115“There is but one entrance by Sea in this County, and that is at the mouth of a very goodly Bay, 18 or 20 myles broad…. Within is a country that may have the prerogative over the most pleasant place ever knowne, for large and pleasant navigable Rivers. Heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation…”  – Captain John Smith, 1608      ♣       I first heard the Chesapeake region called “The Land of Pleasant Living,” when I read it on the side of a Natty Boh can.  I didn’t know at the time that the phrase goes all the way back to the 17th century explorations of Captain John Smith.  While I might disagree with the good captain during the frozen days of February, there’s no doubt that August brings out the very best of the Bay he called, “Chesepioc.

We’ve just spent a very nice weekend in and around the water with my brother-in-law Mitch and his two boys, Fred & Milton.  Part of the fun was fishing every day.  At 7 and 11, the boys are just the right age to enjoy all the fun the Bay has to offer. p8150062

We picked them up from the airport Thursday afternoon, and went almost directly to the boat.  It wasn’t long before they were hauling in all the bluefish they could catch.  They even got a few nice rockfish.

They spent Friday at the museums on the Washington Mall, but their dad and I got out early in the morning for the Spanish mackerel fishing I reported on previously.  I hope to get in some more mack casting in the coming week.  We’ll see how it goes.

Saturday turned out to be an all-Bay day.  We left Kent Island about noon seeking adventure.  Temperatures were in the low eighties and the water was dish calm. The boys had bought a colorful kite at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, so the first order of business was getting it up and flying.  I brought Crockett’s Reel up on plane then leveled out to about 20 knots, just the right speed to put the kite up into the stratosphere.  Ip8150005 told them how my dad used to put our kites on his rods and reels when we were kids so we could pretend we were fighting a big fish when it dipped and tailed in the wind.  We trailed it all the way down through Poplar Narrows, then decided to pull it in when we saw frenzied birds and blitzing fish up ahead.

The blitz turned out to be good-sized blues.  We caught several, then decided to continue south.  When we reached the shoals around Sharps Island Light, we started seeing big schools of Cownose Rays.  The guys have seen rays before and even petted them in a municipal aquarium, but there’s something very special about seeing the gracefull flying giants in their natural habitat.  At one point a school of about one hundred swam right up to the boat, then started circling as if in a whirlwind in the calm water right beside us.  Don’t miss the shots in the video section of the website.

The water in the area around Sharps Island is very clear and we could see thousands of jelly fish just beneath the surface.  We also noticed several crabs swimming along in crazy patterns.  A closer inspection revealed what we were  seeing was actually two crabs.  Called doublers,  a molting female is being cradled by a protective male while they drift in the Chesapeake rays1currents.  Crabs can only mate when the female is shedding her hard outter shell.  She finds a male who will protect her during this defenseless time.  After mating, the male continues to hold on until her new shell is hardened.  If we’d brought along a net we could’ve caught dozens of crabs and took them home to steam, but it doesn’t seem quite right to catch them during their courtship.  I left it up to the boy’s dad to explain what was going on there.

Before much longer we reached our destination and beached the boat beneath high cliffs not far from the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.  We were greeted by three young bald eagles who soared away up and over the ridge.  I reported a nesting pair of eagles back when I was fishing this area in February and March.  It’s nice to see they have raised a family. 

 Calvert Cliffs, properly called Scientist Cliffs, are world-renown as the location of the largest fossil-bearing deposit of Miocene marine sediments on the East Coast of North America.  The beach beneath the cliffs is littered with millions of fossilized sea creatures.   p8150016More than 600 species of prehistoric plants and animals have been found here.  Most notable are giant scallop shells that protrude from the cliffs like thosands of tiny fans.

 Our mission for the next couple of hours was to find shark’s teeth.  It took a little while, but after a few minutes of sifting through the hardened pieces of plants and shells, we managed to pick out a few. The boys found the beach well suited for another purpose as well; swimming.  They spent a good hour wading and splashing in the sand flats.

On the way home there was more fish to be found.  We popped in on several large schools of bluefish.  The now exhausted boys were napping in the cabin, so I got to make a few casts this time.  The fish were hungry, at times breaking right up against the boat.   Dianne couldn’t resist picking up a fishing rod and making a few casts.  After four or five fish in a row, she even started talking a little smack about how the only girl in the boat was outfishing the guys.

p8150055Even though it was Saturday afternoon when the Bay is usually crowded, we had these fish all to ourselves.  Off in the distance – through the clouds of screaming seagulls – we could see dozens of boats lined up gunnel to gunnel around Poplar Island.  I wondered if they knew what they were missing just a few miles south.

With an orange and crimson sunset off the port bow and the barely-rippled water beneath us lit up like gold, we cruised back toward Kent Island, through Poplar Narrows and across the Eastern Bay.  We were all hungry and anxious to get home to the promised grilled bluefish tacos.  As we rounded Romancoke Pier, Mitch reached into the cooler and passed me up a cold Natty Boh. Before popping the top I paused a few seconds to re-read the slogan.  I wondered if  Captain Smith saw days like this when he wrote about this goodly Bay.  For all the problems the Chesapeake faces, at least for this one summer weekend, it is surely the land of pleasant living.


Posted Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 11:35 am
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “The Land of Pleasant Living”

  1. Timbo says:

    Another enjoyable read Shawn. Sounds like you and your family had a memorable day on the bay.

  2. Don Richitt says:

    Shawn – I enjoyed reading your post. Sounds like a great way to spend the day on the bay. That fantastic sunset pic is now the background for my desktop…Thanks…Don

  3. Daniel says:

    Sounds awesome. Two more addicts up and coming…

  4. Paul says:

    Shawn, another terrific story. I’m going to have to get my boys to the cliffs via the water someday soon….right up their alley.

  5. Yerajarlo says:

    Great. Now i can say thank you!,

  6. Agralicia says:

    I want to say – thank you for this!,

  7. Kayden says:

    I have been so belwdeired in the past but now it all makes sense!

  8. Patti regula says:

    Thank you for telling me about the beautiful relationship between the blueclaws. I will never eat softshell crab again.

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