Message From the Cap’n is a compilation of fishing advice, waterman and weather insights, Chesapeake lore, and ordinary malarkey from the folks who keep their feet wet in the Potomac and St. Mary’s rivers.
Posted by Jack Russell

As February opened, the lower Potomac water temperature hovered around 33 degrees Fahrenheit (as checked bythermometer overboard). With theInterpretive Buoy Systemback online after the government shutdown they again have the full range of up-to-date seawater statistics.

Last week’s cold snapfroze upthe Island Creek on St. George Island after several days buta warm rain and fog disposed of the thickened water by weeks end. This shallow body of water really freezes fast since the tremendous influx of fresh water which has reduced itssalinity.

Observationsafter the freeze: (prior links but worth repeating)Nipperingaround the shoreline is always good because the icepull the oysters out of the bottom. Other sea creatures help as well.Migratory ducks, when looking for food, turn the oysters over on the bottom for the delicacies under them.

Swans, geese, muskrats, raccoons, and otters also move oysters around on the bottom looking for food year round.

“A Tale from years gone by”:

LocalShipwright Francis Goddardtells a story oflocal watermen using a light to shoot geese in the night-time at Cherryfield. (Cherryfield identifies a southern point of Drayden, MD, that comprises the eastern edge of St. George Creek’s mouth into St. Mary’s River. The map is linked below.)

The equipment used was a 16- to 20-foot skiff, a kerosene lamp mounted in a box with reflectors behind the globe, a sculling paddle, and firearms.The watermen left St. George Island after dark with the tide fallingat a point onSt. George Island closest to Cherryfieldand scull across the channel.

With FranciswasPaul Goddard, Ross Clayton, andGary Robrecht, all local watermen. As Francis tells it:

Two rules apply here: Quietness is of essence and NEVER shoot over the light. The hunting party needed a goodsculler.Cap’n Paul Goddard was an expert at this trade and never made a sound. He used a peg at the center of the transom with arag over it to scull with a flat homemade paddle. The kerosene lamp for the light was lit about 1/2 way across the channel and placed on the bow.

The geese would come ashore on the Edmunds point side of Cherryfield to” get sand for their craws” to grind up their food.

Once we got into shallow water Paul began to push the skiff, making sure that he never made a sound by hitting the side of the boat. As the boat got close to the geese, Paulstopped pushing and drifted toward the geese, keeping the light focused on them.All is quietand the geese lift their heads, bunch together and swim toward the light.

That’s the way it is supposed to happen.

But Gary rushed a little, shot over the light, and it went out. After much cursing and hell raising thenight hunterswent home with no geese.

Waterman’s Lore: “Never shoot over the light, ’cause you will blow it out.”

Remember: It’s Our bay, let’s Pass It On

Till next time,

Cap’t Jack

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Reprinted with permission from the

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...