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October 2013

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!

Photo of the Week: Summer Sailing Memories

BoatHeron_9589_8.3Photo by Michael Redmond. 

Michael Redmond captured this stunning shot during a late summer sail on the North East River looking back at the sun setting over Carpenters Point. "[It] was a perfect evening to end three full days on the water," says Redmond. 

Ensure that Michael and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places 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], 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!



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. 

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.

Photo of the Week: Saxis Crab-Shedding Houses

IMG_2391Photo by Rhonda Ford.

"I took this outside of Saxis, Va. on the Eastern Shore. I love the Bay for its beauty, the food it provides, the relaxation it provides just sitting by it or on it in any manner of floatation as well as the unbelievable ecosystem it is. It is one of my favorite places to beby the Bay and in Saxis, in particular, because of the wild beauty of the salt marshes here. 

[This photo, in particular, is of] some soft-shell crab shedding houses in Saxis. It was taken about three years ago as we left the marina to go out for the day. Today it doesn't look like this because Hurricane Sandy took the shedding houses and the surrounding tanks as well as the seawall and much of the landing. I am really glad I got this shot since I cannot see this in person any more."

Rhonda Ford

Ensure that Rhonda and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places 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], 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!

Reflections on CBF's Expedition Chesapeake

 How CBF's Expedition Chesapeake led to my career in environmental education.

Kelsey-brunton head shot
Kelsey Church Brunton.

Eight years ago, during my junior year at Turner Ashby High School in Bridgewater, Va., I decided to be a part of a unique paddling expedition—the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Expedition Chesapeake to be exact, also lovingly called Bay Bound. Twelve other high school students and I journeyed from the fertile Shenandoah Valley to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay over the course of 30 days during the summer of 2005. 

As we canoed the Shenandoah River and kayaked the Potomac, we discovered the story of the watershed. We witnessed the impact of each unbuffered river bank, waterfront property, wastewater treatment plant, farm land, and the impact of 17 million citizens living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed as we journeyed to CBF's Port Isobel Island Education Center in the middle of the Bay. We were able to talk with other high school students and watermen on Tangier Island. Many of these people depend on the water for their livelihood, just as farmers in Rockingham County depend on the land. On the Bay Bound experience, I learned how my actions "up river" have a direct effect on the health of the Bay.     

I returned to my high school feeling energized about the Bay, environmental awareness, and education. After I graduated high school, I pursued a college degree in environmental science while maintaining my relationship with CBF. Serving as a CBF oyster restoration intern, I spent many glorious days out on a boat working oyster reefs. I also had the opportunity to assist in facilitating an education trip at CBF's Karen Noonan Education Center in Maryland. Looking back, it is clear to me now that CBF and that month-long expedition have opened so many doors for me. 

One of those was the opportunity to attend graduate school at Virginia Tech and work for the Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results (VALOR) program. While completing my master's degree in agricultural and extension education, I worked as a program coordinator for VALOR—a new, premier leadership development program at Virginia Tech for adults in agriculture. Each of the 10 members of this year's inaugural VALOR class is challenged to engage in all segments of the industry, to create collaborative solutions, and to promote agriculture inside and outside of the industry. 

The two-year VALOR program provides class members with opportunities to meet legislators, decision makers, industry leaders, agencies, and organizations during 10 regional visits, one national trip, and one international trip. For example, while in Washington D.C., class members met with Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte, representatives from Farm Credit, and the American Farm Bureau, as well as professionals from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and America's Promise.

VALOR participants set crab pots, dredged for oysters, and trolled underwater grasses while learning about connections between agriculture and the water. Photo by CBF Staff.

So when the VALOR director and I started planning for a seminar in the Northern Neck of Virginia, I knew exactly whom to call: the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. CBF Virginia Executive Director Ann Jennings, CBF Hampton Roads Senior Scientist Chris Moore, and two CBF educational staff members hosted VALOR members at CBF's Port Isobel Island for two days in July. After setting crab pots, fishing off the pier, canoeing, oyster dredging, and trolling underwater grasses, participants had a greater understanding of the health of the Bay and agriculture's role within the watershed. Many candid conversations followed, and opportunities for collaboration were discussed. Read their thoughts here.  

I felt honored to be a part of another experience that builds bridges between agriculture and the environment. And it all started with that Bay Bound journey eight years ago.

