Angling, Outdoors, and Conservation News Recap
Welcome to the Weekly Creel, a compilation of regional news and announcements for anglers and outdoor enthusiasts of the Chesapeake Bay region. Please email us directly at email@example.com to have your organization’s news item or event listing considered for next week’s column. Per usual, here are direct links to the lastest, local fishing reports from Reel Chesapeake, On The Water, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Anglers Sports Center, and FishTalk Magazine. This week’s catch also includes…
Blue Crab Population Rebounding
Three cheers for blue crabs! The annual winter dredge survey has shown population improvements. The Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, a cooperative effort between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), estimates 323 million blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay in 2023, an increase from last year’s low of 227 million crabs.
The number of spawning age female crabs increased from 97 million crabs in 2022 to 152 million crabs in 2023, a substantial increase and well above the management threshold of 72.5 million crabs. Additionally, adult male crabs increased from 28 million crabs in 2022 to 55 million crabs in 2023.
“We are encouraged by the increases in adult crab abundance, but we need to be vigilant given the ongoing low recruitment numbers,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing and Boating Services Acting Director Lynn Fegley. “We haven’t seen a strong year class since 2019 despite maintaining the spawning stock at a level capable of producing one.”
The Winter Dredge Survey has been conducted cooperatively by Maryland and Virginia since 1990, and the results are reviewed annually in an effort to have consistent management efforts across the jurisdictions. Throughout the survey, biologists use dredge equipment to capture, measure, record and release blue crabs at 1,500 sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay from December through March. Detailed results are on the DNR website.
Saving American Shad Takes Priority in Virginia
An exciting project is coming to fruition in Virginia, aimed at protecting and enabling the migration/spawning of the American shad. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in partnership with the Rice Rivers Center at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has announced a new Virginia Shad and River Herring Research Initiative to advance conservation goals for these iconic and culturally significant migratory fish.
Migratory American shad, hickory shad, alewife, and blueback herring once supported vital commercial and subsistence fisheries in Virginia. Beginning in the 20th Century, however, a combination of overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, dams, and the introduction of non-native predators diminished these once-mighty fisheries.
The Service and Rice Rivers Center will engage with a broad consortium of state agencies, tribal governments, academia, and NGOs to identify what’s preventing migratory shad and river herring from returning to coastal rivers and rebuilding their populations and will propose conservation measures that could help reverse the declines in populations and recover these valuable, iconic, migratory fish to Virginia’s coastal rivers.
But Not Menhaden…Anglers Sue Va. for Overharvesting
Last week, the Southern Maryland Recreational Fishing Organization, a Chesapeake Bay fishing group, through its attorneys at Chesapeake Legal Alliance, filed a petition challenging Virginia’s Marine Resource Commission’s (VMRC) March 2023 decision to, in the organizations’ words, “continue overharvesting of the menhaden fishery via reduction fishing.”
According to a press release distributed by SMRFO and CLA, “The Commonwealth of Virginia currently receives a full 75 percent of the Atlantic states’ allocation for fishing menhaden. The VMRC in turn currently gives 90 percednt of Virginia’s entire allocation to a single industrial harvesting company which uses large-capacity netting and hauling techniques that capture huge amounts of menhaden for fish meal, pet food, and omega 3 supplements. The VMRC’s reduction fishery allocation represents two thirds, or 67 percent, of the entire Atlantic coast’s menhaden harvest, over 158,000 metric tons of menhaden, of which 51,000 metric tons is taken from the Bay. That’s over 100 million pounds of menhaden, or about 250 million fish, each year just from within the Chesapeake Bay.”
The petition was filed by the Chesapeake Legal Alliance (CLA), on behalf of the organization, to require the VMRC to follow Virginia law and properly regulate the menhaden fishery. This means first lowering the allowable catch within Virginia waters and the Bay, and requiring the reduction fishery to operate at a safe distance from its shores. Second, in addition to protecting the menhaden fishery and the Bay, the VMRC must obtain the best available science and data of seasonal menhaden populations within the Bay, and not rely on outdated data from twenty, thirty or even hundreds of miles away in the Atlantic. Photograph of menhaden harvesting provided by Chesapeake Legal Alliance.
Shenandoah National Park Celebrates 1,000-acre Acquisition
In a mountainside dedication ceremony in Virginia on Thursday, May 18th, Shenandoah National Park officially commemorated the donation of nearly 1,000 acres of land from the Shenandoah National Park Trust. The historic donation is the result of a collaboration with partners from local, state, and national levels.
Nearly 1,000 acres of woodlands including the headwaters of Naked Creek in the Tanners Ridge area of Page County are now protected as part of Shenandoah National Park through a donation made possible by a proposal by the Shenandoah National Park Trust to the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation. Achieved by the united effort of landowners, nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies, these lands and headwaters of Naked Creek are now protected and preserved as public lands in perpetuity.
“The Shenandoah National Park Trust is proud of the strong collaborations that have led to this momentous addition to the park,” said Jessica Cocciolone, executive director of the trust. “These partnerships have ensured that this majestic property will be preserved for generations to come.” Learn more about Shenandoah National Park here.
