Spawning Sturgeon Make Surprise Return to Maryland Rivers



Biologists recently netted several adult sturgeon on the Marhyhope. The endangered fish were thought gone from Maryland Rivers. Dave Harp photo for Bay Journal News Service.

Biologists recently netted several adult sturgeon on the Marhyhope. The endangered fish were thought gone from Maryland Rivers. Dave Harp photo for Bay Journal News Service.

When a crew of biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources hauled a gill net out of the Marshyhope Creek in late August, they hauled in more than the catch of the day: It may have been the catch of their careers.

One of the nets contained two “ripe” — ready to spawn — Atlantic sturgeon. One was a 7-foot 3-inch, 154-pound female. The other was a 5-foot 2-inch, 70-pound male. The female was filled with black eggs, and the male was leaking sperm.

“That was probably the most exciting and rewarding day in my career,” said Chuck Stence, head of the anadromous fish restoration unit of the DNR Fisheries Service, who was leading the survey crew. “We’re out there fishing — you’re not expecting to catch anything — and then all of sudden two fish like that get dropped into your lap.”

That catch turned out to be just the beginning. By-mid September, the crew had caught eight ready-to-spawn fish, including six males and two females on the Marshyhope, a tributary of the Nanticoke River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. They saw several others that they weren’t able to net.

“That is pretty exciting,” said Steve Minkkinen, who heads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Maryland Fisheries Resources Office, and has been active with sturgeon programs in the state. “There is a population of them up there. It is not just one or two random fish that showed up for some reason.”

Atlantic sturgeon are the largest fish native to the Bay, where they historically reached lengths of up to 14 feet. Once common, they suffered a dramatic population drop in the last century caused by overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution. Two years ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed them as an endangered species.

Like other anadromous fish, sturgeon live most of their lives in the ocean, but return to their native rivers to spawn. The James River is the only Bay tributary known to still have a spawning population. No sturgeon have been documented spawning in Maryland since 1972, when one was found in the Nanticoke River. 

But the recent catches suggest the Marshyhope now has a spawning population. “I can’t imagine a fish that big going up in there for any reason other than to spawn,” Stence said. 

And, like the James River, the sturgeon seem to be spawning in the fall, unlike sturgeon that spawn in rivers farther north, such as the Hudson. 

“I am very surprised by that,” Minkkinen said. “All the other anadromous fish are releasing their eggs in the spring.” That’s when plankton blooms fuel the food web that helps support newly spawned fish. 

Proof of successful spawning would require finding recently spawned “young of year” fish in the river. Right now, Stence said, no surveys exist in the vicinity of the Marshyhope that would catch young-of-year sturgeon. Now, with evidence that suggests likely spawning activity, the fishery service will consider starting one, he said.

It’s unknown where the sturgeon came from. They could be remnants of a native Maryland population that went undetected for decades.

It is possible, some have suggested, that they are James River fish that have wandered up the Bay. 

Another possibility is that they stem from a small batch of juvenile Hudson River fish that were released in the Nanticoke in 1996.

Those questions could be answered in coming weeks. The biologists take DNA samples of each sturgeon for analysis to determine their river  of origin.

Biologists would also like to know what habitats the fish are using. So the captured sturgeon were briefly anesthetized and the biologists made minor incisions in each to insert a small transmitter and a tag so they can monitor the sturgeons’ movements and identify them in the future.

After that procedure, the biologists jump into the chest-deep water and cradle the fish, “like babies,” Stence said. After about 10 minutes, the sturgeon recover and swim away.

The recent catches ended more than two years of frustration for the biologists. Fishermen have reported seeing sturgeon jumping in the Marshyhope for several years. Last fall, one landed in the boat of two anglers.

But crews from the DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had — until Aug. 28 — failed to catch any sturgeon. The previous week, in fact, Stence and his crew saw one jump only 40 feet from their boat, but they were unable to net it.

“It’s so frustrating when you see them jumping right in front of the boat, and you still can’t catch them,” he said.
That changed as they were pulling in the last of four, 100-yard gill nets that had been deployed on the 28th.

“We got maybe a third of the way through the net, and all of a sudden the net started pulling back,” Stence said. “And the closer we got, you could see the big shadow in the water. It’s amazing how the adrenaline kicks in when you go out there for three years and catch nothing, and all of a sudden you can see a big one in the net — and then having another one right behind it.” 


