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Back on the Water Again

With the fun of fishing comes responsibility

Don’t throw any length of line overboard, ever. Birds are attracted to the waste and use it to line their nests, often fatally entangling them.

Since we spend so much time on the Chesapeake, boating anglers have a particularly important responsibility in maintaining habits that promote a cleaner, healthier Bay. The foremost of those is avoiding polluting behavior in the first place. The single most effective action any angler can take is avoiding and discouraging the use of older, two-cycle outboard motors.


    The dogwood trees have blossomed, and the hickory shad run is red-hot. The Conowingo Dam, Deer Creek, along the Choptank and spots on the Tuckahoe and the Elk have had reports of 50-fish days. These hard-fighting, high-jumping ocean-run speedsters (often called the poor man’s tarpon) are protected from harvest, but catch-and-release is permitted. For an early season thrill, put a couple of shad darts on a light spin rod, cast it out and hang on.
    The yellow perch spawn is mostly done, while the white perch run is continuing to sputter, with a dearth of larger fish. The bulk of the perch may yet arrive, as the length of daylight affects their spawning run as much or more than water temperatures.
    Catfishing is already coming on this spring at the Chester and in a number of rivers along the Bay. Blue cats (slate-blue on top) are becoming ever more numerous, as are channel cats (yellow-hued sides with small spots) and flatheads (flat head, mottled brown body). One thing they all have in common (other than their ugly mugs and determined fight) is that all are delicious. If you bag a good one (minimum size 10 inches), don’t hesitate to add it to your menu.
    Trophy rockfish season opens Saturday, April 21.

In Season

Spring Turkey Junior Hunt: April 14. Half-hour before sunrise to sunset. This one-day hunt allows licensed hunters aged 16 or younger to hunt wild turkeys when accompanied by an unarmed, licensed adult of at least 21 years of age.

Regular Turkey Season: April 18-May 9, 1⁄2-hour before sunrise to noon; May 10-23: 1⁄2-hour before sunrise to sunset

    If you have any doubt that the older outboards are environmentally hazardous, you need only to observe the sheen of oil spreading out behind them, even when at idle. That’s because these obsolete engines were designed to allow as much as 25 percent of the fuel-oil mixture to pass through the combustion process unburned to provide the motor’s lubrication. That unburned gas and oil is vented directly into the water. Look at the waterline of any hull during our boat-busy mid-summer months, and you’ll see the collective results of the continued use of this harmful technology: a smudged line of oil-based filth marking the hull’s passage through our petroleum-fouled surface waters.
    Over the last several years, outboard engines have evolved to eliminate the majority of these harmful emissions. The latest four-stroke engines in particular are virtually pollution-free and much more fuel efficient, not to mention considerably quieter.
    If you’ve been using one or more of these old, smoking irons, upgrade as soon as possible. If you want to do the Bay a real favor, sell it for scrap and get it off the water permanently. You can also donate it to a charitable organization for a generous tax write-off. Just stipulate that the gifted motor is to be sold for scrap and not for reuse.
    Anglers can do many more helpful things to maintain a cleaner more pleasant environment. Having a secure trash receptacle on board, no matter what size boat you’re running, is one certain way to reduce the amount of floating debris plaguing our waters.
    Most boaters today would never think of throwing their trash overboard, but it’s amazing how many think nothing of leaving plastic bags from ice, foodstuffs and fish bait lying around loose in the craft. When they power up, these objects blow about and eventually end up in the water.
    Since everyone’s eyes are usually fixed forward on their return journey, they are rarely aware of the wake of debris behind them. Securing your waste immediately in a closed, weighted sack or box will help keep the Chesapeake clean.
    Many states have outlawed the presence of glass containers on the water, but Maryland is not one of them. One evidence of this is the endless harvest of glass shards that wash up on beaches and shorelines.
    Most of this hazardous-to-feet jetsam is brown or green, suggesting beer bottles as the main source, although the increasing popularity of Corona is lately adding a significant amount of clear glass to the mix. Cans are the obvious solution to this problem. Even if it ends up overboard, an aluminum can’s life in salt water is probably half a decade, while with glass it’s an easy century — and plastic bottles maybe forever.
    Discarded fishing line is also an ongoing problem that can be avoided with prompt and secure disposal. Otherwise it’s going to wash up on beaches and shorelines. Birds and some animals are attracted to the waste and use it to line their nests. The mess often fatally entangles them and their offspring.
    Large lengths of these lines, particularly braid, can also befoul the lower units of boat motors, damaging seals and bearings in the process. Don’t throw any length of line overboard, ever. Wrap it up and stick the line waste in a pocket if there is no secure disposal on board. Put it in the trash when you get home.
    Keep your net handy when cruising, right from the launch. If you spot floating bottles, bags or plastic debris, do everyone a favor and scoop it up. Maybe the Bay will reward you by an extra-great day of fishing.
    Once you’re home, particularly if you trailer your boat, the job of keeping a clean Bay is not over. When you do a wash-down and engine flush, use biodegradable soaps and solvents. Maryland does not treat water runoff, particularly near the Bay, in most of its storm sewer systems. Eventually it ends up right back in the Chesapeake.