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Weekly Creel : Angling & Conservation News

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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 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): The Ocean City inlet and jetty at sunrise, hinting at the hope that awaits anglers nearby and on the open ocean. Photo by yours truly.

Richest Payouts in White Marlin Open’s History

The lead this week has to be the $10.5 million in prize money payouts of the 50th edition of the White Marlin Open, taking place in Ocean City. In fact, the last day of fishing was yesterday with scales closing at 9:15 p.m. last night. Winners will be fully confirmed in the coming days as final weights, points, anglers, and boats are officially vetted. As of press time, a 265-pound bigeye tuna weighed in by Brian Stewart of Shady Side, Maryland, and the crew of Reel Tight, held the top spot in the big money purse, which stood at $1.2 million. But the word was that a large blue marlin was being faught by Captain Bill Zimmerman of the Ro Sham Bo since 8:40 a.m. (Friday), several white marlin were en route to the scales, as well as a 75″ bigeye. So, the leaderboard most certainly changed since the time of this writing. There are 28 added payouts and many of the 400 registrered boats enter a number of them, so a single big fish (or several) can and will earn big, big money! And the tournament was coming down to the wire. The Friday morning update from WMO read as follows:

“The early risers of Friday should be treated to another great boat parade as there are 357 boats eligible to fish on the final day of the 50th Annual White Marlin Open. Each of the boats has the same primary goal: to catch a qualifying billfish. It’s not that the billfish didn’t show up…after 4 fishing days, 431 white marlin, 34 blue marlin, five sailfish, and one spearfish have been caught. Every one of the billfish was released for being perceived as too small to weigh.

“Never in our history have we gone without a weighed billfish. In 1984, ’85, and ’86 there wasn’t a qualifying white marlin, but all blue marlin categories were met. There have been several years when no blue marlin qualified, but the white marlin filled in.

“So far, the tuna have dominated the scales and the bigeye tuna have ruled the event so far. Our rules are set so all the prize money ($10.5 million in separate pools) is paid out at the tournament’s end. Unless a billfish is weighed, most of that money will go to the big eye tunas. It’s possible that over $7 million reserved for billfish could default to winning tunas. 

“But let’s not count out that the final fishing day could see a number of qualifying billfish. By the end of the tournament, the boats have gotten more familiar with the offshore waters and have found concentrations of billfish. While marlin generally swim in schools of the same-sized, there are usually a few bigger fish that tag along. Those are the ones the anglers hope to land for lottery-sized payouts.”

For full details and the most up to date list of winning catches,

Maryland Creates Bass Conservation Fund

Let’s hear it for large and smallmouth bass—the dynamic duo of sportfishing has gotten a nod from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which has established a dedicated source of funding for conservation of species—collectively called black bass—to which the state’s anglers, boaters, hunters, and others can contribute when purchasing their licenses.

Governor Wes Moore signed legislation on May 8th to create the Black Bass Conservation Fund, establishing a voluntary donation program through the Department of Natural Resources’ online COMPASS licensing system to help conserve the species and protect the fishery. Donations will be used to procure bass for remediation stocking in freshwater waterways, install structures for enhancing aquatic habitat, purchase supplies that promote conservation during bass tournaments, and support scientific research related to conservation of the resource. 

Projects will be considered for funding through the new program each year by the Department of Natural Resources and its Black Bass Advisory Committee, which comprises bass anglers, conservations, tournament directors, fishing guides, and other experts appointed by the department secretary. 

Maryland Supreme Court Rules Against Assateague Coastal Trust

In a disappointing setback for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays this week, the Maryland Supreme Court reversed the decision of a lower court that would have controlled millions of pounds of nutrient pollution flowing into Maryland’s rivers and bays, every year. The previous lower court decision found that the state’s Department of the Environment (MDE) must control gaseous ammonia pollution emitted from industrial animal agriculture and impose pollution limits designed to meet Maryland’s water quality standards.

