish to be found. Brookies need clean, cool water to survive. Loss of forests and runoff that carries sediment into streams are major threats to brook trout. I've watched the stream behind my house decline over the past 20 years, due mostly to development and farming along small feeder streams. The trout are fewer in number and smaller. If the declines of the past 20 years occur for another 20, I wonder whether brookies will even live there anymore. The laws protecting streams should have teeth.

Dave Wise, Lititz, PA

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: No Brainer

19052267_25244661_Banditby_Lynda_RichardsonClean water is a no brainer when it comes to anything in life, including the ability to sustain life. Fishing or not, clean water is essential for everyone and everything . . . striped bass, bald eagles, osprey, otters, mayflies, and crayfish, just to name a few.

For those making a living on the water, clean water will ensure these professionals will be able to continue developing and producing recreational and educational programs for the public, who may be interested in buying fresh local fish, hiring fishing and ecotour guides, and traveling on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Yeah, the need for clean water is a no brainer.

Capt. Mike Ostrander, Richmond, Virginia 

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: A Sorry Situation

George M - HeadshotIt really bugs me that the fish I catch from the Chesapeake are "toxic fish." Chesapeake rockfish and white perch are some of the best tasting fish to be found anywhere. Yet I am afraid to eat them! The Bay is so polluted that these fish have been declared unhealthy to eat because of the toxic chemicals contained in their flesh, such as mercury and PCBs. What a sorry situation . . . This has to change!

—George Maurer, Annapolis, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: Fishing for Happy Fish

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Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

I like to fish for "happy" fish. In the fall when the water is clear there are some areas in the Bay where you can see the bottom in ten feet of water. You can see fish on structure and they are obviously feeling frisky and "happy." In this type of environment they take your lure or fly with enthusiasm, they are simply "happy." If you release them they quickly scoot back to their temporary homes no worse for the experience.

However in the warmer months of the summer. You can see fish on your sonar huddled in the top five to fifteen feet water in holes more than 30 feet deep. They are there because it's the only depth where the dissolved oxygen is sufficient for them to survive. All depths below that are essentially "dead zones" due to nitrogen pollution. Even when fish are in the upper tier of the water column, it is obvious that they are stressed out by how slow they move and respond to various fishing tactics.

Fishing in or around polluted water is not a good experience in terms of visual enjoyment or quality of results. Wether you take out a new angler or someone who fishes a lot, they enjoy the "happy" fish experience much more than the stressed fish experience.

Ed Liccione, Queenstown, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: Clean Water Is Simply a Must

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Sunset Fishing on the Rappahannock River. Photo courtesy of CBF.

 

I began fishing as a young boy in the ponds and creeks around my home for mainly bluegill or more often whatever would bite. Those early years instilled a love of the sport that I still have today.

I now do most of my fishing in the Bay and for different species. I have found that the health of the Bay and more specifically clean water has a tremendous impact on my success. I prefer low light, early and late, shallow water fishing for rockfish and trout. Recently with water clarity being impaired this method has become more and more challenging. Clean water is simply a must for increased and consistent catches from day to day. I seek out the water that appears to be the cleanest and clearest to fish and often it works for me.

A cleaner Bay would provide all of us and those to come, better fishing opportunities and hopefully create sportsmen and women for years to come.

Bart, Crofton, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Photo of the Week: Hooper's Island Fly Fishing

ByJohnRiordanPhoto by Jack Riordan.

I go to school in upstate New York and with the semester coming to an end, I can always look forward to the summertime fly fishing in the Bay! This photo was taken last year off of the Hooper's Island Bridge. To me, the Bay is a getaway where I can leave my worries on the dock and spend the day with my friends adventuring through this incredibly unique area. Some of my fondest memories have been forged around Hooper's Island, and I can't wait to get back for a visit later this year!

—Jack Riordan, Conservation Biology Student at St. Lawrence University 

Ensure that Jack and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

 


Karen's Clean Water Story

KarenWathen_19052253_rockfishGifts of the Chesapeake 

In a deep slumber, I feel a hard, calloused hand grab my foot and vigorously shake it. This is Dad's traditional signal to communicate to me that it is time to go. Neither of us utters a single word; just a simple shake of the foot and I know exactly what to do. Like clockwork, I leap out of bed, throw on a few layers of clothes and sprint to the 18' Carolina skiff tied up to our dock. I jump into the boat where my Dad is impatiently waiting for me to untie the bow so we can cast out on our usual Saturday morning adventure.

There he sits in his captain's chair, with his arms folded tightly and perched atop his belly, giving me the "you're-almost-late" look. In a crumpled up 7-Eleven bag, I spy two cream-filled doughnuts atop the steering console: our usual Saturday morning treats. I rush to release the bow lines as I anticipate biting into a creamy, chocolate covered doughnut while watching the sun perch above the Chesapeake. My seven-year-old spirit bubbles with excitement as I hear the roar of the outboard motor gear up for another big day. Racing the rise of the springtime sun, we chart out through the cool and misty open waters.

