Finally, a fishing platform worthy of Sandy Point State Park

Severn fisherman, state parks superintendent driving forces behind new pier

February 19, 2011|By Candus Thomson, The Baltimore Sun

It's just equal piles of boulders and sand right now, pieces of a puzzle. But by the time the water warms and the anglers return to Sandy Point State Park, the pieces will be in their proper places as part of a $548,000 fishing platform jutting into the Chesapeake Bay.

The idea belonged to Severn angler Skip Zinck. The spark was supplied by Maryland Parks Superintendent Nita Settina. The financial juice came from the Waterway Improvement Fund, which consists of the five percent tax collected when a boat is titled in the state.

"It's just great," says Zinck, an unsung hero who is always looking for ways to remove impediments to fishing. He's the man with the clipboard every year, helping arrange the annual Wish-A-Fish outing on the bay for disabled and seriously ill children and their families.

Shoreline anglers have always faced access problems in Maryland. Public piers are few and far between and a lot of the water's edge is private property.

Located at the south end of the park beach and with a Bay Bridge as a backdrop, the Sandy Point jetty has always been a place for senior citizens wetting a line and adults mentoring kids. Fish a little bit, have a waterfront picnic lunch and head home happy.

But like a beauty queen with a poppy seed stuck between her front teeth, the jetty's beautiful location couldn't hide its manmade deficiencies.

Construction crews on the second Bay Bridge span tore the stone wall up and didn't put it back the way they found it. The top was a lumpy mess with gaping spots between the boulders and it sat too low in the water to be a fitting platform.

More than just a fishing structure, the jetty also provided protection from the elements for boaters using the Sandy Point boat ramps, the largest public launch in the state.

At Zinck's suggestion, Settina walked it, hated what she saw and envisioned what it could be: an 8-foot-wide flat surface that stands 3-feet higher than the old jetty.

The project was approved last year, big earth-moving machines moved into position in late fall after the boating season ended, and the entire thing is expected to be done by mid-April.

For the State of Maryland, that's an overnight accomplishment. Bravo.

Patrolling the didymo

Theaux LeGardeur runs a fly fishing shop in Monkton and teaches folks how to chase wily trout.

That would be enough for most men.

But the Louisiana native recently became the Riverkeeper for the Gunpowder and was honored Friday by the Department of Natural Resources for his campaign to keep the invasive algae known as didymo from spreading in the river. He was presented with a matted print of a native brook trout.

"I wish the fishing industry had more guys like Theaux. It would be a better world," said Jonathan McKnight, one of DNR's invasive species gurus.

McKnight's fellow DNR guru, Ron Klauda, called LeGardeur "truly inspiring."

In 2008, one of LeGardeur's employees at Backwater Angler, Jason Dupont, found the algae in the Gunpowder and brought it to the shop. A state biologist confirmed the finding.

Didymo, or rock snot, causes irreparable harm to trout streams. It blooms and forms colonies of brown-colored mats that smother habitat and the little insects that trout target for dinner.

Next month, Maryland is set to ban felt-soled waders, believed to be the mode of transportation for algae spores to hitchhike from one stream to another. Vermont also is putting a ban in place this year.

Another prevention tool is giving waders a five-minute scrub in saline solution after leaving a stream. DNR has built a bunch of wader-washer stations and placed them at well-known access points along the Gunpowder and other streams, such as the Savage River and Big Hunting Creek.

But someone has to mix a new batch of solution each week and deliver it to the stations. On the Gunpowder, LeGardeur is that someone.

He visits a dozen sites each week, dumping out the old muddy water and splashing some fresh in the tub.

"It's simple. It's rock salt. It's water. It's in a pan. Folks step in it and scrub," he said. "It's a way to hold the line and slow the spread of didymo until we can figure out how to fight it."

Searching for a poaching message

This latest striped bass poaching thing is making everyone a little loopy.

DNR's usually tack-sharp message munchkins sat on the sidelines way too long before explaining why tracking devices and brackets to hold devices were found on the boats of a seven watermen.

Yes, it's part of an investigation. No, you don't want to tip your hand. But come on, the story made the papers.

As the tale gained traction and the Dorchester County legislative delegation blustered on about constitutional rights, you could hear crickets at DNR headquarters.

Instead of waiting several weeks, DNR should have said from the get-go: "We went to circuit court, presented our evidence and a judge gave us a court order."

But that pales in comparison with the statement made Thursday night by a Rock Hall waterman trying to discredit Natural Resources Police officers' reports on the number and quality of poached striped bass brought to dock for sale.

"I bought them," he told the Tidal Fish Advisory Commission. "These fish weren't fresh. I could smell them. … These fish were old, I can tell you that."

Hardly the image Rock Hall wants to cultivate with the fish-buying public: "Would you like flies with your fillet?"

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