Area Information about the Upper Chesapeake Bay Region
Along our routes for The Breeze Fleet
Welcome to the Chesapeake Bay and it’s wide array of tributaries. We look forward to our cruise with you and hope that you ask us any questions about the area that you have. A lot of items that we talk about in this narrative are from multiple sources both online and from some of our guests. This area is steeped in history with very scenic attractions, so it is our hope that you enjoy the atmosphere as much as we do! So kick back, enjoy, and remember there is a quiz at the end...
C&D Canal Area Information
Green Point- This is where it all started. 15 years ago Green Point was the name of the construction company Tom & Steve Connell (owners) used to own until it was sold in 2009. The name of the business "Green Point Marine Construction" came from the location off of Boat Yard Road just East of Dann Towing and is where owner Tom Connell grew up as a young waterman. For many years kids would play baseball in the open field that is now owned and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.
MSRC- Marine Spill Response Corporation is the name of the Non-Profit for what everyone likes to refer to as the “Big Blue Ship”. The Delaware Responder is based in Chesapeake City and is one of 15 vessels across the nation. Their Chesapeake City, Maryland location is approximately 1/8 of a mile due West of Schaefer's Canal House. They have been at that location for a shade over a decade now, their previous location being in New Jersey. They are responsible for the clean up of oil spills and environmental impacts. During the Deepwater Horizon BP oil rig explosion in 2010, MSRC, was stationed in the Gulf to recover the crude oil.
Dann Marine Towing- Is one of several different tug & barge companies that frequent the C&D Canal. Dann Towing is based in Chesapeake City and has a fleet of 20 tugs. A few ways to spot a Dann tug is the “D” letter on the side of the stack and the word “coast” on the name board. Normally the “Chesapeake Coast”, “First Coast”, “Discovery Coast”, and “Ivory Coast” are normally locally based. The history of Dann Marine Towing dates back to the 1800’s, when in the 1870’s, Captain Henry Clay Johnson began his storied career on the waters of the Kissimmee River in Florida. Captain Johnson, born in Illinois in 1850, was president of the Kissimmee River Steamship Line.
Howard Farm- The Howard farm is owned by Pope Steele Howard. This 13th Century Colonial house has been a part of Chesapeake City’s heritage for a long time. The house backs up to the C&D Canal and goes back to Randalia Road. To get there you simply make a right on Rt. 213 after the VFW and drive straight, the Howard farm will be on the left.
Welch Point- Sometime prior to July, 1946, the United States Government condemned the property known as Welch's Point located between the Elk River and Back Creek near Chesapeake City, Cecil County, Maryland, for use as a soil dumping area in connection with the widening and deepening of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Located on the peninsula of Elk Forest Road, Welch Point marks the end of the C&D Canal maintenance according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The C&D Canal officially ends at Dann Towing Shipyard
The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal- Often called the C&D Canal, connects the Delaware River to the Chesapeake Bay and Port of Baltimore. The waterway, a channel 35 feet deep and 450 feet wide, extends from Reedy Point on the Delaware River about 41 miles below Philadelphia. The Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District maintains the canal as well as the five high span bridges that cross it: Reedy Point, SR 1, Summit, St. Georges and Chesapeake City bridges. One of only two canals still commercially active in the United States, the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was first authorized by Congress in 1802, and connects upper Chesapeake Bay with Delaware Bay. Although construction began in 1804, it was halted in 1806 due to a lack of funding. The canal company was reorganized in 1822, and new surveys determined that more than $2 million in capital was needed to resume construction. Eventually the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased $100,000 in stock, the State of Maryland $50,000 and Delaware $25,000. The federal government's investment was $450,000 with the remainder subscribed by the public. In the years to follow some 2,600 men were digging and hauling dirt from the ditch. Laborers toiled with pick and shovel at the immense construction task, working for an average daily wage of 75 cents. The swampy marshlands along the canal's planned route proved a great impediment to progress as workers continuously battled slides along the soft slopes of the "ditch" being cut. It was 1829 before the C&D Canal Company could; at last, announce the waterway "open for business". At this point, a navigation channel measuring nearly 14 miles long, 10 feet deep, 66 feet wide at the waterline and 36 feet wide along the channel bottom connected the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River. The $3.5 million construction cost made it one of the most expensive canal projects of its time. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed a commission to establish the feasibility of converting the canal to service larger steam ships. In 1919, the canal was bought by the federal government for $2.5 million and designated the "Intra-coastal Waterway Delaware River to Chesapeake Bay, Delaware and Maryland". The purchase included six bridges plus a railroad span owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. They were replaced during the 1920s by four vertical lift spans and a new railroad bridge. In the mid-1920s, work began to move the eastern entrance at Delaware City several miles south to Reedy Point, Delaware. All locks (except the one at Delaware City) were removed and the waterway was converted to a sea-level operation at 12 feet deep and 90 feet wide. These improvements cost $10 million. Two stone jetties at the new eastern entrance were completed in 1926. In 1954, the United States Congress authorized further expansion of the channel to 450 feet wide and 35 feet deep. These improvements began in the 1960s and were completed in the mid‐1970s.
