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): A blue heron stalks the shallows in Valentine Creek, Severn River, Maryland, during evening on Tuesday, August 1st. Photo by yours truly.
ASMFC Extends Emergency Striper Regs Through 2024
On Wednesday, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board extended the current emergency action through October 28th of 2024—yes 2024!—or until the implementation of Addendum II to Amendment 7 of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan.
In May, the Board approved a 31-inch maximum size limit for the 2023 recreational fishery to reduce harvest of the strong 2015-year class. The 31- inch maximum size limit applies to all existing recreational fishery regulations where a higher (or no) maximum size applies, excluding the May Chesapeake Bay trophy fisheries, which already prohibit harvest of fish less than 35 inches. All bag limits, seasons, and gear restrictions remain the same. All states and jurisdictions implemented the required measure by July 2nd, 2023.
The emergency action responds to the unprecedented magnitude of 2022 recreational harvest, which is nearly double that of 2021, and new stock rebuilding projections, which estimate the probability of the spawning stock rebuilding to its biomass target by 2029 drops from 97% under the lower 2021 fishing mortality rate to 15 percent if the higher 2022 fishing mortality rate continues each year.
The extension of the emergency action provides the Board time to develop and finalize Draft Addendum II, which will consider 2024 management measures designed to reduce fishing mortality to the target. Specifically, the Draft Addendum will propose options for the ocean recreational fishery, including modifications to the slot limit with harvest season closures as a secondary non-preferred option. It will also propose options for the Chesapeake Bay recreational fisheries, as well all commercial fisheries, including maximum size limits.
Our take—force Maryland to do away with the Trophy Season altogether. This piece of the striper puzzle is confounding. It’s absolutely ludicrous that a state—our state—is allowed to put a trophy price, so to speak, on large, breeding stripers (allowing anglers to keep fish over 35″!). We need to protect the bigguns, otherwise we’re staring at another significant moratorium on the entire fishery. We probably already are.
Rare Blue Mouth Pickerel Caught!
News of the “Well, would ya look at that?!” variety comes from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which reported a most unusual catch. According the DWR, “One Caroline County [in the Port Royal/Bowling Green vicinity of Virginia] angler couldn’t quite believe his eyes when he reeled in a chain pickerel (Esox niger) recently. As the fish emerged from the water, John Byrd realized its mouth was a shade of vibrant blue. ‘I’d never seen one that color! And I’ve been fishing in that pond for more than 20 years!’ Byrd, of Bowling Green, said.
“He caught the 11.5″ chain pickerel in a 14-acre private pond in Caroline County on a Whopper Plopper lure. Byrd, a retired veteran, kept the fish and contacted Scott Herrmann, a Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) regional fisheries biologist. Herrmann explained that the fish was exhibiting a “wild genetic pigment mutation” but otherwise normal. ‘The coloration expressed by the blue pickerel is extremely rare,’ said Herrmann. ‘It pretty much falls into the one-in-a-lifetime category of catches. The normal coloration expressed in the green of a chain pickerel is from the xanthins of the yellow pigments. Blue pickerel express the rare mutation that is axanthic.'” Photograph courtesy John Byrd, via Virginia DWR.
Maryland Funds Chesapeake Bay & Coastal Restoration Projects
More money for major watershed projects has been announced by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. DNR awarded $22.9 million from the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund to 24 ecological restoration projects encompassing 95 sites throughout the state. The projects were selected to improve water quality and habitat in the Chesapeake Bay watershed while building local resilience to climate impacts.
“This valuable funding stream plays an important role in Maryland’s effort to improve the health of the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays,” said Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Josh Kurtz. “The projects funded with these grants will help reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, improve wildlife habitat, provide recreational opportunities, and make Maryland’s communities more resilient to climate change.”
The project details for Fiscal Year 2024 grants are listed on the Department of Natural Resources website, along with other programs that are accessible through the Grants Gateway application process. The department is currently soliciting applications for Fiscal Year 2025. Photograph of Restoration of tidal marsh at Deal Island, a project funded by the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. Photo by Anthony Burrows, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
CCA Maryland Has New Assistant Director
Joining Executive Director David Sikorski at the helm of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland is longtime CCA member and consultant Jesse Howe, filling the Assistant Director position. Last week, Howe officially joined the CCA Maryland team. In this role, he will work with local chapter volunteers, partner organizations and local communities to connect them to CCA’s fundraising and mission focused activities. Howe previously worked with CCA Maryland as a habitat and education consultant, leading Living Reef Action Campaign activities in Calvert and Anne Arundel Counties in early 2023. Contact Howe via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and wish him congrats! Photograph courtesy Jesse Howe, via CCA Maryland.
