As if on cue, almost at the same time as the calendrical transition from summer to autumn, a stormy cold front swept through our area – with strong north-west winds that drove the temperatures into the basement.
The change heralded in the early days of autumn will shake up the fishing scene and wildlife in general will respond to shorter days and colder nights.
Bluefish and Spanish mackerel will no doubt feed voraciously to pack fuel for the migration down the bay. Cousins White Barch and Rockfish are also placed on the feed bag, as are other game fish such as Red Drum and Speckled Trout.
The fattest and tastiest crabs of the year are waiting to be caught in the coming weeks. I would imagine that the change in weather will also stimulate the pigeon trade from field to field and inspire teal to fly more actively in the swamps.
The larger waterfowl migrations are not too far away. National Estuaries Week coincided with the arrival of fall, as it has for the past 34 years during the third week of September. It’s a way to highlight the importance of one of Earth’s most important resources, and few estuaries on earth are as special as our Chesapeake.
Even in its current weakened state (compared to its pristine state), today’s bay still holds unique natural gems waiting to be discovered. And above all preserved.
But let me remind you what an estuary is: An area where fresh water meets the ocean. The Chesapeake Bay in particular combines the salty Atlantic Ocean with fresh water from numerous rivers and streams. The mighty Susquehanna system supplies most of the fresh water, followed by the Potomac and then the James. The result is brackish water, and to me there is no sweeter water anywhere.
People a lot smarter than me (not that hard to do) have analyzed data that puts the annual economic value of the Chesapeake Bay at over $100 billion. Although production varies from year to year, around half a billion pounds of seafood are harvested from the Chesapeake each year, not only supporting people’s livelihoods but also providing a unique way of life. Sport fishing, boating, hunting and other pastimes combined are worth billions of dollars.
I can’t begin to calculate what the Chesapeake Bay has meant and still means to my soul. I can’t put a price tag on this.
Occasionally, Congress proves it can transcend the screeching of partisan politics and initiate things that can actually make us a stronger community.
That appears to have happened last week, after Virginia Congressman A. Donald McEachin and Florida Congresswoman Maria E. Salazar introduced a bill called the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act, which when it was passed, required a Grant program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish youth fisheries programs for urban and underserved communities.
Of course, a good concept is far from fully funded and established, but supporters say it would go a long way in breaking down the financial and structural barriers that often prevent young people from becoming the next generation of anglers and conservationists.
In a statement, Congressman McEachin said, “No child should be unable to participate in outdoor recreational activities solely because of their socioeconomic status or zip code. The non-partisan Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act will provide new opportunities for our youth, particularly those in historically underserved communities, to get outside, develop a love and appreciation for fishing, and learn more about marine science and conservation.”
Congressman Salazar noted, “I’m excited to provide younger generations of Americans across the country, especially minority Americans, with an opportunity to learn firsthand about our seas, oceans and lakes and to give them the tools to to enjoy them.”
Many major sport fishing and conservation groups have pledged support for the effort, including the American Sportfishing Association, BoatU.S., the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Other supporters, perhaps not as well known in the outdoor space but no doubt just as important, include Ebony Anglers, Hunters of Color and Youth Environmental Alliance.
As a guide and outdoor educator, I’ve seen firsthand how time spent in the bay and its rivers — catching your first fish, catching a crab, paddling through a wetland — can positively impact a young person. Research shows that time spent outdoors improves many facets of our health and improves our view of the world.
Who doesn’t need this anymore?
Daily Top Stories
Get the day’s top news, sports, opinion, features and local events.
Until September 30th: Hunting Season for Teal only. Shooting times: half an hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily baggage limit is six Teal (Bluewings or Greenwings); The possession limit in Turquoise is 3 times the daily bag limit.
Until October 15th: pigeon season, first division. Fifteen birds a day.
September 26: Public hearings in Maryland and Potomac River on the Menhaden Fisheries Management Plan. 18:00-20:00 Hybrid Meeting, in person at the DNR Tawes Building, C-1 Conference Room, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis.
Sept. 30: Deadline for public comment on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Menhaden Draft Addendum I. Email to [email protected], with Atlantic Menhaden in the subject line.
October 6-9: US Power Boat Show. City Dock, Annapolis, MD. Check out the “Fishing Spot” ad with vendors. See the debut of Harvester, a new media platform for fishing, hunting and shooting sports. Visit annapolisboatshows.com for details.
Oct 9-17: Rod and Reef Slam Fishing Tournament. Anglers who catch a wide variety of species will win gift certificates and prizes worth up to $300. The family-friendly tournament includes powerboat, kayak and youth divisions. Admission is $25. Register before October 1st and receive a free shirt. Sponsored by CBF, Chesapeake Oyster Alliance and Coastal Conservation Association Maryland.
Send calendar events, messages and photos to [email protected]