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. The leading photograph (above): Sunrise flock of gulls over the Severn River, photographed last summer by yours truly. This week’s catch also includes…
Chesapeake National Recreational Area One Step Closer to Reality
On Thursday, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes introduced the Chesapeake National Recreation Area Act, which, if passed into law, would create the Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA). The CNRA would be a land-based, 21st-century park, uniting new and existing National Park Service (NPS) sites and trails, as well as partner parks, to increase public access to the Chesapeake Bay and create a national park-worthy visitor experience for all to enjoy. Co-sponsors include Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner, and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) and U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).
The Chesapeake National Recreation Area Act would designate a collection of new and existing parks and public lands along the Chesapeake Bay as the new Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA). Places that highlight the bay across Maryland and Virginia, such as state and local parks and wildlife refuges, could become part of the CNRA and benefit from the resources of the National Park Service to help improve the visitor experience, improve public access to the bay, protect the natural environment and tell an interesting story about our region. The CNRA will raise the visibility of the Chesapeake Bay as an important resource, encourage upcoming generations to protect the bay, create sustainable jobs, increase private investment in the bay region, add new sites to access the bay, link all the park sites around the bay with a common visitor experience and invite people to explore.
“Establishing the Chesapeake National Recreation Area expands resources for environmental protection and makes it clear that the United States cherishes the Chesapeake, the birthplace of American identity,” said Chesapeake Conservancy President & CEO Joel Dunn. “As a great gift to future generations, this legislation ensures everyone’s right to visit and recreate on our nation’s largest estuary while balancing the needs of those who live here and depend on the bay for their livelihood.” Learn more about the endeavor at united4cnra.com.
Capt. Monty Earns Major Award
Congratulations to Captain Monty Hawkins! He’s been named the 2023 recipient of the annual Maryland Sport Fisheries Achievement Award doled out by the Maryland Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission and Maryland Department of Natural Resources. If you read Scott Lenox’s Fish in OC Daily Angle fishing reports, then you already know the name Capt. Monty and about the amazing reef building projects he coordinates off the coast of Ocean City.
“In the Maryland coastal fishing scene, few have made more contributions than Monty Hawkins, known as ‘Captain Monty’ of F/V Morning Star based in Ocean City,” states the DNR. “In addition to his charter business, Captain Hawkins was instrumental in forming the Ocean City Reef Foundation in 1997, to which he has volunteered countless hours. He has also volunteered as a member of the Coastal Conservation Association, and as a member and chairman of the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative.”
Hawkins will be honored at a formal presentation later this year, tbd. Nominations for next year’s Maryland Sport Fisheries Achievement Award will begin Dec. 1, 2023 for the 2024 award, with a deadline of Jan. 31, 2024. Details here. Photograph courtesy Monty Hawkins via Maryland DNR.
Menhaden Fishery a Topic of Convo at VMRC Meeting
At this week’s Virginia Marine Resources Commission meeting, the time allotted for open public comments was spent discussing the impact that the state’s allowable menhaden fishery (presumably the Omega Protein operation based in Reedville) and its depletion is having on Chesapeake species. Per the VMRC’s meeting minutes:
“Ms. Julie Kacmarcik, representing the Richmond Audubon Society, spoke about her concern on the availability of Atlantic menhaden for osprey living in the lower Chesapeake Bay. She asked if Dr. Bryan Watts from William and Mary could come speak on results from his osprey studies. Associate Commissioner Will Bransom asked the Commission to consider this, and Commissioner Green asked for clarification from Dr. Mark Luckenbach from VIMS. Dr. Luckenbach explained how VIMS was tasked by the General Assembly to create a research proposal to address the Chesapeake Bay menhaden population, amongst other issues, and it’s possible that proposal could be presented to the Commission in September. Commissioner Green assured Ms. Kacmarcik that VMRC would stay in contact with VIMS. Mr. John Tyson presented photos from the Rappahannock River. He expressed his concern about the purse seine menhaden fishery and the state of the river after they are done fishing. He also is concerned about the depth of the river vs. the depth of the nets – he believes the nets are dragging on the bottom whenever they fish in the river. He stated that there are many other areas these boats could fish that would reduce the impact on his family’s use of the river.”
Our take: the public, environmental organizations, local businesses, and anyone with a stake in or care for the precious natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay need to have their voices heard by our governments, especially those in Virginia, which continue to allow Omega Protein to pillage the menhaden fishery. Menhaden is one of, if not the strongest—or most vital—links in the Bay’s food chain, yet continues to be depleted at alarming numbers by Omega…and Virginia is allowing it. Let’s continue to put pressure on officials to change this line of thinking.
Chesapeake Dolphin Watch Program Receives Funding (Plus, Download the App!)
There’s been more dolphin sightings throughout Chesapeake Bay tribs this year than those in recent memory, and there’s a worthy program tracking the trend. Thankfully, it will continue thanks to generous funding. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory announces its first sponsorship donation from the JES Avanti Foundation to support its Chesapeake Dolphin Watch program.