By Karl Blankenship
Bay Journal News Service

Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Three or Four Cheers for Shoreline Fish


They might be small, but with extraordinary populations along the Chesapeake Shoreline, and with names like Atlantic Silversides, Mummichogs, Killifish, and Sheepshead minnow, these shoreline fish are one of the great wonders of the region. In the latest installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff, Andy McCown of Echo Hill Outdoor School, hits the edges of the Bay to tell the remarkable story of the shoreline fish world, but also highlights some good ecological news about the Bay and its estuaries.

This video is approximately five minutes in length

Kent School to Host Fourth Annual Osprey Triathlon


We’re Training. Are You? Racers are posting and sharing photos of their training sessions on the Osprey Tri Facebook page in an effort to inspire and encourage other racers.

The fourth annual Osprey Triathlon will be held on Sunday, October 5 at 9:00 a.m. The race consists of three legs: a 7-mile bike race, a 2-mile kayak course and a 3-mile run. (Exact distances may vary.) The course will cover mixed surfaces, including pavement, gravel paths and some grassy areas. The race course takes advantage of Kent School’s Chester River access and gorgeous views. The course is flat, fast and racer friendly!

Cyclists take off at the start of the 2013 race.

Cyclists take off at the start of the 2013 race.

The Osprey Triathlon is a family friendly event welcoming athletes at all levels of skill and experience.  Not ready for the full triathlon? Create a team with friends or family and compete in 1, 2, or 3 legs of the race.

The 2014 race will incorporate some new elements that will add professionalism to the race without infringing on the special charm of this family-friendly event. Race coordinator, Tricia Cammerzell said, “We have learned so much over the past three years about planning and hosting this event and it has grown each year. We had to make some changes to accommodate the growth and enhance the racers’ experience.”

Kayaks ready for launch before the race begins.

Kayaks ready for launch before the race begins.

This year the race is sanctioned by USA Triathlon. Race support and management will be provided by Fuel 3 Sports. Sanctioning ensures increased safety measures. Fuel 3 Sports will provide electronic chip timing and wave starts to support the safety of the participants. Cammerzell continued, “I am really looking forward to the improved start, finish, and timing that will come with Fuel 3 Sports but it was important to the full race committee that we maintain the things that make this race so unique. We always want an event that includes three-generation relay teams and first time racers along with elite triathletes….and of course, the post-race barbeque is a requirement! And thanks to our PTF there will be some terrific activities for those who are too young to race.”

Racers can register as individuals completing all three legs of the race or they can break the race into smaller segments and register as two or three person relay teams.  The race is open to anyone age nine and older.  Racers between the ages of 9 and 12 must be part of a relay team with at least one team member age 16 or older.  Registration will be open until Friday October 3.  Visit or search Osprey Triathlon for registration information.  Advance registration is appreciated and early registration is discounted. Race fees are as follows:

Race Fees
Early Registration (Before September 15):  $55
Late Registration (Sept 15-October 4):  $65
2 Person Relay (Before September 15): $110
2 Person Relay (Sept 15-October 4): $125
3 Person Relay (Before September 15): $125
3 Person Relay (Sept 15-Oct 4): $145
Mixed Age Group (includes junior racer) (Before September 15): $120
Mixed Age Group (includes junior racer)  (Sept 15-Oct 4): $135
Junior 2 or 3 Person Relay (Before September 15): $120
Junior 2 or 3 Person Relay (Sept 15-Oct 4): $120
Other Fees
Kayak Rental: $10
Lunch for Non-Races: $7

Cammerzell continued, “This race would not be possible without support from our corporate sponsors and legion of volunteers. First on the list to thank is our volunteer committee chair, Pat Parkhurst ‘84. Our top of the Class sponsor for the 2014 race is Chestertown Runners. Segment sponsors are Gunther McClary Real Estate, Peoples Bank,  and Yerkes Construction. Additional sponsors to date include David A. Bramble, Inc.,  Chesapeake Medical Imaging, Clovelly Vineyards, RealTerm, and Dixon Valve. We are very grateful to every sponsor, racer, and volunteer who plays a part in the success of the Osprey Tri. See you in October.  We’re training. Are you?”

For more information about the Osprey Triathlon or Kent School visit or call 410-778-4100 ext.110.

