Saltwater Boating and Fishing
I began fishing the Chesapeake Bay when I was a kid. My father would take me out in a rowboat from Chesapeake Beach and we'd catch Spot. Over the years we fished from headboats, the shore, or a relative's small boat but the trips were infrequent. When I became an adult I continued to fish saltwater but in the early 60's I fell in with a friend whose passion was freshwater fishing. I pursued that until he made the mistake of inviting me along on a saltwater trip to Cape Charles, Virginia in the mid 70's. I was hooked. I had never fished an area that held such an abundance of large fish not to mention the variety... Black Drum, Red Drum, Cobia, Rockfish, Flounder, Spot and Croaker, Sharks...huge ones, Spadefish, Bluefish, and so on. To make matters better, the Eastern Shore is only ten miles wide in that area and on one side is the Bay and the other is the Atlantic Ocean with eight miles of salt marsh, tidal creeks and open bays. Nirvana! Free public launch ramps and a campground stuck in the middle. How much better could it get?
I 1977 I couldn't stand it any longer and bought a used boat, formed a "crew" of my buddies and off we went every available weekend. We usually went down on Friday evening and returned on Sunday night. This boat was a Winner brand and had a stepped hull which made forpounding in waves and since the steering was pretty well forward also made for a wet ride. In the fall of 1985 my wife (who doesn't fish and can't take the sun) and I hit the boat show in Baltimore and I saw a boat that I fell in love with. It was the most completely outfitted boat I had ever seen...an Aquasport 200CCP. The CCP stood for "Center Console Professional". I had to have one and after selling my old boat purchased one from North Bay Marine in Delaware. It's was outfitted with a Lowrance LMS-320 GPS/Fishfinder, VHF radio, and repowered with a new Mariner 150HP Optimax outboard replacing the 150HP Mercury it came with. I take it offshore every July for tuna and dolphin and fish the Lower Bay when I can get away. The campground is still there but now my son has married a girl from Nasswadox, VA which is about fifteen miles up the road from Cape Charles so I stay with his in-laws, some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. If you are ever in the area of Cape Charles and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel or Oyster, Virginia give me a shout on the VHF. The boat's name is "Bullwinkle". Hey what can I say...I'm a big fan. In November 2012 I finally sold her and purchased a “new” boat…a 2003 Seaswirl Center Console, 21’6” long. What surprised me most about this boat it’s 1.5’ longer than the Aquasport but 1200 pounds heavier. It’s built like a tank. Rides great in the sometimes nasty chop in Delaware Bay…a very dry boat. Got a 200hp Yamaha OB on it and a Venture dual axle trailer.
Bullwinkle when new. Click on the pictures
Today the Chesapeake Bay is in trouble. Rampant housing growth along the shoreline has contributed to erosion, and silting of creeks and the bay itself. Fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns spill directly into the Bay causing algae blooms and the destruction of marine grasses necessary for the young fish and crabs protection from predators. Clean water legislation passed in the early 70's is a joke. Large corporations on the Bay in Baltimore scoffed at the laws since it was cheaper to pay the fine than to comply with it. Every state in the watershed makes noises about cleaning the Bay up but little gets done. People in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania don't see the Chesapeake as their problem but it is...we get their runoff. Even the District of Columbia, home to the very Congress that passed these laws, dumps raw untreated sewage from Blue Plains Treatment plant right into the Potomac River.
Commercial over-fishing has been another big problem. In the 60's and 70's the crabbers scraped crabs off the bottom destroying vast swaths on marine growth. Now that practice is banned but the number of crab pots resembles a minefield. As the number of traps has increased the number of crabs has decreased to the point that stock is in decline. Oysters are suffering from several diseases and on the verge of being wiped in the Bay. Each spring there was a ritual of big Bluefish invading the Bay up to the Bay Bridge in Annapolis. It was the kickoff of the fishing season. No more. The Blues followed the menhaden, the commercial companies decided that menhaden made good fertilizer so now fleets of ever more efficient operation have decimated out the menhaden. Result? No more Bluefish invasion. The Rockfish declined so badly that there was a fifteen-year moratorium on catching them.
So what can you do? Get involved! I'm not advocating the outright ban on commercial fishing. I'm saying there has to be limits placed on what these people do and how they do it. The laws passed by Congress and state legislatures to insure the Bay's health have to be enforced. Period. Support organizations that will fight for clean water and sensible boating and fishing regulations. Two are below.
Last updated Tuesday, November 11, 2008