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Sports

Chris Dollar on the outdoors: Landing a keeper flounder in the Chesapeake is a rare event | COMMENTARY

While Pacific populations of flatfish, such as flounder, sole, and halibut, are generally stable and healthy, their Atlantic cousins suffer from overfishing -- though there are current initiatives to rebuild the stocks.

Even as summer wanes, there’s still time to target fish not necessarily on my list of favorites.

Summer flounder are a perfect example. At this stage of life, I’m quite content as a fishing generalist, and as such a flounder fishing expert I am not. So I try to keep things simple, particularly true when chasing flounder, which at best I do only once or twice a year.

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These days, landing a keeper flounder in our part of the Chesapeake is a rare event, indeed. A logical question is: Where’d they go? I asked state biologist. He didn’t know. I asked an expert angler/writer. Same answer. Change of migratory pattern? Availability of bait? Your guess is as good as mine.

Nonetheless, I’d recommend these traditional bay spots: The hard channel edges in Pocomoke and Tangier sounds; Cornfield Harbor near Point Lookout and the Chinese Muds-Hog Island area at the Patuxent River mouth.

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Also give it a shot at the Boys Camp and the five-legged buoy leading into the Potomac. For giggles and grins, you may want to drift among the crab pots just inside Kent Point or work the depth contours from Tilghman Point to Wades Point in Eastern Bay.

Seaside spots worth fishing include in front of Castaways campground, natural bottom between “A” and “B” Buoys, and the East Channel into the Thorofare. You can also work wrecks and reefs, such as the African Queen — an easy run, about 13 miles southwest of the Ocean City Inlet.

In Virginia’s coastal and bay waters are myriad reefs, wrecks and bridges that hold flounder. Proven spots include the third and fourth island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, the Cell, Back River Reef, and the Cape Henry Wreck.

Flounder are ambush hunters yet have a small mouth. So when they take in the lure or bait, it isn’t a hard “strike.” Give the flatfish time to swallow the whole enchilada. Once they do, reel in and then set the hook. Hookup rates improve for those who can adhere to this discipline. Patience is key, which is easier said than done for this angler.

The venerable minnow/squid combo or similar live or dead baits fished on pre-made bucktail hair on Kahle hooks are my go-tos. I also drift artificial lures like Gulp! and Z-Man tipped with scent, as well as Specialized Baits’ Lil’ Jimy bucktails and a teaser. I like my seven-foot St. Croix Mojo Inshore rod matched with a Shimano baitcaster reel spooled it with 30-pound braid, to which I add a fluorocarbon leader using a double uni knot.

You needn’t be an expert to catch a flounder or two. You just need to get on the water and try.

Salmon farm proposed

The Chesapeake is famous for its blue crabs, rockfish, oysters, and...salmon.

What, wait?

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That’s apparently part of the plan if a permit is approved for the Norwegian company AquaCon to build a 25-acre indoor salmon farm near Federalsburg, a small Eastern Shore town that rests on the banks of the Marshyhope Creek. This idyllic tributary of the Nanticoke River has abundant finfish and diverse habitats, making it a popular place to fish and paddle.

It’s worth noting that this salmon facility plan has been around for many years. In late spring, I got another whiff that the proposal might be getting fresh legs, but I had no idea of the timeline until a member of the state’s Tidal-Coastal Recreational Fisheries Committee, a subgroup of the Department of Natural Resources’ Sport Fish Advisory Commission, let us know. (I’m also a member of that committee).

Why it wasn’t placed on our radar by DNR is a question for another time.

As a Chesapeake native whose livelihood depends on the bay’s natural resources, I consider this is a terrible idea. In fact, even as one who embraces entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, it is beyond terrible, especially given that the health and water quality of many Maryland tributaries are considered degraded.

If the project gets the green light this facility will be allowed to pump more than two million gallons of wastewater a day into the Marshyhope Creek. Unquestionably, it will imperil native fish populations as well as undermine ongoing efforts to restore sturgeon, a threatened species. We need to squash this, and see it for what it is: yet another short-sighted idea that threatens one of the Chesapeake’s wild places.

That’s the gist of the comment I sent into the state’s Department of the Environment, which is overseeing the project. I also urged Secretary Horacio Tablada to please do his job: Deny this permit.

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Protect the Marshyhope Creek. Protect the Nanticoke. Embrace your mission to protect and restore the environment for the health and well-being of all Marylanders.

A public meeting was held on August 10, and originally public comment deadline was August 17. That has bumped back to October, a smart decision I speculate was the result of public blowback that this dubious idea was being quietly fast-tracked.

If you agree that a huge salmon aquaculture facility on the Marshyhope is, as one friend on the committee put it, “a mind-blowingly horrific idea,” let MDE know. Email paul.hlavinka@maryland.gov.

Calendar

Aug. 20: 16th Annual Youth Fishing Derby, hosted by Kent Island Fishermen. Age groups: 3-5, 6-10 & 11-16. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Fishing from 9 to 11 a.m.

Sept. 7: Free State Fly Fishers meeting. Capt. Tom Hughes on fly fishing Chesapeake. Davidsonville Family Recreation Center (7-9 p.m.), 3789 Queen Anne Bridge Road, Davidsonville. Contact Ryan Harvey at rybeer@gmail.com.

Sept. 13: CCA Maryland's Central Region Chapter’s “Celebration of Conservation.” 1623 Brewing Company, Eldersburg, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Tickets at centralregion22.givesmart.com.

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Sept. 17: Free State Fly Fishers monthly tying session with Tim Ruthemeyer from 10 a.m.-Noon. Davidsonville Family Recreation Center, 3789 Queen Anne Bridge Road, Davidsonville. Contact Ryan Harvey at rybeer@gmail.com.

Sept. 17: Pasadena Sportfishing Group’s “Kids Fishing Derby.” 7:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at Fort Smallwood Park.

Send calendar listings, news and photos to cdollarchesapeake@gmail.com.


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