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Weekly Creel : Angling & Conservation News

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Welcome to the Weekly Creel, a compilation of regional angling & conservation news headlines and announcements for anglers and outdoor enthusiasts of the Chesapeake Bay region. Please email us at to have your news or event listing considered for next week’s column. Here are direct links to the lastest, local fishing reports from Reel Chesapeake, On The Water, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Anglers Sports Center, Fish in OC, and FishTalk Magazine. The leading photograph (above): Peanut bunker (menhaden) spit up from a striper.

New Menhaden Documentary

Shout out to documentary film director William McKeever for his latest project titled The Biggest Little Fish You’ve Never Seen, which chronicles the damage caused by the industrial menhaden fishing industry. It’s an incredibly important topic that needs to be seen, heard, and addressed by public and private interests in our watershed. And this week, on March 6th at 12 p.m., you can register for a free preview screening of the film. The Chesapeake Legal Alliance is showcasing the film (I believe virtually/online) with CLA’s Executive Director, David Reed, Staff Attorney, Will Halnon, and McKeever on hand for a panel discussion of the issues surrounding the localized depletion of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay and the legal strategies for addressing this ecological threat; a Q&A session with attendees (pre-submitted questions) will follow. Register for the event and submit your questions here. And check out the film’s trailer here.

DNR Dredging Blue Crabs, Survey Results Coming in May

Blue crabs await measurement during the 2024 winter dredge survey. Photo by Joe Zimmermann.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been very active this winter, working through the process of the annual blue crab winter dredge survey. The survey samples 1,500 sites, which are randomly assigned with a statistical analysis. Maryland and Virginia split them evenly, so Maryland monitors 750 sites through the course of the winter, hitting around 30 each day.

The 2022 survey estimated 227 million crabs, the lowest ever recorded in the survey. In 2023, the population bounced back to 323 million, an encouraging improvement, although scientists urged continued vigilance based on low juvenile abundance.

The 2024 blue crab winter dredge survey results won’t be released until May. After completing the 750 sites, the DNR team returns to high density sites and pulls again there, to make note of mortality. By comparing the number there at the first and second pull, they can get a sense of how intense the winter was for the crabs. Fingers crossed for a good dredge this year.

One Fish Away From Achieving Master Angler V Status!

Angler Michael Minnick. Photograph courtesy Virginia DWR.

What does this mean? For diehard Virginia angler Michael Minnick, the achievment of earning Master Angler V status is one fish away. The Master Angler program in Virginia is akin to that in Maryland, in which anglers strive to catch trophy size fish. Hit a certain number of them and you achieve various levels of recognition by the state. For example, to earn Master Angler I status, five trophy size fish species must be caught. To earn leve V status, 25 species must be caught. And Minnick is one fish away—having to catch either a bowfin or saugeye. To put this potential achievement in perspective, since 1963 when Viriginia started the Master Angler program, only one angler has ever achieved level V status. Read a cool interview with Minnick and learn more about the program, here.

ASMFC Announces Habitats of Concern

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission announced the release of its newest habitat document: Fish Habitat of Concern Designations for Fish and Shellfish Species. According to ASMFC, “This document focuses on identifying Fish Habitat of Concern (FHOC) for fish and shellfish species managed solely by the Commission, aiming to concentrate conservation efforts on specific habitats that are ecologically invaluable and necessary to support each life stage of these species. It offers a comprehensive overview of the regulatory and policy framework for habitat descriptions in Commission fishery management plans and will serve as the primary habitat guidance document for Commission-managed species.” The full document is available here and covers the many species you’d expect (stripers, menhaden, sturgeon, red drum), some you might find surprising (Jonah crab), and many others critical to the Mid-Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.

Record Blue Cat Caught in Potomac

Photograph courtesy IGFA.

A new record blue catfish in the women’s 12-lb. line class was recently awarded by the International Game Fish Association. IGFA Fishing Hall of Famer Roberta Arostegui was fishing with her son and fellow IGFA World Record aficionado, Dr. Martini Arostegui, on November 25, 2023, when she landed a 17.01-kilogram (37-pound, 8-ounce) blue catfish. The record catfish struck cut bait while they were fishing in the Potomac River, Virginia, and was landed after a 15-minute fight. Once landed, Roberta and Martini quickly weighed and documented the catch before releasing it safely. With this catch, Roberta has set the IGFA Women’s 6-kg (12-lb) Line Class World Record for blue catfish. Congratuations!

End of the Line…

Some odds and ends, event announcements, etc.

This weekend, March 2nd and 3rd, Anglers Sports Center in Annapolis is hosting its annual AnglersCast 2024 spring kickoff sales event. Basically, there will be storewide deals on tons of fishing gear, equipment, clothing…you name it. Plus, the parking lot party with bbq, kids games, prizes, and raffles. CCA Maryland will also be on site.

Maryland Public Television’s (MPT) original series Maryland Farm & Harvest  will feature farms and locations in Cecil, Frederick, and Washington counties during the series season 11 finale episode premiering on Tuesday, March 5th. A preview of the episode will be available on the series’ webpage at

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is hosting its annual Eagle Festival on Saturday, March 16th, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Join rangers and staff this free, family-friendly event focused on birds of prey, with educational programs and exhibits featuring live birds and reptiles, hands-on activities, and refuge tours.

Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge (refuge) and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), invites youth ages 12 to 16 to apply for the mentored Youth Turkey Hunt at the refuge by March 22, 2024. Licensed youth hunters are chosen by lottery for one of two Saturday hunts: April 13th or April 20th. Request an application by email at or download from the refuge website here

The Fly Fishing Film Tour 2024, hosted by Legends of the Fly, will visit Virginia Beach on April 19th at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. To date, this is the only F3 tour stop in the DMV region. Tickets are on sale here.

And Bands in the Sand will begin selling VIP tickets on March 6th for the famed fundraising event held on the beach of Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Philip Merrill Environmental Center. General admission tickets go on sale later, May 1st. This event will sell-out, so buy early to guarantee your evening of local food, live music, and great views of the Bay, all for a great cause!

And that’s a wrap for this edition of The Weekly Creel. If you have news to share, please send an email to