The Chesapeake Bay’s unique fishing tournament—the Rod and Reef Slam—is celebrating its fifth year with a new beachfront after-party in Annapolis this October.
The fishing tournament challenges anglers to catch the most different species of fish over restored oyster reefs, rather than simply the biggest fish. This year’s tournament takes place from Oct. 8 to Oct. 16 and includes divisions for powerboat, kayak, and youth anglers. The after-party takes place from noon to 3 p.m. on Oct. 16 at Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) bayfront Annapolis headquarters. It will include food, drinks, live music, and an awards presentation.
Division winners receive prizes including gift cards, coolers, fishing gear, clothing, and more.
The contest is designed to highlight the diversity of fish that surround Chesapeake Bay oyster reefs. To do that, anglers will fish in areas where oyster reefs have been restored or re-planted with oysters in Maryland. Anglers will use the iAngler Tournament app to document their catches and report their fishing locations. Registration is $50 for adults and $25 for youth ages 17 and under. Tickets are also available for $35 for adults who want to attend the after-party or $20 for designated drivers and attendees under 21.
CBF, Coastal Conservation Association Maryland, and the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance are organizing the tournament.
“Oyster reefs play a critical role in supporting the diversity of fish in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Allison Colden, CBF’s Maryland Senior Fisheries Scientist. “Oysters build an underwater habitat that naturally attracts the bottom-dwelling critters that gamefish like to eat. Restoring oyster reefs is one way to help the fish species that depend on this important habitat.”
The Bay’s oyster reef habitat has been decimated by overfishing, pollution, and disease. Today, ongoing oyster restoration efforts that involve planting oysters atop rebuilt reefs are showing promising results. As of 2021, nearly 5 billion juvenile oysters have been added to the Bay across 1,095 acres of protected oyster sanctuary sites, according to NOAA. And those reefs are faring well. About 95 percent of the restored reefs met NOAA’s key criteria for success—more than 50 oysters per square meter, according to the agency.
“It is great to see what oyster restoration is providing to a diverse number of recreationally caught species in the Chesapeake Bay,” said David Sikorski, Executive Director of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland. “The habitat being built by many partners is providing new homes for species like sheepshead, black sea bass, red drum, and tautog, while also creating life throughout the water column above reefs. The data we gather from anglers’ catches in this event helps inform our knowledge about fish diversity and will help us understand the benefits of future actions to restore important habitats throughout the watershed into the future.”
Everyone participating in the fishing tournament is automatically entered into the invasive species division. The person who catches the longest 3-fish stringer of blue catfish, flathead catfish, or Northern snakehead will win that division.
There are more than 100 reefs for anglers to choose to fish over ranging from small sites in the northern Bay and around the Annapolis area to large-scale restoration reefs in Harris Creek, the Little Choptank River, and Tred Avon River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The tournament’s interactive map can help anglers choose potential fishing locations.
This will be the first year the tournament’s after-party takes place at CBF’s Headquarters in Annapolis.
“What better way to celebrate the oyster restoration and skilled anglers than a beachfront after-party?” said Tanner Council, Chesapeake Oyster Alliance Manager. “Anglers and oyster advocates are a mighty combination as we work toward our collective goal of a healthy Chesapeake Bay. Ultimately, more oysters mean cleaner water and more habitat for fish in the Bay. We hope this tournament emphasizes that fact.”
The Chesapeake Oyster Alliance is a partnership of nonprofits, oyster farmers, and community organizations committed to adding 10 billion oysters to the Bay by 2025.
Previous winners of the Rod and Reef Slam Tournament have caught more than a dozen species such as white perch, drum, toadfish, bluefish, rockfish, blue crabs, and Spanish mackerel.