By Gary Greenwood
Antipoison Creek is home to three pound-net fishermen. If you are up early, you can see them heading out to their nets in their iconic Chesapeake workboats. A couple of weeks ago my neighbor, Joe, took me out with him for their morning fishing.
Pound nets are a type of fish weir. A pound net is a collection of nets, set in a fixed location. The nets are set on pine poles driven into soft river bottom. They are designed to herd the fish into a single square net with a small exit hole. I couldn’t find a description of pound nets on Wikipedia, so they may be unique to the Chesapeake. Maryland and Virginia both have websites (see below) with the nets’ locations marked on a map.
We left the dock a couple of minutes after 5 AM. Joe’s nets were set on poles in the Rappahannock River, so we headed east, around Windmill Point, and a short distance up the Rappahannock. By 6 AM we were at the first net, and Joe and his two mates were pulling up the net using the small skiff we had towed out with us.
Ideally, the nets would be full of Croaker as they bring the most money back at the dock. But, not this morning. Mostly they caught menhaden, and not a lot of that. As part of the morning’s catch, Joe also brought in some small flounder, some sugar toads, and a snapping mackerel. These would be sold separately from the menhaden.
As soon as we tied up to the pound net, two local sport fishing boats pulled up and tied up to Joe’s boat. After the fish were brought aboard, they were sorted into bushel baskets, and each of the fishing boats purchased a couple of bushels of fresh menhaden. I think they were headed out to the Windmill Point light where cobia were rumored to be lurking.
As soon as the sport fishermen headed out, a local crabber stopped by to pick up a few bushels of menhaden for his pots. Then we moved onto the second net, and repeated the process. Not as many fish in the second net, and no buyers tied up, so Joe ended up taking several bushels back. Joe sold a couple of bushels to another crabber on his way back to the dock, and the rest were all spoken for. A small group of local residents were waiting to see what he had caught, and they purchased the flounder and other fish.
Maps to Chesapeake poundnets are here >> https://webapps.mrc.virginia.gov/public/maps/virginia_poundnets.php and here >> http://dnr2.maryland.gov/fisheries/pages/poundnets/index.aspx.
This week I’ve been working on a paper on dam construction and deconstruction in the United States for a class on Environmental Conservation and the American Landscape. I thought it was pretty interesting to come across an article, published May 5, on the Conowingo Dam in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has recently called on the company that oversees this hydroelectric dam in Maryland to address environmental concerns. Environmental issues associated with this and many dams in the country include a reduction in river levels, a prevention in flow of nutrients and plants, flooding, and an inability of migrating fish to travel up and down a river as needed. Of particular concern in the Chesapeake region is the buildup of sediment behind dams, which can runoff downstream in large storms. The excess sediment can result in sediment pollution, and disrupt cleanup goals in the lower reaches of the Chesapeake Bay. CBF Testimony Calls on Exelon to Help Mitigate Pollution and Improve Fish Passages