restoration

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In January of last year I predicted on the HookedUp Fishing Forum that 2015 would be the best year for light tackle fishing in recent memory.

It was.

Thanks to the robust 2011 year class, there was enough striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay to produce great fishing for light tackle anglers of any skill level. Better yet, most of us caught fish way bigger than those 17-21 inch 2011 fish. That’s because when there are more fish in the Bay, the older and bigger fish have to mix it up with the little guys to compete for food. Thirty-inch stripers in July near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge were not unusual last year, and late-fall fishing in Southern Maryland was (and still is) the best it’s been in over a decade. That’s something to celebrate. Since 2015 was also a successful spawning year, we can hope for continued good striped bass fishing in the future. I’m especially looking forward to  2018. By that time, most of this year’s baby fish will be 18-inches or longer. At the same time, the 2011 fish will be approaching the 30-inch mark. Now that should be fun! If fisheries managers make the right choices, we should enjoy good striped bass fishing in the Chesapeake Bay for at least the next decade.

About seven years ago, as I was enjoying a happy hour at the Boatyard Bar & Grill, someone asked me what motivated me to promote light tackle fishing. It seems like a losing proposition, they surmised, because the more people you turn on to your kind of fishing, the more crowded your fishing spots will become. That prophecy has been fulfilled, but I have no regrets. My answer is the same now as it was then. I believe that, as more people take up light tackle casting, more anglers will become conservationists and join the struggle to protect and preserve the fish we love to catch. That means more fish for everyone. Light tackle casting by its very nature puts the experience of fishing above killing fish for meat. Oh, most of us will keep fish from time to time, but we don’t have to in order to have a great time. We understand that every fish we release is a payment forward toward the future of fishing.

If you enjoyed the fishing of 2015, this would be a great time for a New Year’s resolution. A very good one would be to give something back to the fish in order to repay a little of that enjoyment. If you’ve read my books, you know I believe that the majority of light tackle anglers are conservationists at heart and that we are naturally positioned to lead because others want to share our fishing success. I was tremendously encouraged in 2015 when I saw lots more young light-tackle anglers joining fisheries conservation efforts. A great example is CCA Central Region’s Living Reef Action Campaign. If you haven’t seen it already, take a few minutes to watch this video about the work of Brett Hackett, Summer Miles, and the rest of the Central Region gang.

There’s a lot of work to do. Habitat for fish, crabs, and other aquatic species in the Chesapeake Bay is under attack. Just as I am writing I am hearing that the Department of Natural Resources intends to begin destructive dredging on the historic Man-O-War Shoals oyster reef in the upper bay. At the same time, they’re suspending oyster restoration efforts near the Little Choptank river. There’s even a movement afoot to open the oyster sanctuaries to harvest. The intentional destruction of a living reef is illegal in almost every other part of the world. There are even places where you can be fined for dropping an anchor on a live reef. It’s a shame that the very department we trust to protect Maryland’s natural resources is so willing to put the financial interests of one group above those of everyone else in the state.

So get involved if you can. Groups like CCA Maryland need your help. Giving back can be as simple as setting a personal example or by sending a letter or email to a local politician in hopes of swaying their votes on key issues. If you’ve received a little enjoyment from this beautiful Chesapeake region, then please give back a little of your time and resources. If you’ve received a lot, then I hope you’ll give back as much as you can to make sure the enjoyment you’ve received is passed along to your children and grandchildren. We simply cannot take the amazing resources in our beautiful region for granted. Yes, 2015 was a great year for light tackle fishing and hopefully there will be many more to come. Watching out for the continued well-being of the fish and the habitat they live in is the right stuff for keeping the Chesapeake healthy and our sport strong. Happy new year from Chesapeake Light Tackle!

2015 Year in Review Video