Angling, Outdoors, and Conservation News Recap
Welcome to the Weekly Creel, a compilation of regional news, intel, and announcements for anglers and outdoor enthusiasts concerned with the waters, fisheries, and habitats we cherish. Please email us directly at email@example.com to have your organization’s news item or event announcement considered for next week’s column. Per usual, here are direct links to the latest Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Anglers Sports Center, and FishTalk Magazine Chesapeake Bay region fishing reports. This week’s catch also includes…
Spring is (Almost) Here!
On Monday, Spring arrives at 5:24 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The equinox (sunrise and sunset are roughly 12 hours apart) heralds anglers to spend more time outdoors in pursuit of species that are prowling spawning grounds. The yellow perch spawn is in its late-stage and finishing up regionwide, white perch are beginning theirs, the shad will be nipping on everyone’s darts soon, snakehead will bubble up, and the big stripers will be in full baby-making mode. A reminder that there’s only two weeks until the month-long striped bass moratorium, which begins April 1st throughout Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay (and all tributaries). Striper fishing will resume May 1st and, until then, enjoy catching the Bay’s many other sportfish!
New Wildlife Refuge Coming to SoCo?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering plans to acquire undeveloped land within the Patuxent River watershed to create a new National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland’s southern counties. According to USFWS, “In collaboration with landowners, outdoor enthusiasts, conservation partners, and local communities, the Service proposes to identify lands for protection as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System in southern Maryland. These lands would be incorporated into a new National Wildlife Refuge that encompasses portions of Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, Prince George’s, and Anne Arundel counties.”
The entire process is comprehensive and in the early stages of indentifying acreage. Public comment is also requested. To learn more about the project and offer your comments, visit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ information page.
New Reef Built in Magothy River
The Magothy River got lucky on St. Patrick’s Day! Yesterday morning, Coastal Conservation Association Maryland coordinated the final placement of a new reef in the western shore tributary. Dubbed “Noah’s Reef,” the project features 175 reef balls built by students and community members from Carroll County Public Schools, Broadneck High School, AACPL Busch Library, Cape St. Claire Community, Magothy River Association, Cypress Marine, Sonar Lings, and Maguire Marine Construction.
The reef balls were hauled by barge and strategically lowered to the river’s bottom at a location adjacent to Dobbin’s Island. The new reef will create habitat for many aquatic species and will develop into a new oyster reef in the years ahead. You can watch video of the entire reef construction, along with commentary by CCA Maryland Excecutive Director David Sikorski, by visiting the project’s landing page here.
Island Resurrection Begins
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reminds boaters and anglers in the Fishing Creek area of the lower Chesapeake Bay that Phase 1 reconstruction of Barren Island has begun. “The Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project, Coastal Design & Construction, will commence construction operations this [sic] upcoming Monday, March 13, 2023. They will be using Fishing Creek area for initial staging, utilizing the nearby marina and renting local homes for housing staff.”
The project will use dredged material from the Bay’s main navigation channels to restore remote island and wetland habitat near James and Barren Islands. Phase 1 of the project is expected to continue through October 2024. For more information about the entire scope of restoration plans, visit the project website here.
Fletcher’s Cove Rowboats Resume 3/25
We’re just a week and change away from the unofficial start of the annual shad run on the Potomac River and regional tributaries. The harbinger of the season is when Fletcher’s Cove resumes its rowboat rentals each spring. According to our research, rowboat reservations are currently being accepted for dates beginning March 25th and beyond. A popular “fishing hole,” the expansive Fletcher’s Cove traditionally sees one of the best runs of Hickory and American shad in the Chesapeake region.
The rowboats are the best means to reach the river’s varied depths and the many transition points where current meets stillwater; prime shad holding spots. Of course, bank fishing for shad is popular too, with plenty of trails and rocky outcroppings poking into fishable holes. Rowboats may be rented for one hour ($32), two ($64), four ($128), or full-day ($224). Click here to reserve a boat now, which you’ll want to do in order to guarantee yourself a shot at landing the “poor man’s tarpon.” Click here for the Reel Chesapeake primer on shad fishing.