—Kelsey Church Brunton 

 Kelsey Church Brunton recently graduated with a master's degree from Virginia Tech. She currently lives in Blacksburg, Va., and on the weekends enjoys hiking the Appalachian Mountains and kayaking on the New and James Rivers. She recently accepted a position at Virginia Tech as the 4-VA Grant Assessment Coordinator. The 4-VA Grant is a multi-institutional initiative to enhance the success rates of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The collaborative effort also intends to decrease the cost of delivering instruction, increasing access to programs, and increase research competitiveness. When Kelsey is not working, "I am always trying to find a way to spend time on the Bay."  

Fourth Graders Work to Reduce Waste

NewAfter participating in CBF's Smith Island Education Program, our school (Chesapeake Public Charter School) realized how much of our food we might be wasting. So, we decided to start monitoring our lunch leftovers. We started small, just sorting the leftovers from 4th graders. Student volunteers, headed up by Smith Island alumna Debra Rosenstadt, began to help their peers sort their leftovers into: Recycling, Compost/Vermicompost, S.L.O.P. ("Stuff Left on Plate"), and landfill. 

Each day, these volunteers stayed in from recess to weigh the amounts of each and graph it on our class line plot (to the nearest ¼ pound). Certainly a dirty job, so look out Mike Rowe! Our S.L.O.P. Cops spread the word on how to reduce waste: saving it for later, snack share (a special bin to leave it in for others to take if wanted), etc.

As a school we have always recycled, composted, and vermi-composted (each grade has their own work bin). But, this school year, we decided to go schoolwide with the S.L.O.P. program as well. Two fourth graders each month volunteered to be S.L.O.P. Cops. They collected, consolidated, and weighed the S.L.O.P. from 331 students, grades K-8. The S.L.O.P. this year was picked up each afternoon by a local organic farmer, Brett Grosghal from Even' Star Farm. He uses the S.L.O.P. to feed his nine hogs and flock of chickens, so our waste was recycled back into food we could eat (a great lesson in where food comes from, especially bacon and eggs!). Chesapeake Public Charter School (CPCS) even has five resident chickens that take in some of our S.L.O.P., just on a smaller scale than the organic farm. CPCS chicken eggs are sold to our school families looking for a local, organic option. As Katelyn Kovach, 4th grader and CBF Smith Island alumna, puts it, "Your S.L.O.P. made my breakfast!"

Our 4th grade S.L.O.P. Cop volunteers learned other skills as well. They used Microsoft Excel to keep track of the data, researched facts about pigs, chickens, landfills, and made daily announcements to share the data and information with our school community. Included in their announcements were "SLOPPY Shout Outs" commending students or classes that did very well with reducing their S.L.O.P. that day.

During the 2012-2013 school year, Chesapeake Public Charter School prevented more than 800 pounds of unused energy in the form of food scraps from going to a landfill and instead helped recycle it into locally grown food.

April Skinner, Fourth Grade Chesapeake Public Charter School Teacher  

Photo of the Week: Roosting Bald Eagle

ByKathyHaurand"A bald eagle gone to roost for the night. Taken overlooking the Severn River in Gloucester County on Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend."

—Kathy Haurand

Ensure that Kathy and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places 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], 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!

Farm Bill Promotes Clean Waters and Vibrant Farms

The following op-ep originally appeared on Centre Daily Times last week.

NRCSVA02034Photo courtesy of NRCS. 

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and many partners call on Congress to swiftly pass a federal Farm Bill upon their return in just a few days.

Before leaving for summer recess, both the chambers passed their own versions, which now must be reconciled before being signed into law by the president.

While the crisis overseas must certainly be dealt with, we ask that Congress also address many crucial concerns back home—such as the Farm Bill.

Specifically, we hope U.S. Rep Glenn Thompson will ensure that the final bill supports Pennsylvania farmers and clean water by robustly funding vital Farm Bill conservation programs.

These programs help our farmers to make their operations more viable, to improve herd health and to conserve their soil and resources while helping to improve the quality of our streams and rivers.

When Congress returns Monday, the media and public attention related to the Farm Bill will surely again focus on nutrition and crop insurance programs. Together, these programs make up nearly 80 percent of the Farm Bill spending, compared with just 5.7 percent in spending, nationwide, for conservation programs that count for our local streams and rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

Pennsylvania farmers manage thousands of acres, and their day-to-day decisions about tilling, fertilizing, pasturing, and planting have a huge impact on our environment.