Today, Cargo ships of all sizes, tankers, container-carrying vessels, and barges accompanied by tugboats, and countless recreational boats create a steady flow of traffic. Through state-of-the-art fiber optic and microwave links, dispatchers use closed-circuit television and radio systems to monitor and safely move commercial traffic through the waterway. The C&D Canal provides for 40% of the ships seeking access to the Port of Baltimore. Typically a Delaware River and Bay pilot boards a ship as it passes Lewes, Delaware, entering the Delaware Bay, and guides the vessel up the bay and into the canal to Chesapeake City. A Maryland pilot then takes over and continues the ship's transit into the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore or Annapolis, Maryland. The procedure is reversed for eastbound ships. At Chesapeake City a "changing of the pilots" takes place, while the pilot launch maneuvers alongside a vessel as it continues its journey without stopping. The pilots use the ship's gangway, Jacob's ladder, or port entrance to climb aboard or leave the vessel.
Randalia Area Information
The Legend of Chessie the Chesapeake Bay Sea Monster in the Chesapeake Bay- Over the years there have been many alleged sightings of a serpent-like creature with flippers as part of its body. According to Matt Lake in Weird Maryland, two perch fishermen, Francis Klarrman and Edward J. Ward, in 1943 spotted something in the water near Baltimore. Ever since this country was young, a strange creature has been sighted in the Chesapeake Bay. This creature, unofficially known as Chessie, is said to be a dark tubular or snake-like animal averaging 20- 30 feet long and capable of swimming up to 10 MPH. Chessie is known to be sometimes curious of nearby humans and is not afraid by those who work and live on the Bay, and who might therefore chance upon it. The creature is still seen intermittently. Concentrations of sightings occur in May through September most likely because that is when the Bay is most populated with boaters and swimmers. Chessie has been sighted most often are Love Point at Kent Island, the mouth of the Potomac, and the Eastern Bay. Chessie was by all accounts not your typical Longnecked, Humpbacked, Plesiosaur-shaped sea monsters. Instead, Chessie seemed to be truly serpentine and traveled along in a serpentine motion, in broad horizontal sine-curves or closer-knit sets of squiggles. In May of 1982, the first hard evidence of Chessie’s existence arrived. While at their Kent Island home, the Frew family, along with friends, believed they spotted Chessie and they made a videotape. Mr. Frew and his wife were looking out at the bay when they noticed a large snake-like creature. Frew and his wife spotted the creature in shallow, clear water about 200 yards from the house. The Frews grabbed their camera and started recording. That video tape was later analyzed by people at the Smithsonian. It was determined that the creature taped was a living animal. Frew video taped the creature as it swam toward a group of swimmers. It dove beneath the swimmers and reappeared on the other side of them. The creature they saw was about 25-30 feet long, 1-2 feet in diameter, dark brown with an undulating back. In 1978, a retired CIA employee, Donald Kyker, also reported seeing Chessie and 3 others about 75 yards off shore. His neighbors, the Smoots’, also witness the creatures. They gave descriptions of a 30 ft, sleek, dark gray creature swimming about 7-8 miles per hour. In the summer of 1982, the Smithsonian had a mini-symposium to determine if the videotape was indeed evidence of Chessie’s existence. Along with the video, there was a photograph taken by a woman who was previously afraid to bring it to public attention. The officials concluded that the object was definitely alive, but they did not conclude what it was. The creature in the Bay was left Unidentified. Although a manatee was discovered to frequent Chesapeake bay and frequently migrated to and from it, the descriptions of the manatee do not match the creature and there is virtually no chance that the manatee is responsible for any of the sightings, still photos or video footage.
