October rewards Kent Island for the misery of August. While just breathing outside is a difficult task in the humid summer months, come October, cool breezes blow across the Chesapeake Bay through the lush green ferns that drip from the wrought iron balconies of the antebellum plantations near Romancoke at the far southern tip of the Island. I knew I would love the Land of Pleasant Living in October.
I drove down a long, oak-lined gravel driveway, got out of my car and walked up to the porch of the ancient block mansion. I heard about this place from a friend. “They don’t advertise,” he said, “you just have to know about it. It’s supposed to be one of the nicest Bed & Breakfast Inns on the East Coast.” I was tired because I had made the long drive from Tennessee early that morning. I was considering relocating to the Mid-Atlantic, so I had spent most of the day looking for a place to live.
I stood beneath the ferns and looked up toward the shake-shingled roof. Something caught my eye up there, perhaps the quick movement of a bird. A dark feather spiraled toward me. Once it hit the ground I leaned over to examine it – a pigeon maybe? No, it was more likely from the wing of a crow or a blackbird. “That’s odd,” I thought as I made my way up to the front door of the house. Read More!
I awoke that rainy morning to the rumbles of thunder. From my upstairs bedroom on Kent Island, I could hear the long low blasts of foghorns as big ships passed beneath the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. They sounded eerily closer than usual this morning at 4:00 AM. I listened to the ships until it was apparent that I wouldn’t go back to sleep. I hadn’t been fishing as much as I like to, going mostly early morning before work in less than optimum conditions.
I have limited opportunities to fish, so once again, despite the dreadful weather, I decided to make the best of the time I had available. I call my boat Thunder Road. The name is homage to the 1950’s song and movie by Robert Mitchum, but also because the locally-built Judge 27CC is well suited to difficult weather conditions just like this mornings. I grabbed my phone, put on some rain gear, and backed the boat out of the driveway.
It was pitch black when I arrived at the Matapeake boat ramp. Oddly, the lights were out on the pier. It wasn’t windy, but a dense fog had set in. I launched into the dark water and idled slowly toward the mouth of the inlet without my sonar or GPS so I wouldn’t destroy what little night vision I had. The fog was so thick I could barely see past the front of my boat. I wiped my glasses and breathed a sigh of relief as I slipped between the end of the pilings and the rock jetty. I was surprised to look up and see the shadow of a lone figure standing at the end of the pier. Another hardcore fisherman I thought, but then I noticed he didn’t have a fishing rod. My wave wasn’t returned as I continued out into the murky open waters of the Chesapeake. There was a cold chill in the air, so I pulled up my hood and swung the bow north into a strong outgoing tide.
Hurricane Sandy was easy on us here on Kent Island. Some of my neighbors to the east weren’t so lucky. I’ve seen several pictures of trees down and houses damaged this morning. Our biggest issue now is flooding due to rain and post storm surging. Most of the creeks are out of their banks and into the roads. There has been some coastal flooding farther down the Bay including in the Taylors Island area and the Choptank River. High tide at Matapeake was at 5:49 AM and water did over-top some of the local docks. There hasn’t been much outgoing so we’ll have to wait and see what we get when the tide peaks again at 6:38 PM. My guess is that it will be high, but not so much that we get major flooding. The storm moved through much more quickly than expected so we didn’t get a lot of south winds on the back side.
My early assessment of the impact on the Bay and fishing is that Sandy will have a punch, but not as serious as the storms we had last year. We’ll get a lot of bad water and debris down from the Susquehanna and other rivers, so the Upper Bay is probably done until late November. On the other hand, I think we’ll be back in action in Eastern Bay and the tributaries in less than a week. We’ll see how that prediction holds up. I’m off to wash the leaves off my boat. Good luck to those who are cleaning up today and let’s all send good thoughts and prayers to our friends and neighbors farther north and on the coast who really bore the brunt of Hurricane Sandy.
Hurricane Sandy has sped up and will make landfall sooner than expected. I suspect that’s good since she will hopefully move through more quickly. Unfortunately, the center of the storm has turned slightly southwest, and is now projected to track a few miles north of us. The Bay Bridge is closed after recording three gusts over 55 MPH within 10 minutes. I’m hearing a few limbs cracking in the woods behind our house and I noticed some trees down when I visited Matapeake a few minutes ago. We’ve seen 8 inches of rain so far and it’s coming down harder than ever now. There’s been a lot of damage due to storm surge on the ocean side of Delmarva including Ocean City, Maryland, but we still aren’t seeing a storm surge this far north on the Chesapeake side. There is a surge lower in the Bay on the east side and I just heard Crisfield, Maryland has been evacuated with 3-5 feet of Bay water in the streets. Power is still on over most of Kent Island. Here’s a video I just shot at the Matapeake pier.
We interrupt this hurricane blog to bring you a fishing report. Yes, this IS a website dedicated to light tackle fishing, and on most Sunday evenings, that’s what I do. I spent most of the day singing the lumberjack song with chainsaw in hand, cutting up the trees and limbs that fell in our yard. After seeing all the trees down around Kent Island today, I’m surprised that we didn’t have more damage than we did. We are also fortunate that the only complete tree that was uprooted in our yard fell harmlessly instead of taking out our picket fence or part of the church next door. We worked on the house and yard most of the afternoon, finishing about 5:00 PM. That left just enough time to go fishing.
I launched Thunder Road at Matapeake and ran north to the Bay Bridge. Winds were about 12 knots out of the west when I started, but came down to near zero as the evening wore on. The water was stained, but not as much as I expected. Water temperature and air temperature were exactly the same at 76 degrees. That’s significant because the water has been well into the 80s. It means there was a lot of top-to-bottom mixing due to the storm. I did expect the fish to be freaked out and hunkered down, and they were. I gave the Bay Bridge a good shot, but only caught one little rockfish. I thought the fish might be deep, so I started my fishing trip looking for more of a winter pattern. I marked a few fish deep, but I couldn’t get them to bite. I moved to the shallow pilings and there wasn’t anything going on there either. Read More!
The Bay Bridge is now closed due to sustained winds of 62 miles-per-hour and gusts from 72 to 80 miles-per hour. That was at 7:30 PM and the wind continues to build. We’ve lost a few big limbs from trees around the house, and we can hear trees coming down back behind our fence and around the neighborhood. The power has blinked a few times, but has fortunately stayed on. The center of the storm is now back over water and looks to be directly between Cape Henry and Cape May at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay moving north toward Ocean City, Maryland. That’s still well to our south, so we have lots more to come.
Despite the conditions, I couldn’t resist a hike around the area to watch the storm. It was quite an adventure. I visited Matapeake Pier and the beach at Terrapin Nature Area. Winds were sustained at 50 knots while I was out. I was surprised to see the Bay so rough even though this side of the island is protected from the northeast winds. I’m sure things look a lot more dramatic on the western shore. There is no storm surge at this time. I’m feeling a lot better about that since winds are now pushing water out of the Bay instead of in. I shot a few minutes of video while I was out. For some reason it doesn’t want to embed, so click here or on the photo if you can’t see it: Hurricane Irene, Kent Island, Maryland