MD Seafood Fest Heads to City Dock, Annapolis
The Maryland Seafood Festival has decided to move…to Susan Campbell Park at City Dock in downtown Annapolis, taking place on August 19th and 20th. While the visability of the event will certainly be enhanced, addressing the actual logistics has been a top priority of organizers, including ABC Events and the City of Annapolis. To that end, the City offers the following information:
Road closures & parking restrictions: Dock Street from the Harbormaster’s Office on Craig Street to Susan Campbell Park will be closed to vehicle traffic beginning 6 a.m. on Friday, August 18 through noon on Monday, August 21. There will be restricted/reserved parking on Prince George’s Street from Craig Street to the waterfront.
Parking best bets: Hillman Garage (150 Duke of Gloucester) is open and now has 590 parking spaces. Use ParkMobile, scan the QR code on signage around the garage, or pay using cash or card at the kiosks at the exits. With the City’s new gateless entry and exit system, parking must be paid within 15 minutes of entering the garage. Parking is also available at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Gate 5). Maryland Seafood Festival has arranged for $10 prepaid/reserved parking through ParkMobile on the Maryland Seafood Festival website.
Saturday, Aug. 19th: The Festival opens to the public at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Musical performances on the Main Stage will begin at 11 a.m. and continue throughout the day. The Crab Soup Cook-Off will begin at 11:30 a.m. under the Beer & Oyster Tent. The soup typically runs out by 2:30 p.m. The Beer & Oyster Tent will later host beer and oyster tastings from 3 to 7 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 20th: The Festival opens to the public at 11 a.m. on Sunday with music on the Main Stage throughout the day. Beer and oyster tastings will begin at 11 a.m. and continue until 7 p.m. under the Beer & Oyster Tent. The festival concludes at 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Costs: Presale/General Admission tickets are $15 advance/$20 at the door. Add the Crab Soup Cook Off $15 advance/$20 at the door (tickets are required to enter the tasting pavilion). Other add-ons: half-dozen steamed crabs for $40 pre-order only; Naptown Seafood Sampler ($25 advance/$30 at the door) includes eight samples from local restaurants plus a drink.
Score Your First, or Next, Boat on the Cheap
Whether you’re looking for a new-to-you, upgrade, or fart-around-the-creek vessel, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum might have what you’re looking for. CBMM will host its annual Charity Boat Auction on Saturday, September 2nd, inviting guests to its waterfront campus to bid on donated vessels of all shapes and sizes in support of its mission.
Starting at 11 a.m., dozens of boats and watercraft, ranging in size and performance from cabin cruisers to sailing dinghies and everything in between, will be auctioned off to the highest bidders with no minimums or reserves. The gates open at 8 a.m. for this rain-or-shine event.
“We look forward to this weekend every year,” said CBMM’s Charity Boat Donation Program Director Wes Williams. “We have a wide variety of boats ready to be sold via absolute auction, and we’re excited to be able to set up our buyers with great deals on these vessels.”
The Charity Boat Auction is the flagship event of CBMM’s Charity Boat Donation Program, which accepts and sells gently used boats year-round. For the official rules, auction details, absentee bidding protocols, and inventory updates, visit cbmm.org/CharityBoatAuction. Photograph courtesy Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
A few final thoughts and words as we wrap up this week: (1) Striper regs…just do away with the trophy season already. And until we get Maryland legislators on board to regulate commercials and charters as much as recs, then curtailing the “Great Striper Purge of the Chesapeake” won’t happen and we’ll all continue to witness to the severe degradation of the greatest fishery in North America. And here’s an idea—next time you’re dining out for some seafood, don’t order the striper bites or entree special. Choose a more sustainable option. (2) That blue mouth pickerel…wild. But kinda, sorta, maybe weird that the grippers used are the same color as the mouth. Not calling out any shadiness; just an observation. (3) I have mixed feelings about Seafood Fest moving downtown. The city is great from an adjacent restaurant/bar scene perspective, but I sure did enjoy to the beachfront vibe of Sandy Point, which is laid back, breezy, and more open. It’ll be a hoot either way.
And that’s a wrap for this week’s Creel. If you have news to share, please send an email to email@example.com.