Skywatch for Sept. 2014: Longer Nights and the Equinox


When September arrives, the hours of darkness grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere, while day-length decreases. The shorter daylight hours trigger all kinds of biological events, such as animal migrations and fall leaf color changes. The longer nights bring greater opportunities for skywatchers to view the wonders of the night sky. Meanwhile, September 22nd this year will mark the time of the Autumnal Equinox, which occurs at precisely 10:29 pm EDT. This marks the moment when the Sun appears to cross the Celestial Equator, appearing to move below or south of it. Earth’s tilt and its constant annual motion around the Sun cause this each year. This means that we are heading towards winter. Winter’s cold is still months away and September nights are very comfortable for getting outside.

During an equinox, the Earth's North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the Sun, and the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on Earth's surface. (Wikipedia)

During an equinox, the Earth’s North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the Sun, and the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on Earth’s surface. (Wikipedia)

Saturn the beautiful ringed planet stays above our southwestern horizon all month, but it is getting lower each night. In the first week of September it is 20 degrees above the horizon one hour after sunset, with Mars just 5 degrees to its left. Both are down to magnitude 0.6, but Mars appears reddish-orange, while Saturn is more yellowish. By the end of September Saturn will only be 10 degrees above the horizon an hour after sunset, while Mars will appear to move much faster against the background stars all month because it orbits the Sun much faster than Saturn. This motion will take Mars east, or left, of Saturn out of Libra, across Scorpius, and into Ophiuchus. On September 27th, Mars will pass just 3 degrees above Antares, a red star and the brightest star in Scorpius. Saturn will be to the right, or west of Mars that evening, and the waxing crescent Moon will be seen just 0ne degree to the right of Saturn! Two nights later on the 29th, look for the Moon to be directly above the pair of planets.

In the early morning eastern sky we can find Jupiter at magnitude –1.8 rising about 4 am local daylight time in early days of September. During the month it will rise sooner and appear higher above the horizon. Venus may be spotted in early September, rising around 5 am and appearing even closer to the horizon. But with a good clear view to the horizon, we can spot it easily because it is so bright — -3.9 magnitude. By the end of the month it will be only a few degrees from the Sun and be lost to us in its glare.

The Full Moon this month will be on the 8th; Last Quarter on the 15th; and New Moon will be on the 24th.

The Easton Yankees: Baseball of Yore


It’s summertime and thoughts turn to baseball, our national pastime.

When some of us attend Major League Baseball games at Camden Yards in Baltimore or Nationals Stadium in Washington, DC with children and grandchildren, we naturally think back to our childhood when watching baseball meant cheering our favorite players, nagging our parents to buy us food and more food and eyeing all the other people enjoying a ball game.

We may recall an incredible play at third base by Baltimore Orioles great, Brooks Robinson, or a home run by another Orioles hero, Frank Robinson. Mainly, we remember a time of innocence; baseball provided a soothing feeling in our lives.

Summer and baseball seemed synonymous. We eagerly awaited both.

Sixty-six years ago, the Class D Eastern Shore League had a presence in Easton. The Easton Yankees, a farm team for the famed New York Yankees, played at Federal Park on Federal Street on a field now occupied by St. Marks Village.


Undated photo. Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society

For parts of three decades beginning in the 1920s and lasting until 1949, Class D teams played at different times in Cambridge, Centreville, Crisfield, Dover, DE, Easton, Federalsburg, Laurel, DE, Milford, DE, Northampton, VA, Parksley, VA, Pocomoke City, Rehoboth Beach, Salisbury and Seaford, DE.

Easton teams carried names such as the Farmers, Browns and Cubs. From 1939-1941 and 1946-1949, it was the New York Yankees which owned and operated a minor league team on Bay Street.

In 1947, Easton was second to last place in the league with 45 wins and 90 losses. In 1948, the Easton Yankees occupied third place behind Salisbury and Milford and ahead of Cambridge, Rehoboth, Seaford, Federalsburg and Dover. Its record was 71 wins and 50 losses.

According to the “Eastern Shore League Record Book 1937-1948, “The Easton Yankees fielded the hardest hitting club in the league. They scored more runs and banged out more hits than any rival. A so-so mound staff, supported with none too stable defense, ate up the pennant mileage of the third place Little Yankees.

Undated photograph of Easton Yankees.  Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society.

