Fish kills hit 4 more Md. streams

On The Outdoors

July 08, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Maryland's two-year drought continues to create inhospitable conditions for fish in the Baltimore area, and state officials said yesterday kills of baitfish and yellow perch have spread to four more tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay this week.

Charles Poukish, environmental specialist for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said fish kills in the Middle River, as well as in Frog Mortar, Galloway and Dundee creeks, were first reported Tuesday.

While the kills so far have been limited to large numbers of silversides, mummichogs, young menhaden and yellow perch, pickerel, catfish and sunfish also have been affected.

Poukish said yesterday that he could not rule out possible impacts on the populations of largemouth bass in Middle River, Frog Mortar, Galloway and Dundee creeks, all popular waters for bass fishermen.

"It's too early to tell, really," said Poukish. "It's feasible. It could happen."

Anglers who encounter dead or dying fish are encouraged to call the Maryland Fish Health hot line at 888-584-3110.

The kills, which began last week in shallow creeks and coves of the Magothy and Patapsco rivers, are attributed primarily to low levels of dissolved oxygen and high water temperatures. Another factor is the high salt content in creeks and coves that normally are nearly fresh.

Poukish and Harley Speir of the Department of Natural Resources said minimal freshwater flows from streams, creeks and rivers into the Chesapeake Bay have allowed saltwater to move into their headwaters.

"The water temperature in the Patapsco is 32 degrees centigrade or better, which is approaching 90 degrees [Fahrenheit]," said Poukish, who has several MDE teams in the field assessing water conditions and fish kills. "But there also is the salinity wedge, which has been wreaking havoc."

In most years, Speir said, the bay is deeply stratified, with freshwater moving southward over a deeper layer of saltwater moving northward, and tides, winds and waves create zones of mixing and aeration.

"This year, with the reduced rainfall," said Speir, chief of DNR's biological monitoring and analysis program, "there is more saltwater."

In the normal course of events, Poukish said, fish encountering intolerable conditions would migrate to deeper waters, where temperatures are cooler.

"But these cool or temperate-level fish can't move down because of the salt wedge," he said.

Yellow perch, for example, can tolerate about 12 parts of salt per 1,000 parts of water, he said, and the Patapsco is running 15 or more parts per thousand in many places.

Robert Magnien, chief of resource assessment for DNR, said last week algal blooms have proliferated in the upper ends of creeks and coves, which often receive high nutrient runoff. The areas affected all are highly urbanized, with limited shoreline buffer areas of grasslands or trees that would filter nutrients from normal runoff.

Tidal flushing also is limited in many of the effected areas, The result is algal blooms, which deplete dissolved oxygen needed by other life forms.

The spread of algae also impacts the natural creation of dissolved oxygen by limiting penetration of sunlight into the water.

State officials believe a couple of weeks of cool, wet weather would restore the natural balance.

"It has been suggested that rainfall would do that, and to some degree it might help by breaking up the penetration of the saltwater wedge," said Speir. "But in the long term we need to continue to work on reducing nutrient levels in the bay."

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake: Rockfish anglers have had mixed success, but trolling is a good bet from Belvedere Shoal to Sandy Point Light, and chummers on the southeast side of Belvedere Shoal and east of Sandy Point Light adjacent to the old East Channel have done well. White perch action improving over oyster humps and bars off the Magothy and at Hodges Bar. Some croaker mixed with perch and occasional bluefish hitting for chummers and trollers.

Middle Chesapeake: Bottom fishing has been very good, with croaker, flounder, sea trout, spot and white perch all good possibilities. White perch are over hard bottom areas from Thomas Point Light to Hacketts, as well as at the Choptank River piers, where spot and croaker also have been biting. Croaker also are a good bet in the Lower Choptank, particularly at Todd's, Cook's and Benoni points and Castle Haven. Breezy Point, channel edges in Eastern Bay and Holland Point, Franklin Manor, Poplar Island and Hacketts also good choices. Flounder action has been good from Buoy 84 to False Channel. Sea trout have moved onto the Sharps Island Flats and range south to James Island. Chummers have been doing well for rockfish at The Hill, Buoy 1 off West River and at the Gas Docks, where live-lining spot also will do well. Trollers working from Buoy 82 to the Gooses and at the Diamonds also report good rockfish catches.

Lower Chesapeake: Rockfish to 28 inches are being caught regularly by chummers working the eastern edges from Buoy 72 A to the Target Ship. Croaker, bluefish and sea trout are mixed in. Spanish mackerel and bluefish also are scattered through the region. Tangier Sound is producing big croaker, spot and sea trout. Flounder catches have been fairly good at the mouth of the Potomac, in Cornfield Harbor and along the eatern edge from Buoy 72 to 76.

Ocean City: Croaker have moved into the back bays in large numbers. Sea trout action steady at the Route 50 bridge and the inlet piers. Spike sea trout, croaker, spot, small blues and skates in the surf. Offshore, increasing numbers of yellowfin and bigeye tuna have been turning up beyond the 100-fathom line, with most of the action near Poor Man's Canyon. Bluefin tuna at the Parking Lot, Jackspot and Hot Dog. Big bluefish at the Jackspot. Headboats report fair action for sea bass and tautog.

Pub Date: 7/08/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.