Next Monday, December 8th, the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC) meets in Baltimore to discuss an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. This meeting will include a session to consider potential action to protect unmanaged forage fish in areas outside the territorial three-mile line. This is the area where they are most likely to be harvested. When we think of forage fish, we usually think of menhaden. That’s because most fishermen are aware of steep declines in their numbers, but forage fish also includes other bait species like glass minnows, bay anchovies, silversides, grass shrimp, river herring, white shad, hickory shad, sand eels, and hundreds of others. While a few of these species are managed, albeit poorly, the overwhelming majority are not managed at all. As a result, they are being decimated by commercial fishing fleets.
Every good fisherman I know is a conservationist at heart. About a year ago, my friend Trent Zivkovich gave me a copy of A Sand County Almanac by the father of wildlife ecology, Aldo Leopold. This book is considered by many to be the 20th century’s literary landmark for conservation writing. In it, Leopold proposed the “love of sport” as a primary motivation for environmental stewardship. I know from experience that he’s right. It is experience on the water that drives anglers with the right stuff to protect the waters we love and the fish and other animals that live in and around them. Read More!
“Anyone can get lucky and catch a winning or trophy fish. What separates the men from the boys is consistency.” - Bill Burton
The best anglers I know have a solid grasp of three basic elements. The first is a willingness to learn and change behaviors or techniques when necessary. That means incorporating the latest technologies and staying on top of the best research. It also includes sorting through the folklore to pick out the very best practices and discarding the nonproductive tactics that bog us down. Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you’re not happy with the results you’re getting, it’s time to change. There are not many fishermen who have perfected their skills to the point where they are successful every time. The handful who have could teach us all something. These are the guys who need to write a book. I know I’d buy it. Fishermen with the right stuff are continually seeking opportunities to learn – to step outside of tried-and-proven comfort zones to find what works.
The second element is enthusiasm. Good fishermen eat, drink, smoke, and chew fishing. When they aren’t fishing, they’re thinking about fishing, and they’re probably planning their next fishing trip (or two). They seek out new information and pour over every tidbit of data they can find that might improve their skills. They surround themselves with like-minded people who share their passion for the sport. They also work to conserve the species they enthusiastically pursue. Read More!
1. When your wife or girlfriend asks, “You aren’t going to fish in the rain are you?”
Well, yes I am, and in the sleet, and in the snow, and in the fog, and any other time the other guys are at home sitting on the couch.
2. Or when she wonders, “Why do you need another fishing rod, you already have three?”
And that puts me in the lower five percent of all the other fishermen I know who each have at least sixty.
3. Or how about, “Will you be home by dark?”
No, I’ll fish until dark, and if the fish are biting I’ll keep fishing until they stop or at least until my muscles become so stiff they have to pry my rod out of my cold wet fingers.
4. And, I hope you haven’t heard, “My old boyfriend caught one bigger than that.”
I don’t care. Okay, I do care, but I don’t want to hear about it! And that reminds me, don’t say:
5. ”Cute little guy.”
Not about a fish, not about anything, not ever! Read More!
I may have found the best fishing spot in the Chesapeake Bay. I discovered it completely by accident a few years ago. I was zig-zagging across some ledges in the Mid-Bay when I saw something on my fish finder that looked like a miniature underwater forest. My first thought was that I was seeing small tree trunks or the remains of fence posts coming up from the bottom. Then I thought maybe I was seeing a shipwreck, but the more I explored the area, the more it became apparent that my sonar was pinging over more natural structure. I was seeing the sonar returns of oysters, and lots of them.
When oysters are left to grow, they form highly complex and irregular reefs. This is a result of the natural reproduction process by which larvae is set onto existing shells. These new shells clump together with older ones, and grow upward toward the surface. When the reefs go unharvested, they grow into mounds or plumes. When they’re left alone for a long time, the mounds can reach the surface of the water and be visible at low tides. In regions where oysters are plentiful, they call these mounds “oyster rocks.” That’s a term you don’t hear too much in Maryland because there aren’t any oyster rocks left. Read More!
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Have you seen this yet? Lenny Rudow asked me to join him and his sons David and Max as they filmed an episode for his internet-based fishing show, Got Bait?. Sponsored by Boats.com, the series is professionally filmed and produced by Paul Cronin Productions. I was pumped about the invitation for several reasons, not the least of which is that I would get to fish with Lenny. He and I move around in similar circles, but we’ve only had one brief opportunity to fish together. I’m a big fan of Lenny’s informative How-To books about fishing the Chesapeake Bay, especially his iconic and aptly titled Rudow’s Guide To Fishing The Chesapeake. Additionally, I’ve heard great things about Max and David, so this would be my opportunity to finally meet them. To make the invitation even better, my friend Gary Reich would be joining us as assistant producer.
On the morning of the filming, I launched my 27′ Judge Center Console Thunder Road at Matapeake and zoomed by Thomas Point Light to our predetermined rendezvous point outside the West River. The plan was to use my boat as the chase boat for filming, and Lenny’s PowerCat for fishing. As I jumped on board with Lenny and handed the boat keys over to Gary, I pointed out that the weather was great and all signs pointed toward a successful fishing day. That might have been what jinxed us. Read More!