It’s incredible the variety of fish that can be caught around the Chesapeake Bay. Freshwater creeks, brackish rivers and the Bay proper all support different quarry — and different techniques to suit all types of anglers.
This sport isn’t just versatile, it’s also valuable. Fishing helps to conserve our aquatic resources. Excise taxes on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels, and import duties fund the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program.
This program, coupled with fishing license sales, provides most of the funding for state fisheries programs, including boating access and aquatic education.
The economy also benefits from fishing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsors a National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation every five years. The most-recent survey took place in 2016. It indicated that 35.8 million U.S. residents, 16 years or older, enjoy fishing. Overall, anglers spent $21.7 billion for fishing trips, $21.1 billion on equipment and $3.3 billion for licenses, stamps, tags, membership dues and contributions, and magazines
Whether trolling for rockfish or fly-fishing for brook trout, anglers will probably tell you that catching fish that they can eat isn’t the only reason they fish. Fishing restores the connection between land and water. When people actively engage in outdoor recreation, they are more aware of their own personal activities and more likely to be stewards of land and water. Anglers are more likely to care about and care for their local waterways and the fish and wildlife they support.
Fishing also enhances the quality of life. As children, many of us were introduced to the outdoors by other family members. People can reconnect with each other on the water as they rediscover the joys of fishing together. Lessons about life and the importance of nature are often learned and passed between generations.
There are responsibilities that go along with fishing. Ethics cannot be dictated. They develop with time, experience and interaction with others. An ethical angler understands and obeys fishing and boating regulations; cares about stream, river, bay and ocean habitats; only keeps fish he or she will eat and properly releases the rest; leaves no trash and picks up trash left by others; uses fish cleaning stations; disposes of fish waste properly, and never releases bait — dead or alive — into the water.
We are all responsible for protecting our aquatic resources. Here are a few things anglers can do to help keep U.S. waters clean: reduce the potential for litter by removing unnecessary packages and wrappings and using reusable containers; always bring back what you take out, including fishing line, hooks and other gear; empty all trash on shore in garbage cans or take it home; and pick up any trash you may come across.
Anglers can unknowingly transport aquatic plants and animals from one waterway to another where they don’t belong. In new surroundings, the out-of-place organisms are free from predators, parasites and competitors that keep them under control. They may compete with native plants, animals and fish for food. They may also prey directly on native plants or animals and spread disease.
The best way to limit introduced aquatic plants or animals from becoming a problem is to prevent their movement from one place to another. Anglers can help. Never release unwanted animals or plants into a waterway. Always dispose of unused bait — live or dead — in trash bins on land.
Learn more about the bait you are using. If possible, use live bait that is native to the area where you are fishing. Know your state’s laws concerning the use of live bait. If you trailer your boat, remove any aquatic plant or other organism that might be on your boat bottom, propeller or anchor. Many popular fly-fishing spots offer areas where boots and waders can be cleaned to prevent transporting aquatic plants or animals.
June is a great month to learn about and enjoy the Chesapeake and the many streams and rivers that flow through the watershed. Fishing provides an excellent opportunity to connect to the Bay and its diverse aquatic community. For information, including types of fishing, access areas, special events, different kinds of fish and more, contact your state’s natural resource agency or visit the National Fishing and Boating Week website at takemefishing.org.