Fishing and Boating Cheap in the Free State

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The Best Boating Deal in Maryland

One of the best deals in the State of Maryland is the exemption of registration for canoes, kayaks, skiffs, and sailboats that are 16 feet long or less.  As long as the vessel is not motorized, you do not have to deal with the hassle and cost of registering your boat with the Department of Natural Resources.

Small aluminum or fiberglass boats like this are easy to transport and virtually maintenance free.  Also, there are many places to launch beyond the traditional boat ramps.  On any given weekend, you can see people launching their car top kayaks and trailered canoes in creeks along the highway like Macintosh Run on Rt.5 north of Leonardtown or the St. Mary’s River launch in Great Mills.  Many more skiffs, canoes, and kayaks are launched into the St. Mary’s River Lake, private farm ponds, or anywhere along the 400 mile shoreline of St. Mary’s County.

Add the waterfront opportunities that abound in Charles and Calvert as well and you see that we are blessed to live in a cornucopia of free boating opportunity.  However, you must apply pressure to a paddle or an oar.  Or, hoist a sail and catch a friendly wind.

However, power boaters also get a heck of a deal from our State legislators if you can stay within certain specs.  A free registration is given to any boat 16 feet long or less that is powered by a motor that is 7 1/2 or less horsepower.  Free is a pretty good deal.

Many years ago, I decided that sailing, paddling, and rowing boats were plan B options.  Plan A involves using some kind of motor to push any canoe, skiff, or power boat that I might own.  My 20′ Shamrock with the inboard Ford 302 gas engine is not cheap to run but it certainly can handle some rough water for its size.  My twelve foot long aluminum Sears skiff with an electric trolling motor will not be found in the blue waters of the Gulf Stream. On the plus side, it costs almost nothing to operate and I can squeeze into shallows and creeks that ground out larger boats.

In these summer doldrums, the feeder creeks of the Potomac River, Patuxent River, and Chesapeake Bay, provide excellent fishing and joyful scenic excursions.

As everywhere in Southern Maryland in hot weather, expect the best fish catching to occur early in the morning and late in the evening thru sunset while fishing these creeks.  Way up the Potomac, you can catch tidal largemouth bass with a variety of buzz baits, top water lures, or soft baits, but most of us will be targeting the fish that live in the saltier estuaries.

A very light spinning combo with a beetle spin is deadly on white perch at the edge of grass beds or along seawalls.  A chunk of soft crab on a snelled spinner hook above a one ounce bell sinker will catch almost every fish that feeds in those creeks.  A big grass shrimp on a small snelled hook is a very good bait where white perch are thick.  Anchoring up tide of a fallen log or deep hole and drifting a chunk of soft crab on a single hook weighted by a large split shot two feet up the line is a recipe for good sized striped bass or catfish.

The key to catching is to fish during a moving tide.  Slack tide is the best time to enjoy the scenery.  Good fishermen (and women) know how to check the Internet for the tide tables in their area.

During hot weather as we are presently experiencing, many shady areas can be found along tidal creeks where trees meet the shore.  As much as you and I enjoy a place in the shade, fish also avoid direct sunlight.  When the fish stop biting altogether, you can pull that shallow draft boat up to the shore to collect shells and fossils.  Ancient sharks teeth, extinct whale bones, and many fossil shells can be found along our shorelines.  Make sure to stay below the high tide mark in Maryland waters and below the low tide mark on the Virginia side.

The hazy, hot days of summer can be a cool adventure for anyone willing to invest a few dollars in a boat that will last a lifetime.  Fifteen years ago, I purchased my used aluminum skiff for a hundred bucks.  Today, I wouldn’t take two hundred bucks for that Sears V-hull (though I might consider five hundred).  There is no charge for the annual registration and the energy to run the electric trolling motor costs pennies per trip.

Sure beats paddling!

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