Swimmable ShoreRivers Testing Resumes This Week
Eastern Shore-based riverkeeper organization, ShoreRivers, has announced that not only will its Swimmable ShoreRivers bacteria testing program resume Thursday, May 25th, but that weekly results from this annual program will be available this year in both English and Spanish. Every summer, ShoreRivers deploys a team of community scientists to monitor bacteria levels at popular swimming and boating sites to provide important human health risk information to the public. Forty-six sites on the Choptank, Miles, Wye, Chester, and Sassafras rivers; Eastern Bay; and the Bayside Creeks will be monitored. The samples are processed according to standard scientific protocols, in ShoreRivers in-house labs. The program follows the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard protocols for collecting and analyzing samples and makes public the results of that testing to let people know about current bacteria levels as they make their plans for recreating in our waterways. Results are posted every Friday, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, at shorerivers.org/swim and on both the organization’s and its individual Riverkeepers’ social media pages.
A second page, shorerivers.org/swimmable-shorerivers-espanol, has been set up to share this program with the Spanish-speaking community, and 14 signs can be found at public sites around the Eastern Shore that explain the goals of the Swimmable ShoreRivers program and show users where to find weekly results in both English and Spanish. Photograph of Chester Riverkeeper Annie Richards showing off one of ShoreRivers’ new informational signs at Morgnec Landing on Morgan Creek, courtesy ShoreRivers.
Assateague Is. Camping Fees to Increase
Superintendent of Assateague Island National Seashore Hugh Hawthorne announced a proposal to increase the fees for camping at Assateague Island National Seashore. If adopted, the new camping fees would take effect on October 1, 2023. The proposal includes raising the cost of regular campsites in the Oceanside and Bayside campgrounds by $10/night, the Group sites by $30/night, and the horse camp site by $50/night. The proposed changes would only apply to front country camping fees; backcountry camping rates will remain the same. One of the main reasons for the proposed increase is the growing gap between the Seashore’s camping fees and other campgrounds in the local area. “Required Comparability Reviews and anticipated campground improvements indicate the need for an increase,” said Hawthorne. “It’s important to note that 80 percent of the fees collected come back to the park to fund projects such as the recent improvements to the nature trails, the Old Ferry Landing bulkhead, and the Assateague Island Visitor Center boardwalk and overlook.” Photograph of Assateague Island National Seashore camping by National Park Service.
Anacostia River Festival is Today!
The National Park Service and the 11th Street Bridge Park will present the 9th Annual Anacostia River Festival today, Saturday, May 20th from 1 to 4 p.m. at Anacostia Park off Good Hope Road & Anacostia Drive SE. The 2023 Anacostia River Festival’s theme is “Breaking New Ground, 100 Years of Innovation.”
The Anacostia River Festival focuses on improving the health of the Anacostia River and the exciting experiences you can have in Anacostia Park and on the river. The event is free. Anacostia Park welcomes District residents and visitors alike to communities and parks east of the river. One of this year’s highlights will be a parade of vintage cars along Anacostia Drive at 1 p.m.
The main festival grounds at Good Hope Road and Anacostia Drive will feature special live musical performances from the U.S. Navy Band, the Eastern High School Marching Band, The Experience Band, New Impressionz Band, Sirius Company featuring guest performer Scooby, Ms Kim Band as well as the finals of the Spoken Word poetry contest “Word to Go-Go.”
Ongoing activities in park: “Meet” Frederick Douglass. An actor portraying Douglass will talk to visitors and highlight how he enjoyed the Anacostia River in his day. Other activities include a ranger tent with crafts and history of the park. Play lawn games, hang out in a hammock, or sign up for a canoe trip. For full details, visit 11th Stree Bridge Park’s website here.
Blackwater NWR to Host Youth Fishing Day
In partnership with the Friends of Blackwater and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge will hold their annual Youth Fishing Fun Day on Saturday, June 3rd, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This family-friendly event will be held at “Hog Range” Pond behind the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, located off Route 335. Young people, 15 years old and under, can pre-register for the event by calling 410-228-2677 or register at the event on June 3rd.
The first 100 registered youth to check in at the event will receive a t-shirt and special gift. Each registered youth will also receive a free lunch ticket for a hot dog, drink, and chips. Bait (nightcrawlers) will be provided for anglers, or they may bring their own bait or lures. A limited number of sanitized “loaner” fishing rods will be available, but anglers are encouraged to bring their own if they have one. As always, staff and volunteers are on hand to provide assistance to any of the young anglers who might need help.
Parents should note that this is a non-competitive, catch-and-release event, meant to introduce children to the fun of fishing. Any snakeheads that are caught may be kept, but they must be deceased before they leave the premises. Participants should also note that no pets are allowed at this event. If you have any questions, please email Blackwater NWR at fw5rw_BWNWR@fws.gov.
And that’s a wrap for this week’s Creel. If you have news to share, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.