We call on Thompson and the entire Pennsylvania delegation to recognize the critical role conservation funding serves in helping farmers make those decisions.

Thompson has the opportunity to demonstrate a leadership role in conservation and clean water efforts by supporting our farmers and these vital programs when Congress returns.

Farm Bill conservation programs help farmers throughout Pennsylvania to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution through the implementation of crucial, yet voluntary, conservation efforts.

These practices also help improve the long-term production potential for the farmer by keeping the soil on the farm and by improving herd health.

In Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed from 2010 through 2012, these conservation programs helped our farmers make about 100,000 acres of on-farm improvements.

The programs have a proven track record of clean water successes, and if adequately supported will help Pennsylvania reach our state clean water goals. It is crucial for Pennsylvania farmers to have adequate federal support for the on-farm practices that count toward meeting those goals.

The on-farm conservation practices supported by the Farm Bill are tangible practices or projects that include improving barn and building downspouts and treatment of rainwater to keep soil and excess nutrients from running into streams; improving barnyard areas to lessen soil erosion; fencing cattle from streams and instead providing them with a consistent and healthy drinking water source; planting trees and native vegetation along streams in order to filter pollution before it reaches the stream; planting cover crops during the off-season to protect fields from erosion; and planting crops for wildlife instead of leaving them fallow.

These practices are vital for clean water, but also for the thousands of Pennsylvania farmers who feed millions of Americans. Farmers are stewards of the land and the vast majority take that role seriously.

But, in many cases, farmers are delaying these investments because of the lack of federal assistance in the Farm Bill’s Conservation Program budget. Demand is far greater than supply, with only one in three farms that apply for conservation assistance receiving it.

Pennsylvanians deserve clean water, healthy communities, and strong and vibrant economies for today and for generations to come.

The conservation programs in the Farm Bill can help.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Take action now and tell Congress you want strong funding for conservaction programs in the Farm Bill!

Teaming up with Maryland's Day to Serve

This is the second year that CBF has teamed up with Maryland's Day to Servea special initiative in partnership with various community and interfaith partners to work together to feed the hungry and heal the planet. This year, not only is CBF hosting volunteer events, it is also offering guidance to fellow Day to Serve participants. If any organization, church, or school group needs assistance developing plans, wants ideas, or is looking for a list of resources, CBF is here to help! Just shoot us an e-mail to the address below. 

Muddy river cleanup 017_smHeal the Planet 
On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, CBF will be hosting a River Cleanup at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge. As part of the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup effort, volunteers will remove trash and debris along the beach of the Choptank River—a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay and the largest river on the Delmarva Peninsula. Last year nearly 600,000 volunteers across the globe participated in the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup, resulting in 10 million pounds of trash removed! Come be a part of this great effort. 


550875_10151230473305943_680609546_nFeed the Hungry
Each year, CBF's sustainable Clagett Farm provides roughly 25,000 pounds of free and reduced-price food to lower income communities through a partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington D.C. On Sept. 28, volunteers will further this effort by harvesting organic vegetables to be donated to Capital Area Food Bank. Participants will also learn about sustainable agriculture and how farms implementing best management practices are helping to reduce harmful nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. 

We hope you'll join us! 

—Carmera Thomas, CBF's Maryland Restoration Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator

 If you'd like to participate in this year's Day to Serve in another way and need assistance developing plans, want ideas, or are looking for a list of resources, please contact me at

Photo of the Week: Looking Forward to Fall

Island Sunrise2Photo by Gary Dickinson. 

"This photo was taken on Kent Island in October 2012. I set up my camera near Tolson Creek, looking west across Bay Drive toward Thomas Point Park, south of Annapolis. The morning sun had just come around the bend, hitting this Adirondack chair and making it luminous in the shadows of the nearby trees. It was a thrill to watch this light show progress.

My camera is always with me when I'm near the Chesapeake Baythe sights are always fascinating. I am fortunate to live in the Chesapeake's watershed, just a short drive from Caledonia State Park and Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania, where I experience limitless beauty and photo opportunities.

—Gary Dickinson

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], 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!