Assateague Coastal Trust brought this challenge, represented by Chesapeake Legal Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to protect and restore clean water and promote healthy, resilient ecosystems for communities across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Instead of upholding these critical protections for clean water, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court, and chose to defer to MDE and its approach to regulating animal feeding operations even though the evidence clearly shows that the Department has previously been unwilling to regulate this massive amount of gaseous emissions or produce a permit that actually protects nearby waterways and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays.

David Reed, Executive Director of Chesapeake Legal Alliance, said, “we are disappointed by the decision, but mostly we are just concerned about what this means for our client and the communities affected by pollution from these facilities. As the dissenting opinion emphasized right from the first sentence, this is a clear case of environmental injustice and an agency that has previously turned a blind eye to it. We are confident that the new Secretary’s high priority on lifting up those communities that were previously left to shoulder a disproportionate amount of pollution will soon result in relief for them and our beloved waters. Marylanders deserve better going forward and we’ll continue this fight.”

Learn more about the case at

Senator Cardin to Receive Clean Water Legacy Award from CBF

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) President and CEO Hilary Harp Falk has announced that CBF will honor Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin with its Clean Water Legacy Award at the 2024 DC on the Half Shell gala next March. CBF will be joined by more than 600 philanthropists, lawmakers, and community leaders on March 18, 2024, at Union Market to honor Sen. Cardin’s extraordinary efforts to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay. DC on the Half Shell is CBF’s most important event in the nation’s capital. Sen. Cardin has decided not to run for reelection next year. 

“Whether advocating for Maryland fisheries, promoting environmental education, or ensuring federal support for Bay research and restoration, Sen. Cardin’s career has been one legislative victory for clean water after another,” Falk said. 

Sen. Cardin has advocated for the Bay since he began his public service career in 1967 in the Maryland House of Delegates. From his work on the original Chesapeake Bay Agreement in the early 1980s to his recent success securing historic funding increases for the federal Chesapeake Bay Program, Sen. Cardin has never wavered in his commitment to saving our region’s greatest natural resource. 

“It’s an honor to be chosen to receive the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Clean Water Legacy Award. I’ve dedicated my career to improving the health of our watershed because of its direct and existential impact on the communities and wildlife it serves as home and habitat. For nearly six decades, I’ve proudly supported the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s efforts to protect our treasured Bay,” Sen. Cardin said. Photograph by Nikki Davis, courtesy CBF.

‘River Days’ Registration is Open

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced the opening of registration for the upcoming River Days Festival. The festival will take place on Sunday, August 27th at Quiet Waters Park, and Saturday, September 23rd at Fort Smallwood Park; both days run 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. River Days are focused on providing water access opportunities for county residents through fun recreational and educational events on county rivers.  The public can register for the event and free boat rides. 

“When we envisioned River Days, we wanted to create an opportunity for residents from all across our county to get out on the water, celebrate our local rivers, and learn about how to protect them,” County Executive Pittman said. “This is our first year hosting these festivals, and I hope that they will continue to grow. I encourage everyone to join us for our next two River Days.” 

Activities on the docket include boat rides with Watermark Cruises, kayak and paddleboard rentals, live music, games, crafts, food trucks, enviro orgs, and more resources. For more information on River Days Festivals and to register for free admission visit

2023 Patapsco Trail Fest Schedule is Live

The full sked for the 2023 Patapsco Trail Fest has been released! PTF23 is a weekendlong event, taking place September 15–17, that highlights the many outdoor opportunities and activities for all ages, abilities, and user groups available throughout Patapsco Valley State Park. The low-key event celebrates the remarkable trail system and its diverse users. The event includes two nights of camping, hikes, mountain bike rides, an enduro, trail running, paddling, orienteering, gear donation, and a disc golf tournament. PTF23 is about collaboration between PVSP’s partners and the trail community. “We are keeping it simple and looking forward to a grassroots, non-competitive, mellow event,” state the organizers. Pre-registration is required. All the details, including the daily activity schedule is at

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