*******

When the calendar falls on April 20th in Southern Maryland, people drop their boats in to the frigid, brackish waters and set out to stalk the king of the Chesapeake: the striped bass. The morone saxatilis, better known as the rockfish, striper, and/or striped bass is a highly respected and cared-for population. In 2007, President George W. Bush issued an executive order that the coveted striped bass be considered a protected game fish. The striper is one of Maryland's most vital commercial and recreational fish; so important, in fact, it has been declared the Maryland state fish. The rockfish provides the people of the Chesapeake Bay watershed with delicious meals but also a challenge that fosters intimate relationships amongst those who seek to catch this special species.

*******

We finally reach the prime real estate for our hunt of the coveted striper. Dad rushes around the boat, gathering the rods, fidgeting with the lures, attempting to steer clear of neighboring vessels and keeping a keen eye on the depth finder. At the tender age of ten-years-old, I stand in awe as I watch him perfect the process. Flawlessly, he executes the preparation and gracefully drops two lines into the depths of the Chesapeake. With our bellies full of sugary sweets, we sit side-by-side anxiously awaiting a bite from a striper. It is during these idle times that the true pleasure of fishing is elicited.

I listen to Dad tell me about how things were back in his day; he narrates stories of adventures and triumph in an animated and fabricated manner that keeps me on the edge of my cold, plastic seat. He talks about how he walked five miles to school, uphill both ways and tells innumerable tall tales of his childhood. I reciprocate the story swapping by rambling on about the boy in school that I like and how he never waits for me after lunch and how he always pays more attention to my friend Chelsea. He listens intently and advises me to move on; my ten-year-old spirit is devastated but there is a sense of safety in his voice that compels me to take his advice. We sit and talk until we see a sharp bend in one of our rods; the secret sharing stops and the action begins.

********

Trolling is the most popular strategy used to capture stripers in the Chesapeake. It consists of setting up fishing lines, dropping them over the sides of the boat and slowly cruising through open water as the lures drag behind. The slow glide of the boat gives the tacky, brightly colored lures a lively spin which makes them look quite appealing to the hungry stripers who lurk within the dark waters of the Chesapeake. The infamous striper is known as a "lazy feeder," meaning that when it feeds, it travels with the current and simply eats what it comes across rather than fighting the current and searching for prey; this fact is crucial to ones success in capturing the coveted striper. Within the charter industry, trolling is a very popular strategy because it is a relatively simple and hands-off process. This allows the attendees on the boat an ample amount of time to kick back, enjoy a few beers and simply revel in the beauty of the Chesapeake. It should be noted that even though this is a relatively simple process, when the striper finally bites the trolling lures, a dramatic bend in the rod warrants grown adults to propel themselves into a mass hysteria of excitement. These fish are true fighters and it can sometimes take upward of half an hour to get one striper reeled in.

Other techniques used to capture the striper also include jigging, bottom fishing, and surf fishing. One of the most exhausting and exhilarating strategies used to capture the striper is the jig. Jigging is a technique where a boat anchors near a submerged structure in the water such as pilings or docks. From there, the striper-seekers take a rod with multiple fish shaped lures on the end and bob it vigorously up and down in the water at a considerable depth. This makes an illusion of a school of fish and stripers go crazy at the sight of fast movements and bright colors of the lures. This technique is used less on charter boats more so for the individuals who consider themselves true anglers. Trolling seems to be the charter strategy of choice in the Chesapeake because of the perfect dichotomy between action and relaxation that it provides.

*******

I am looking at a photograph framed in my room. Twenty-years-old, there I stand on that same dock that I raced down each Saturday morning as I anxiously awaited our fishing trips. My Dad and I stand closely with excited eyes after one of these exhilarating mornings spent fishing the depths of the Chesapeake. I am gripping the mouth of my thirty-inch rockfish with both hands, trying to hold back laughter as my Dad cracks a joke about how he can barely hold it up. My face indicates that I am struggling to keep it in my hands; looking at the photo, I can feel my arms quivering and my grip slipping from the slimy coating of the fish. I am reminded of how hard I constantly tried to impress him with every detail of my life; if I drop this fish, I will never hear the end of it. I am the strong daughter; the closest thing to a son that Dad has and I can see myself in this photo filling those shoes.

Dad stands next to me with his entire forearm stuffed up into the gill of a forty-eight-inch striper. Effortlessly, he holds up the humongous fish; he is truly the last John Wayne. Never one to crack a smile in a photograph, I can see the faintest look of excitement in my father's eye and I can see that the times we have spent together on the Chesapeake have given us much more than just a few big fish. Looking at this photo, I am reminded of the striking dichotomy of both the closeness and distance between us; we stand together with only our elbows gracing one another. Close enough to touch but far enough away that it doesn’t appear too "soft."

Karen Wathen
Leonardtown, Maryland 

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!



Oyster Celebration on the Shore!

1185530_10151858889910943_499298392_nPhoto by Karl Willey/CBF Staff.

The Chesapeake's oyster has influenced the economy, community, songs, and stories of the Eastern Shore for centuries, and even though the Bay currently has just 1 percent of its historic oyster population, it remains a part of our lives in immeasurable ways.  