Undated photograph of Easton Yankees. Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society.

“Casualties also took their toll on the Easton roster. Don Maxa, who established a league record for the highest batting percentage of .382, was in and out of the lineup several times with ailing feet. Crawford (Dave) Davidson, a .352 hitter, and author of 21 homers, wrenched a knee during June. He was sidelined for four valuable weeks. Jerry Stoutland, considered by many as the league’s top catcher, rode the bench occasionally because of a sore arm.”

If the quotations sound as if a sports writer authored them, that indeed was the case. Ed Nichols, sports editor of “The Salisbury Times,” edited and published the lively and colorful record book.

In 1948, Walter J. Claggett, an Easton attorney, was the business manager of the Little Yankees. The caption under his picture, besides citing his college degree gained at Washington College and his law degree at the University of Maryland, said, “Walter is a fellow well met—congenial, cooperative, and always eager to talk baseball.

Raised in Baltimore, I never knew a rabid New York Yankees fan until I moved to Easton in 1976 and met Jack Anthony, who in the years since never has apologized for his loyalty to the sometimes hated Yankees. I learned not too many years ago the reason for this Eastern Shore native’s passion for the pinstripers. His father, J. Howard Anthony, preceded Walter Claggett as the volunteer business manager for the Easton Yankees.

Only one farm team remains on the Eastern Shore. And that is the Delmarva Shorebirds, a Single-A Baltimore Orioles affiliate in Salisbury.

The baseball tradition continues on the Shore. Not as widespread, however. While times change, baseball still rivets our attention.

Paddle Through Miles River History September 4


From 9:30 a.m. to noon on Thursday, September 4, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is teaming up with the Sultana Education Foundation to offer an interpretive paddling program on the Miles River.

Participants will join Sultana Vice President and naturalist Chris Cerino as he explores the history and environment of the museum and its surrounding creeks, marshes, and beaches by water. Participants will learn about the Miles River of today—and 400 years ago—as they seine, search for arrowheads and navigate St. Michaels’ Fogg’s Cove and Miles Point.

Participants can bring their own kayak, or one will be provided. Children ages 12 and up must be accompanied by a parent in a personal tandem kayak. The cost is $35, with space limited and pre-registration needed by contacting the Sultana Education Foundation at 410-778-5954 or online at

Kayak the Miles River with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Sultana Education Foundation’s Chris Cerino on Thursday, September 4.

Kayak the Miles River with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Sultana Education Foundation’s Chris Cerino on Thursday, September 4.

Skywatch for Aug. 2014: Close Encounters & a Super-Moon


The sky’s two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will give us a terrific conjunction of the both of them in mid-August. It is rare for these two consistently bright planets to appear to join in the sky, but before dawn on August 18th (Monday) they will be within 0.2 degrees of each other! Do not wait until the 18th to view these 2 planets however, start about a week before then, looking east-northeast. Venus rises at about 4:30 am, which is some 100 minutes before the Sun, while Jupiter rises at about 5:00 am. On August 12th Jupiter will be seen about 6 degrees to the lower left of Venus. Each morning thereafter the gap will close until on August 18th the separation of the 2 planets will be half of the diameter of the Full Moon. Venus will be the brighter of the two; at magnitude –3.8, while Jupiter will be at –1.8.

Remember that both Venus and Jupiter will be fairly close to the horizon so we will need a clear view to the horizon. Looking across the street into the neighbor’s tree-filled yard will not reveal the horizon very well. After the conjunction the two planets will separate, but the waning crescent Moon will pass close to them on the morning of August 23rd.

Mars and Saturn will form another conjunction this month, but this one will be in the evening sky. On August 10th, Mars will be some 9 degrees west(right) of Saturn in the southwestern sky. By August 20th, the two will be only 4 degrees apart; remaining at about the same distance apart until the 29th or so. Neither are any where nearly as bright as Venus or Jupiter, but are still bright. Both are around +0.6 in magnitude with Mars appearing an orange-red hue and Saturn yellowish-white. The waxing crescent Moon will form a tight triangle with the 2 planets on August 31st, and all three will set around 10:30 pm.

The Full Moon will put a damper on the Perseid Meteor Shower this year; the Perseids being one of the most consistent showers all year. The peak of the shower is August 12/13 which is just two days past Full Moon. So the Moon will brighten the sky enough to cut down on our ability to spot meteors. But the Full Moon in August is the closest Full Moon to Earth for 2014. Recent culture has started to mention “Super Moons’ in recent years. This simply means a Moon that is the closest to the Earth in a calendar year.