Herring Island & Herring Creek- Herring Island is a private island in Randalia, Cecil County, Maryland. This area has played role in local history, with local Native tribes hunting there and the English camping there during the War of 1812. Herring Island formed during the 17th century with the erosion of Herring Creek's peninsula into an island. From the early 20th Century until the 1970s it was a Boy Scout Camp, consisting of numerous log cabins. Following a fire that destroyed the main cabin the property was purchase by a family, and has been a private residence since.
Courthouse at Courthouse Point- The courthouse was established in 1717, and is not the only structure that has seen dramatic changes on this peninsula. The Cecil County Courthouse was located here in the mid 18th century after its removal from Ordinary Point on the Sassafras River. The courthouse was moved again to Charlestown for five years (1782-1787) and finally moved to Elkton. The farmhouse on Courthouse Point exhibits a long eventfull history of architectural change which seems to begin with a 1 1⁄2 story two bay by one room timber frame house that probably dates from the third quarter of the 18th century. The whole house rests on a full fieldstone foundation and is covered with stretcher bond brick. The main entrance occupies the easternmost of three openings.
Old Field Point Area Information
The Veasey Ford House- The Veasey Ford House has had a long and sometimes tumultuous history. The point was originally part of St. John’s Manor first patented to John Pate of Virginia by Cecil Calvert in 1664. In 1675 Captain John Kerr became the owner, who in turn sold the land to George Oldfield in 1683. At that time the point was called Welch’s Point. George Oldfield was a confident of the notorious George Talbot, who after murdering Christopher Rousby, was supposed to have hidden on the property in 1684. Sometime around 1700 Oldfield moved to Pennsylvania in 1703 a legal document concerning horses. The property was transferred to James Veasey in 1716 and then to William Veasey in 1753. Later in 1787 John Ford bought the property from Veasey. During that time period in 1777 the British fleet began to disembark troops at the ferry landing closeby. This was the being on their venture to capture Philadelphia. General George Washington viewed the proceedings from a hearby hilltop and sent the following report to Brigader General John Armstrong, “The enemy began to land this morning about six miles below the Head of the Elk opposite the Cecil Court House”. The British navy numbered 256 vessels carrying roughly 17,000 soldiers.
Bull Minnow Point- Bull Minnow Point is a cape in Maryland, situated between Green Haven and Welch Point. Landmarks in the area include Elk Forest Wildlife Management Area.
The Piney Creek Cove- Piney Creek Cove is located in Cecil County in the State of Maryland. The Piney Creek Cove is located at the latitude and longitude coordinates of 39.512615 and -75.9199428 at an elevation of 0 feet. The topological map of Piney Creek Cove is drawn on and part of the United States Geological Service (USGS) area map of North East.
Port Herman Community Information
Elk River House- The Elk River House was built in 1888 to accommodate visiting vacationers in Port Herman. The three story five bay center hall frame structure faces the Elk River and is located at the east end of front street. The large frame rests on a fieldstone foundation and is covered with aluminum over weatherboard siding. The medium pitched roof is sheathed with composition tile shingles. The north façade faces the wter. A central entrance is flanked by 2 sash windows and five identical sash illuminate the second and third floors. The entrance has sidelights and transom. Interior stove stacks have been removed and an exterior stack was attached to the east end. For a long time the house was a stopping point for steamship travellers over 100 years ago. It sits on 1.5 acres on the point at Port Herman. The 3rd floor still has 10 small adjoining rooms. Source: Paul Schneiders
Community History- The small Elk River community of Port Herman was laid out along the shores of the river by Robert Thomas in 1849 on land he acquired from Martin and Anna Hilt. The land was part of Augustine Herman’s vast Bohemia Manor which was partcially divided in the early 18th century. Robert Thomas, however, was not the first to realize the potential of this waterfront property. Local tradition documents the operation of a vinegar mill at first which was followed by a lumber mill and boatyard. These activities were located along the water’s edge for access to ship transport. Farming was an obvious addition to the livelihood of many area residents who undoubtedly used the nearby wharfs for shipment of crops. County roads were probably present in the early 19th century but not as convenient and accessible as the navigable waterway’s. The mill and agrarian community existed in the early 19th century was overshadowed by the recreation potential and eventual development of this costal community in the mid to late 19th and entire 20th century.
Port Herman Methodist Church- The Methodist church in Port Herman in 1916 and is the second structure the congregation has held service since meetings were begun in the area. The first services were held on the second floor of the old fieldstone warehouse owned by William Fears. The present structure was built on property donated by Roberts Fears Sr. in 1916. This church is a 1 1⁄2 story frame rectangular form with the short side and gable end serving as the main façade which faces west. The main gable correspondingly runs east to west. The main block is one room across by three bays deep and rests on a studdoed block foundation that is struck to imitate stone. The frame is covered with asbestos siding and the steeply pitched roof is covered with composition tile. The main façade has a single story gabled front vestibule with a pointed arch entrance. Two single pane sash pointed arch lights are found on either side and illuminate the main block from the west. A pyramidal roofed luvered cupola is attached to the front of the main roof. A corner stone with the date 1916 is set in the northwest corner of the main façade.
Town Point Area Information
Range Tower- Well could it be that USA and Russia finally decided to drill for oil in the Upper Chesapeake Bay? Or maybe it is that USA wants to spy on China with a long periscope. I know, maybe it is the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympic high dive swim platform for Team USA!! Guests on board the M/V Bay Breeze are always scratching their heads when we make our approach to this iconic and very important man-made marvel. Most guests are completely surprised that this is a navigational aid called a “range tower”. When tugs and ships enter and exit the Elk River, they used these ranges to align their vessel in the center of the shipping channel. In daytime the red and green buoys are very easy to see whereas it is the exact opposite at nighttime. Most ships draft approximately 20-30 feet depending on if they are loaded or not. This being said, it is imperative that the shipping traffic remains in the center channel. How these aids work is fairly straight-forward. There is a range light on the water and one on land. Once the flashing lights are vertically in line, then that indicates you are in the center channel. The illustration gives a great description of the navigational aids. Vessel constrained by draft are required to abide by the range tower. On board, M/V Bay Breeze we are not constrained by draft so we are able to adventure out of the channel if needs be. Our route is in somewhat of a unique area in the Elk River because we actually have a few twists and turns to get from the C&D Canal to the Chesapeake Bay. So when you are enjoying your cocktail you can have a clear understanding of the different navigation that is around you. The illustration below represents our general area however there are navigational aids all throughout the world and especially near major ports.
Vineyards of the Upper Bay
Chateau Bu-De- Born out of their love of fine wines and cheeses, Chateau Bu-De vineyard & winery has become the premiere location for fine wines. After traveling the world and sampling different wines, they decided to make their way back to the US and craft the finest wines right here on the Eastern shore of Maryland. Their biggest challenge was finding perfect, high-quality grapes for world-class wines. Hence, their vineyard was established. They are dedicated to offering only the finest wines. They have also taken great care in assembling a fabulous team of winemaker's, vintners and employees. Their family-owned & women operated vineyard & winery is located on 440 acres a top the Bohemia River & Scenic Byway 213 in Chesapeake City, Maryland. The original site of Augustine Herman's historical Bohemia Manor Farm. Augustine Herman was the founder of Bohemia Manor and the first Lord of the manor.
Facts & Statistical Information
Bridges of the C&D Canal-
Located throughout the C&D Canal are a series of bridges which are all owned by the Federal government except for one, the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge. The C&D Canal is a historical landmark on the intercostal waterway and is frequented by thousands of recreational and commercial boaters annually.
Elk River- The Elk River is a tidal tributary of the Chesapeake Bay on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and on the northern edge of the Delmarva Peninsula. It is about 15 miles long. As the most northeastern extension of the Chesapeake Bay estuary, it has served as one entrance to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal since the 19th century. The canal and river now serve as one boundary of the Elk Neck Peninsula. The river flows through Cecil County, Maryland, with its watershed extending into New Castle County, Delaware and Chester County, Pennsylvania. Elkton, the county seat of Cecil County, is located at its head. Its total watershed area is 143 square miles (including the Bohemia River), with 21 square miles of open water, so its watershed is 15% open water. It is south and east of the North East River, and north of the Sassafras River. After exiting the C&D Canal, we enter the Elk River which is the gateway to the Chesapeake Bay. The little elk goes all the way North through Elkton (behind American Home & Hardware).
Bohemia River- The Bohemia River is a 4.7-mile-long tributary of the Elk River on the Delmarva Peninsula. It is located in Cecil County, Maryland, with its headwaters extending into New Castle County, Delaware. The Bohemia River begins east of Hacks Point, Maryland, where its two major tributaries, Great Bohemia Creek and Little Bohemia Creek, come together, and ends at the Elk River in a wide mouth between Town Point and Ford Landing. Great Bohemia Creek and its tributary, Sandy Branch rise near Middletown, Delaware and Little Bohemia Creek rises near Warwick, Maryland. They flow through the level coastal plain, quickly reaching sea level. There are several small creeks on the northern shore, including Pooles Creek and Manor Creek. On the southern shore small creeks include Morgan Creek and Scotchman Creek.
Sassafras River- The Sassafras River is about 22 miles long and starts in western New Castle County, Delaware, and along the boundary between Cecil County, Maryland on the north and Kent County, Maryland on the south. It is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay on the Delmarva Peninsula in the United States. It rises southwest of Middletown, Delaware and ends at the Chesapeake Bay in a wide mouth between Howell Point near Betterton, Maryland and Grove Point on Grove Neck. It is south of the Elk River and north of the Chester River. The Sassafras River is entirely within the coastal plain. Its watershed area (including the water surface) is 97 square miles (250 km2), with 83 square miles (210 km2) of land. Thus, its total watershed area is 14% water. There are several small creeks on the northern shore of the Sassafras River, including Money Creek, Cox Creek, Foreman Creek, Back Creek, McGill Creek, Dowdel Creek, Hall Creek, and Duffy Creek. On the southern shore small creeks include Lloyd Creek, Turner's Creek, Freeman Creek, Woodland Creek, Dyer Creek, Mill Creek, Swantown Creek, Jacobs Creek, and Herring Branch.
Types of Wildlife along our route
The Bald Eagle- is between 7-14 pounds, wingspan of 6-7.5 feet, and an average gliding speed of 35-45 mph. From Canada to Florida, these birds are a very interesting sight to see. Truly the Bald Eagle is a magnificent bird to spy on. They perch themselves in a most distinguished way high above, usually in secluded areas in lakes favoring the coast. Although once on the endangered list these fighters have clawed their way back to the threatened list. Eagles are part of the Accipitridae family, which includes hawks, kites, and vultures. Eagles range in size, A female bald eagle's, body length varies from 35 to 37 inches; with a wingspan of 79 to 90 inches. The smaller male bald eagle has a body length of 30 to 34 inches; with a wingspan ranging from 72 to 85 inches. An eagle's average weight is ten to fourteen pounds. Northern birds are significantly larger than their southern relatives. Eyesight - An eagle's eye is almost as large as a human's, but its sharpness is at least four times that of a person with perfect vision. Voice - Shrill, high pitched, and twittering are common descriptions used for bald eagle vocalizations. Eagles do not have vocal cords. Sound is produced in the syrinx, a bony chamber located where the trachea divides to go to the lungs. Bald eagle calls may be a way of reinforcing the bond between the male and female, and to warn other eagles and predators that an area is defended. Body Temperature - About 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) Eagles do not sweat, so they need to use other cooling methods such as perching in the shade, panting, and holding their wings away from their body. Tolerance to cold temperatures - A bald eagle's skin is protected by feathers lined with down. Their feet are cold resistance, consisting of mostly tendon. The outside of the bill is mostly nonliving material, with little blood supply. Beak - The hook at the tip is used for tearing. Behind the hook, the upper mandible, the edge sharp enough to slice tough skin, over laps the lower, creating a scissors effect. A bald eagle's beak is a strong weapon, but is also delicate enough to groom a mate's feathers or feed a small portion of food to a newly hatched chick. The beak of a female eagle is deeper (distance from top to chin) than the beak of a male. The beak and talons grow continuously, because they are made of keratin, the same substance as our hair and fingernails. The beak of a captive eagle is not warn down naturally, so must be trimmed annually. Talons - Talons are important tools for hunting and defense. Eagles kill their prey by penetrating its flesh with their talons. Eagles can open and close their talons at will. If an eagle is dragged into the water by a fish too large for the eagle to lift, it is because the eagle refuses to release it. In some cases this is due to hunger.
Osprey’s- are somewhat similar to a bald eagle in some situations. Size and shape of Ospreys are very large and shaped like hawks. Despite their size, their bodies are slender, with long, narrow wings and long legs. Ospreys fly with a marked kink in their wings, making an M-shape when seen from below. Color Pattern Ospreys are brown above and white below, and overall they are whiter than most raptors. From below, the wings are mostly white with a prominent dark patch at the wrists. The head is white with a broad brown stripe through the eye. Juveniles have white spots on the back and buffy shading on the breast. Behavior Ospreys search for fish by flying on steady wing beats and bowed wings or circling high in the sky over relatively shallow water. They often hover briefly before diving, feet first, to grab a fish. You can often clearly see an Osprey's catch in its talons as the bird carries it back to a nest or perch. Habitat Look for Ospreys around nearly any body of water: saltmarshes, rivers, ponds, reservoirs, estuaries, and even coral reefs. Their conspicuous stick nests are placed in the open on poles, channel markers, and dead trees, often over water.
Maryland Blue Crab- (Callinectes sapidus means "Beautiful swimmer that is savory".)
Blue crabs are widely distributed from Nova Scotia to northern Argentina, but along the coasts of North America, it is most abundant from Texas to Massachusetts. They can be found in freshwater areas where salinity is 0 to the ocean where the salinity is full strength (32+ ppt). Males are often found in the upper reaches of the Bay while females are typically found further downstream and down-Bay where salinities are higher. Adults can grow up to 9 inches and grow by molting or shedding their shell. Just prior to molting, the crab is encased in both the hard, old outer shell and a soft, new one just beneath it. The formation of a new shell is evident along the margins of the swimming paddles of a crab. The earliest indication of the new skeleton is the formation of a black line along the rim of the paddles. When this line turns pink or red, the crab is referred to as a "peeler" or "shedder". Immediately after the molt, the crab's new shell is pliable and easily stretched. In this condition, the crab is called a "soft crab" or a "soft shell crab". Large amounts of water are consumed prior to and shortly after the molt, causing the soft shell to expand and increase in size. This entire process takes 2-3 hours and within 2 hours after the shed, the new shell begins to harden. The "papershell" is formed within 12 hours and an additional 2-3 days are needed before the shell fully hardens. Unlike male crabs that continue to molt and grow throughout their entire lives, females stop growing when they reach sexual maturity, usually after 21 or 22 molts. During this final molt, mating takes place.
Blue crabs can be found in a variety of salinities ranging from the high saline waters at the mouth of the bay to the tidal fresh waters of the upper bay and tributaries. The blue crab is a bottom-dwelling species that utilizes a diversity of benthic habitats such as mud flats, oyster bars, channel edges, and tidal marshes. Submerged aquatic vegetation areas also serve as important nursery habitats that provide refuge for both juvenile blue crabs and molting crabs that are vulnerable to predation.
