Chesapeake Outdoors By C.D. Dollar
Vol. 9, No. 21
May 24-30, 2001
Current Issue
Seniors in Spring
Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Burton on the Bay
Chesapeake Outdoors
Bay Life
Not Just for Kids
Eight Days a Week
What's Playing Where
Music Notes
Sky Watch
Bay Classifieds
Behind Bay Weekly
Advertising Info
Distribution spots
Contact us
Worms Do the Annual May Dance

With frenzied gyrations akin to the entranced crowds at Grateful Dead shows in Jerry's heyday, thousands of maniacal clamworms swarmed the waters of the dock, attracted by the light. Responding to their primordial urge to spawn, they had left their benthic environment to further their species into the next generation. It was simultaneously a creepy and wondrous sight.

The clamworms are perhaps the most abundant and widespread of all the Bay's polyceate worms, living in the fresh waters north of Annapolis all the way to the mouth of the Chesapeake. These mud dwellers are important forage for bottom-feeding finfishes and other creatures who scour the silt for food. Their bodies are reddish bronze and they have four eyes that protrude from their heads like space sensors.

As clamworms move through the mud, their bodies exude a mucous coating that forms a protective cover, which picks up sand granules to create a strong and flexible tube. I picked up one of the worms and was surprised to see it shoot out a large bag-like thing called a proboscis, which has two yellowish hooks on the end. I guessed that these projections were somehow related to their feeding habits, which I confirmed after reading the section on worms in Jane and Robert Lippson's Life in the Chesapeake Bay.

Clamworms are aggressive feeders, using the appendage to snag other worms, pieces of dead fish or even algae. When this highly specialized tool is retracted, the food is taken into its mouth. These worms, and their annual spring fling, are yet another subtle but forceful reminder of the incredible wealth of natural capital that lives in our Bay.

Fish Are Biting

There are still some anglers catching fish trolling, but hook-ups are few and far between and the fish are generally below the minimum 28 inches. Paul Willey, Steve Libbey and I learned that firsthand when trolling bug-eye bucktails and Stretch Mann +25 near the Gooses last week. In a little less than two hours, we caught two rockfish (both about 25 inches long) on a Stretch Mann +25 on the wayback line.

More anglers will turn to chumming as soon as the limit drops to 18 inches next month, but some sketchy action is reported at Thomas Point, Breezy Point, and the Gas Docks - though most fish were undersized.

Plenty of good fish can be had in the middle of the Bay around Smith Island, the targets and Tangier Island. 'Oyster Stew' Harris hooked a fat (for this time of year) sea trout on a bucktail dressed with a twister tail. Many anglers are reporting good numbers of rockfish (most still too small) and some blues. Speckled trout are in the shallows at low light. Big drum are also being landed in the region on peeler and soft crab.

Near the Maryland line, the Point Lookout area north to Hooper's Island has been good for croakers at night, and the Honga River and Cornfield Harbor are decent bets. A few nice trout have been mixed in with the croakers. Some jumbo spot have been caught. Bloodworms and squid are your best bets.

According to DNR reports, largemouth and smallmouth bass are hitting minnows, plastics and small crankbaits in the Susquehanna, Sassafras, Bohemia, and Elk rivers. White perch are taking bloodworms in many locations including the Severn, South and Magothy rivers.

Down the ocean, hun, DNR reports that evening fishing is good for trout and stripers, and the trout action is good at the Oceanic Pier. Offshore, the bluefish are at the Jackspot.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly