Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chesapeake Bay Fishing

Photograph: Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay.

I spent a day out on a commercial fishing boat in the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland, near the town of Cambridge with local waterman Boo and his crew. This method of fishing uses a pound net. The huge bulk of the catch (2.5 tons at the end of the day) was menhaden, a small, oily fish used as a bait fish up and down the east coast of the US. The catch also included striped bass (also known as rock fish), flounder, spadefish, and a bewildering variety of sea creatures.

Photograph: Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay.

It's hard, difficult, and dangerous work. The day starts before five and doesn't end until three or four in the afternoon. It's constant cycle of netting the fish out of the trap, sorting them, getting them into the market, and then cleaning the boat and gear - we visited four traps in one day.

Photograph: Waterman fishing on the Chesapeake Bay.

This lifestyle is gradually dying out on the Chesapeake. There's strong environmental pressure to restore the bay to its earlier state, leading to inevitable confrontations between the watermen and conservationists. Like much of modern American society, there's a large group of moderates on this issue, but extremists on both sides force their own agenda that makes compromise virtually impossible. As a result, Boo is finding it difficult to make fishing in the bay viable and he's ready to retire. His son, who was one of the crew members, will be going to New York to study the culinary arts next year. This marks the end of a family tradition of fishing on the bay that's lasted for over a century.

Photograph: Chesapeake Bay Turtle.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Commercial Fisherman of the Chesapeke Bay. I crabpot and i catch turtles. I know that this lifestyle is dying because of the hard regulations that the DNR is putting against us. I feel that the DNR and others are trying to put us out of business. People like the sport fishermen are the ones who would like to see us not work.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a recreational fisherman, I grew up as the second of three sons to a commercial fisherman. Most of the recreational fishermen are not the problem and are as upset by the regulations and (unwarented) restrictions as anyone.
Notice for instance that, the blame for the ills of the bay go upon the watermen, farmers and local geese, never mentioned are the annual "accidental" discharges of sewage, extensive use of grass and broad leaf killers and trash and pollutants from industry. The problem is that the watermen, rec. fishermen and geese don't have the lobyist that the others do.

11:38 AM  
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