Blue crabs mate from May to October in the brackish or slightly salty waters of Chesapeake Bay. Just prior to the final molt, an immature female crab, known as a "she-crab", is cradled by a mature male. The female is escorted by the male, commonly referred to as a "doubler", for a few days before and after her molt.
During the molt, the male releases the female, but remains nearby.
After molting, the female turns on her back and unfolds her abdomen. The male then transfers his sperm to the female.
Although the female mates only once, she may spawn several times. The sperm received is stored and used to fertilize the eggs of all future spawnings. After mating, the two crabs resume the cradle carry until the female's shell hardens. Shortly after mating, the now mature female crab, known as a sook, migrates to the saltier waters of the Bay near the ocean. Fertilization of the eggs occurs about 2 to 9 months after mating, from June through September, depending upon when the mating took place. For example, a spring mating would result in a late summer spawn, while a fall mating would result in an early summer spawn the following year. Once the eggs are fertilized females will develop an external egg mass called a sponge on the underside of their abdomen which may contain between 750,000 and 8 million eggs, depending on the size of the crab. These crabs are called "sponge crabs" and hatching of the eggs occurs in approximately 2 weeks after the formation of the sponge. Over the two weeks the sponge gradually turns from orange to brown and then black as the larval crabs develop inside the egg.
The newly-hatched larvae are called zoea and look nothing like an adult crab. These young crabs are microscopic in size and drift about in the water currents. It is believed that the majority of these developing larvae are transported into the ocean by an interaction of seasonal winds and bottom water circulation patterns, before eventually returning to settle on seagrass beds in the spawning area. After approximately 6 or 7 molts, the zoea changes into a post-larval form known as the megalops. The megalops has claws like a crab, but can swim and crawl on the bottom. Eventually the megalops settles and metamorphoses to the first crab stage which looks much like an adult crab, but is only 1/5 of an inch from point to point. As these young crabs develop their locomotion, they will migrate away from the high salinity waters near the mouth of the Bay up to more brackish regions. By winter, juvenile crabs can be found as far north as the Susquehanna Flats. Adult males and immature females remain in the brackish waters of the Bay and its tributaries, migrating to shallow grassbeds, shallow muddy bottoms, and/or deeper waters of mid-Bay as temperatures begin to drop in the fall. As winter approaches, most crabs will bury themselves in the mud along channel edges and the shallow grassbeds of the Bay. Female crabs will remain in the higher salinity waters of the lower Bay, whereas males will remain in the upper portions, migrating to deeper waters to spend the winter months.
Little or no growth occurs from December to March, but when the temperature begins to rise, crabs become more active, begin feeding and searching for a mate.
The blue crab is one of the most important species harvested in the Bay, and has the highest value of any commercial fishery and supports a recreational fishery of significant, but undetermined, value. Blue crabs are harvested as hard shell crabs, peeler crabs just prior to molting, and soft shell crabs immediately after the molt. Crabs reach maturity in 12 to 18 months with few crabs live longer than 3 years. The largest crab recorded from Maryland was a male measuring 9 inches; however bigger crabs (10-11 inches) have been captured in DNR crab surveys. The annual harvest of hard crabs from Chesapeake Bay accounts for over 50% of total U.S. landings. Cannibalism of young blue crabs by larger crabs is common and may regulate population abundance. A spring-spawned crab can reach a size of 2½ inches by their first winter.
Types of Fish
Freshwater areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. are year-round residents, while others swim into the Bay from the ocean to feed, reproduce or find shelter. Each of the Bay's fish has a place in the food web. For example, menhaden and other filter-feeders are a vital link between the lower food web and higher-level predators. Menhaden feed on plankton and, in turn, are a critical food source for bluefish and striped bass. For centuries, the Bay and its rivers have provided rich fishing opportunities. Striped bass and white perch are some of the many Chesapeake fish species that anglers and commercial fishermen seek out. The American eel is a smooth, snake-like fish with a greenish, yellowish-brown or blackish body. It lives in rivers, streams and other Approximately 350 species of fish live in the Chesapeake Bay.