Over the past few years, communities and organizations have rallied together to work on restoring this beloved bivalve to our tidal rivers. From Save our Shell campaigns to CBF oyster gardening, the community has worked together to help bring the oyster back. 

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Photo by Tom Zolper/CBF Staff.
And so on Saturday, October 5, from 1 p.m.–5 p.m., join us for a celebration of these beloved critters at the Bill Burton Fishing Pier in Cambridge, Md. On that Saturday, we will be putting the finishing touches on a new sanctuary reef just off the pier and celebrating a summer of hard work and dedication to oyster restoration.

Our oyster team, on board CBF's oyster boat the Patricia Campbell, will wrap up a summer of restoration work by lowering the final reef balls, seeded with baby oysters or "spat" into the water. This particular project represents a partnership with the fisheries team of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association, and has relied heavily on assistance from committed volunteers.

These oysters will help to clean and filter the waters of the Choptank as it flows towards the Chesapeake Bay. We also hope that the increased diversity of habitat will help attract more of the critters who live on oyster reefs and improve the fishing off the pier. To help keep track of which species of fish live on the reef, Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association representatives have been fishing off the pier and recording the number of fish they catch, as well as the species. They will continue to do so after the final reef balls have been placed and record comparisons.

Be sure to join us at this exciting event and take the opportunity to catch CBF's Patricia Campbell in action, see fishing demos, and plant some oysters on the sanctuary reef yourself. Of course, through it all, you will have the opportunity to learn more about this iconic Chesapeake species.  

Bess Trout, CBF's Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist 

557783_10151858901090943_1866436788_nPhoto by Karl Willey/CBF Staff.


Reflections from a Summer Intern

Emma RodvienAs summer intern season begins, we are wistfully thinking about all the inspiring young leaders that have helped us in summers past. Last year we were fortunate enough to have Emma Rodvien come intern with us in CBF's Education Department as part of the William & Mary Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow Fellowship (TCT). Emma had taken part in many meaningful CBF experiences pior to her internship—from participating in a Karen Noonan Center Field Experience to taking part in several CBF Student Leadership Courses. These experiences led her to pursue education in college and to come back to us again last summer as an intern. Take a peak below at her thoughts on her lastest CBF experience. 

 

As I prepared myself for this internship, I distilled a set of questions that I hoped to answer during my time as an intern. I applied to the TCT program with the overarching goal of gaining insight into the education field. If learning about environmental education was my organizing question, my supporting questions were as follows: How does outdoor education differ from classroom education? In what ways can the lessons and experiences from outside the classroom be effectively introduced within the classroom? How can I utilize my interests and talentsscience and otherwisefor education purposes? Investigating these questions was a foremost expectation for my internship.

I dove into my internship hoping to learn more about the world of environmental non-profits. Prior to the internship, I was familiar with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation from a student's perspective. Naturally, gaining an "insider's perspective" into CBF as an employee or educator was a true curiosity of mine, one that would allow me to explore the intersections of my interests in communications, social science, and the environment.

Observations from the Field
Perhaps the most meaningful lesson that I learned throughout my internship was how the Bay can intrigue every sense. This concept was certainly embodied in the field experiences of my internship! Each of my senses was heightened in the field, captivated by the life and spirit of the Bay. To focus on just one would be to deny the Bay's influence on another; instead, I will recount Bay memories from the perspective of all five senses:

1. I saw...  The orange sunrise over Port Isobel's eastern marshes, the pink sunset over its western shore, the frantic scattering of fiddler crabs around my feet, the sky severed by lightning bolts, illuminated in a tie-dyed pattern of black and white, the slow and synchronized Clagett cows migrating between fields, the momentary terror that dances across students' faces at first touch of a catfish, the proud smiles when they finally pick one up and hold it.

2. I smelled... The pungent odors of a wastewater treatment plant, the salty smack of Virginia Beach air, the slow and wafting scent of marsh detritus, the sweet smell of blue crabs and the tang of Old Bay seasoning, the earthy air as a storm blows in over Port Isobel.

3. I tasted... Sustainably grown radishes from Clagett Farm, the oily lips of menhaden bait, the bitter sting of brackish water against my tongue, the delicious flakiness of Captain Charles' fried trout.

4. I heard... The comforting cluck of Clagett's chickens, the deafening roar of airplanes and helicopters over the Potomac, the wind meandering its way through marsh grasses, the friendly horns of Tangier's boats, the roll of thunder and the crack of lightning, the subtle "whoooosh" of a blue heron overhead, the bubbling of blue crabs recirculating their water.

5. I touched... The pointy tops of Black Needlerush, the slippery side of a Spot fish, the prickly spikes of a Northern Puffer, the perfect smoothness of Diamondback Terrapin eggs, the blisteringly hot black seat of my canoe, the worn ropes of a trawl net, the bristly hair of Clagett's cows.

—Emma Rodvien

 Ensure that Emma and future generations continue to have these life-changing moments along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!