“With this multi-year funding, we can continue to raise awareness of Chesapeake Bay bottlenose dolphin habitat, engage community members, and help inform natural resource managers and policy-makers as they continue their work in Chesapeake Bay conservation,” said Chesapeake Dolphin Watch Coordinator Jamie Testa. “The Avanti Foundation and its staff were and early supporter of Dolphin Watch, and we are so grateful.”
Thousands of residents and visitors with their eyes on the water have helped scientists understand when bottlenose dolphins are visiting the Chesapeake Bay through the Chesapeake Dolphin Watch App. Since 2017, scientists have received over 7,000 reports of dolphin sightings—submitted by over 13,000 app users—to help track the patterns of dolphin visits to the Bay.
The JES Avanti Foundation’s $60,000 grant over three years will enable necessary upgrades to the app’s capabilities and support staff members who spend a considerable amount of time to validate reported sightings for quality control. Staff will also be able to continue their outreach efforts, including partnerships with local organizations and agencies that work across the Chesapeake Bay region.
“We are pleased to help keep the DolphinWatch program going. It is a valuable tool that appeals to everyone living near or recreating on the Chesapeake Bay, and we hope this encourages more participation with the app and inspires others to support the program, as well,” said Liz Sanders, a founder of the JES Avanti Foundation.
Before DolphinWatch, bottlenose dolphins were thought to only be summer visitors to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, but after launching the app and listening underwater for dolphins, UMCES researchers discovered there were more frequent sightings and detections over a broader area than they had expected. To download the app or to find out how to become a sponsor, visit umces.edu/dolphinwatch. Photograph courtesy UMCES.
National Oyster Weeks Gets Shucking on 8/1
Oyster Recovery Partnership has announced plans for National Oyster Week from August 1–6. Seafood lovers can get involved during National Oyster Week by frequenting their favorite shell-recycling restaurants throughout the DMV in support of its mission to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its native oyster population.
ORP relies on Shell Recycling Alliance member restaurants to provide shells critical for Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration efforts. Eating and recycling oyster shells leads to more oysters returned to the Bay, home of many delicious species. Patrons can show appreciation to Bay-friendly businesses by dining at shell recycling restaurants all throughout National Oyster Week.
More than 50 local Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., restaurants will be participating. Patrons are encouraged to visit the National Oyster Week webpage or the Facebook event page to see all participating businesses and the promotions they will be offering. In addition, there will be oyster-themed events throughout the week, including a “Dancing Molly” new oyster collab launch party on Tuesday, August 1st at The Salt Line, two Shuck Like a Pro events on Friday, August 4th at the District Fishwife, and a National Oyster Day celebration on Saturday, August 5th, at Guinness Open Gate Brewery.
“This year we are extending the celebrations of all things oyster with a nearly weeklong celebration. It is our hope that this National Oyster Week promotes the importance of oyster shell recycling, and encourages the community to indulge in some of the best seafood in our country,” said Paul Schurick, Director of ORP partnerships. “By dining in one of the restaurants, attending an event or preparing your own oysters at home, you are supporting the Shell Recycling Alliance, you’re helping to restore the Chesapeake Bay, one shuck at a time.”
Three Year Anniverary of GAOA Signing = Free Admission to National Parks
On August 4th, as the Department of the Interior commemorates the three-year anniversary of the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act, all National Park Service (NPS) entrance fees will be waived to celebrate the landmark legislation.
“The Great American Outdoors Act ensures that our public lands are safe and accessible for all visitors and staff by investing billions of dollars in infrastructure projects. I was proud to co-sponsor this historic law, which provides critical investments in our public lands to ensure they are ready to meet the challenges of climate change, while boosting the American economy by creating good-paying jobs,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “As our public lands continue to meet increased visitation, GAOA complements President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to strengthen our infrastructure and prepare it to meet future needs.”
Supported by revenue from energy development, the Great American Outdoors Act Legacy Restoration Fund provides the National Park Service with up to $1.3 billion per year, through 2025 when its authority expires, to address extensive maintenance and repair needs in national parks and improve visitor opportunities for recreation, relaxation, education, and enjoyment.
The Great American Outdoors Act also guarantees permanent funding of up to $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) administered by the National Park Service. The funding assists national parks in the acquisition of essential lands and provides states with money to invest in local conservation and recreation opportunities. Photograph courtesy NPS.
A few final thoughts and words as we wrap up this week: (1) Striper season resumes in Maryland waters on August 1st, after two weeks off. During the closure, however, temperatures continued to soar. Surface water temps in my home river—the Severn—were up to 83F this week. All this to say that catch-and-release mortality will still be at its highest potential, so please take care and catch-photo-release as quickly as possible. And swap out those treble hooks for inlines! (2) I gave fly-fishing for perch a shot this week and, in the extreme heat, exhaustion started to set in after an hour or so of casting. Reminder to stay hydrated folks. And if you have wide-brimmed sun hats, wear ’em!
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.