Rockfish- On the Atlantic coast, striped bass range from St. Lawrence River, Canada to St. Johns River, Florida, although they are most prevalent from Maine to North Carolina. Striped bass tend to move north to nearshore waters of the New England coast during the summer, and south to the North Carolina/Virginia Capes during the winter. The east coast migratory population is composed of three major stocks - Hudson, Chesapeake, and Roanoke. The striped bass stock within Chesapeake Bay is composed of pre-migratory fish, primarily ages 10 and younger, and coastal migratory striped bass range in age from age 2 to more than age 30. Mature resident and migratory striped bass move into tidal freshwater in early spring to spawn. After spawning, migratory fish return to the coast. Most spend the summer and early fall months in middle New England near-shore waters. During the late fall and early winter, coastal striped bass migrate south to winter off the North Carolina/Virginia Capes. Maryland also has landlocked striped bass populations in Liberty, Piney Run, Triadelphia, and Rocky Gorge Reservoirs. Striped bass were stocked into Piney Run and Liberty Reservoirs in the mid 70's and early 80's to provide an additional sportfish for anglers. Piney Run, Triadelphia, and Rocky Gorge reservoirs continue to be stocked with stripers when fish are available. Liberty Reservoir supported a naturally reproducing population from 1986 until recently. Since 2007, natural reproduction has not been successful enough to maintain a healthy striped bass population in Liberty Reservoir. Stocking may begin again to maintain a fishable population of striped bass in the reservoir. Striped bass can grow as long as 60 inches. Stripped bass inhabit coastal waters and are commonly found in bays but may enter rivers in the spring to spawn.
Female striped bass can mature as early as age 4; however, it takes several years (age 8 or older) for spawning females to reach full productivity. Males can mature as early as age 2. Once a mature female deposits her eggs, they are fertilized by milt ejected from a mature male. Spawning is triggered by an increase in water temperature and generally occurs in April, May and early June in Chesapeake Bay. The fertilized eggs drift downstream with currents and eventually hatch into larvae within 2 to 3 days. The larvae begin feeding on microscopic animals during their downstream journey.
After their arrival in the nursery areas, located in tidal reaches of the spawning rivers, they mature into juveniles. They usually remain in Chesapeake Bay for two to five years, and then migrate to the Atlantic Ocean. With warming water temperatures in the spring, mature fish start their spawning runs in freshwater rivers and streams to complete their life cycle. Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are the primary spawning and nursery area for 70-90% of the Atlantic coast stocks of striped bass. Other important spawning areas include the Hudson River in New York and rivers along the North Carolina coast.
The American eel- With a whitish belly, it's continuous fin streatches around its rounded tail from its back to its belly. Males grow to two feet in length and females grow three to five feet in length. Habitat: Spends most of its life in fresh and brackish tributaries, including streams, creeks, rivers, lakes and ponds; some may live in the Bay’s shallow waters. Active at night; during the day, eels usually hide under a rock or bury themselves in bottom sediments. Range: Common throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Feeding: This eel feeds at night on worms, small fish, clams and other mollusks, and crustaceans such as soft-shelled crabs. Predators: Larger fish and eish-eating birds such as gulls, eagles and ospreys prey on the American eel. Reproduction and Life Cycle: Eels are catadromous, meaning they live in freshwater rivers and spawn in the ocean. In October, sexually mature eels swim out of the Bay to the Sargasso Sea, an area of the Atlantic Ocean east of the Bahamas. In January, the eels spawn there, then die. Tiny eel larvae drift in the ocean for 9 to 12 months. During this time, larvae transform to the “glass eel” stage. Ocean currents carry the transparent glass eels thousands of miles to the U.S. coast. Before entering the Bay, the glass eels become pigmented. These brown eels, called elvers, are only about 2.4 inches long. Some elvers stay in the Bay, but most continue to swim many miles up the Bay’s rivers to fresh water. After a few months, the elvers transform into the adult “yellow eel” stage. Adults remain in freshwater rivers and streams for the majority of their lives. Once they reach sexual maturity, they return to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die. American eels usually live for at least five years, though some eels can reach 15 to 20 years old.