State of the Rivers Announced
Nonprofit enviromental organization, ShoreRivers, announced the return of its State of the Rivers events—a series of free presentations held each spring to inform the public about the current state of several Eastern Shore waterways and educate about protection and restoration practices. The presentations will be given by the various riverkeepers under the ShoreRivers umbrella, which covers the Choptank, Miles-Wye, Chester, and Sassafras rivers. Light refreshments, including local oysters, will be provided and activities will be available for children ages 6–12. Dates for this year’s State of the Rivers presentations are:
Wednesday, April 26, at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, from 5:30–7 p.m., featuring Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta and your new Miles-Wye Riverkeeper
Wednesday, May 3, at Cult Classic Brewing in Stevensville, from 5:30–7 p.m., featuring Chester Riverkeeper Annie Richards and your new Miles-Wye Riverkeeper
Thursday, May 4, at Kent County Community Center in Worton, from 5:30–7 p.m., featuring Chester Riverkeeper Annie Richards & Sassafras Riverkeeper Zack Kelleher
Tuesday, May 9, at Galena Fire Hall, from 5:30–7 p.m., featuring Sassafras Riverkeeper Zack Kelleher
Wednesday, May 10, at 447 Venue in Cambridge, from 5:30–7 p.m., featuring Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta
“Eastern Shore waterways are choked by polluted runoff from residential, commercial, and agricultural properties,” says Matt Pluta, ShoreRivers’ Choptank Riverkeeper & Director of Riverkeeper Programs. “Intentional and unintentional bacterial contamination poses risks to human health. Regular scientific monitoring for these and other pollutants is a signature component of ShoreRivers’ operations and the only comprehensive testing of our local rivers currently being conducted. Please join us at a State of the Rivers event in your area to learn what’s happening, why it’s happening, and the important ways we can work together to make it better.” For more information about these events, visit shorerivers.org/events. Photograph courtesy ShoreRivers.
Invasive Species Disaster Relief Sought
On Thursday, Governor Wes Moore requested the federal government declare the expanding population of invasive fish species—including blue catfish, flathead catfish, and snakehead—to be an ongoing commercial fishery disaster in the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The governor sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo requesting the declaration under provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act.
“In recent years, the state has become increasingly concerned about the explosion in the abundance of invasive fish species in the Chesapeake Bay, including blue catfish, flathead catfish, and snakehead,” Governor Moore said. “It is critical to act now to mitigate the effects of the invasive species and to provide assistance to the commercial fishing industry.” The declaration would qualify Maryland for federal fishery disaster assistance.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources noted, “While a direct scientific link between invasive species and the declines is yet to be determined, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has growing concerns about observed high densities of invasive species, particularly blue catfish.” The department reminds anglers that “reducing numbers of invasive species of fish is positive for ecosystems and, as an added bonus, both blue catfish and snakeheads are valued as a delicacy. There are no fishing limits on invasive fish, which means anglers can catch and keep any number of them, at any size, during any time of year.”
Invasive Species “Scientists” Sought
Invasives seem to be a theme this week (and hey, it’s prime fishing time for blue catfish and, soon, snakehead). Maryland Department of Natural Resources made an interesting announcement and one that should entice young anglers and hopeful biologists to particpate in the Department’s scientific endeavors. The department issued a RFP for high school students (ages 14–19) to propose new methods to increase capture efficiency and rates of snakeheads in places where bowfishing and electrofishing cannot by used. “Successful designs will be publicized to help broadly increase capture efficiency for the general public, management agencies, and/or commercial or recreational harvesters.” Teams or single students are encouraged to submit proposals, which address capture methods in shallow, vegetated water bodies where snakehead thrive, but traditional fishing gear (nets, traps, seines) is inefficient. Those interested should follow up with the DNR contact listed for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And that’s a wrap for this week’s Creel. If you have news to share, please send an email to email@example.com.