The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical; that is an oval-shape, so each month there is a point where the Moon is at its farthest from Earth (called APOGEE), and a point where is is closest to Earth (called PERIGEE). These points do not always coincide exactly with the Full Moon phase, but when they do, we get the super moon. The August 10th Full Moon will be 221,765 miles from Earth. To give that some meaning, the farthest Full Moon from Earth was on January 15, 2014, at 252,607 miles. This difference of 30,842 miles translates to a 26% brighter Full Moon this August.

The TV, print, and internet media will hype this event; so lets join in and enjoy it too – and hope for clear skies on August 10th!

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon's orbit. The Moon follows an elliptical path around Earth with one side ("perigee") about 50,000 km closer than the other ("apogee").  Full Moons that occur on the perigee side of the Moon's orbit seem extra big and bright. Credit: NASA

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon’s orbit. The Moon follows an elliptical path around Earth with one side (“perigee”) about 50,000 km closer than the other (“apogee”). Full Moons that occur on the perigee side of the Moon’s orbit seem extra big and bright. Credit: NASA

Skywatch for July 2014: Summer Nights


The planet show we have been enjoying over the last several months fades a bit for us in July. Yet good evening views of Mars and Saturn will be possible and the morning eastern sky will feature our two innermost planets, Venus and Mercury.

Mars may be found in the southwestern sky as soon as it gets dark all month. On July 1st it will be only 5 degrees (above and right) from Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. Its reddish-orange color will make a nice visual contrast with the blue-white color of this star. Only July 5th, the 1st Quarter Moon will be seen between Mars and Spica; being only one degree from Mars! Mars and Spica, due to Mars’s orbital motion, will appear to draw closer to each other all month. Indeed, they will be only one degree apart on July 12th! Thereafter, Mars will move past Spica throughout the month.

Astrophotographer Scott Hoggard sent in a photo of the Milky Way over route 404 on Maryland's Eastern Shore in Queen Anne County, taken June 16, 2013.

Astrophotographer Scott Hoggard sent in a photo of the Milky Way over route 404 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in Queen Anne County, taken June 16, 2013.

Saturn may be found east – or to the left – of Mars. They will appear to draw closer to each other too, throughout the month, dropping from 28 degrees of separation down to just 12 degrees. In late August they will be only 4 degrees apart from each other —— something to look forward to seeing then.

Mercury makes a brief appearance in the pre-dawn sky of July and reaches greatest eastern elongation angle from the Sun on the morning of July 12th. What this means is that it will be about 21 degrees in front of the Sun and about 7 degrees above the east-northeast horizon, 45 to 60 minutes before sunrise. Mercury will also be just to the lower left of brighter Venus then, which will be a guide to finding the dimmer Mercury. We will, however, need a clear, un-obstructed view down to the horizon to see Mercury since it remains quite low and it will be seen in a sky already getting lit-up by approaching dawn.

Summer nights provide comfortable temperatures for viewing, but because summer day lengths are greater, it does not get completely dark until nearly 9:30 pm during July. Moreover, the warm summer air can hold more moisture than cooler air, and often does. It is what we call humidity. And humidity can sometimes give us hazy skies, which can muffle the lights of stars we seek. Despite this, when it is clear, and we can avoid street and house lights around us, the summer Milky Way spread out before us in regal splendor as we look toward the center of it in July.

Beginning due south between Scorpius and Sagittarius, the Milky Way appears to arch up toward the zenith, through Aquila the Eagle, past Cygnus the swan, and then descends toward the northeast through Cassiopeia the Queen, and on to Perseus the hero, and down to the northeast horizon.

Every summer since I was 10, I have looked at the Milky Way through binoculars, slowly tracing the path I just described, never tiring of the splendid, wide field view I see. Countless more stars and glowing gases than can be seen with the unaided eye are revealed, giving just a hint of the the vastness of space. Try it yourselves. You will be hooked!

Moon phases: 1st quarter/July 5; Full/July 12; Lat Quarter/ July 18; New/July 26.

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Why We Love Bird Dogs


In this installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff, Andrew McCown of Echo Hill Outdoor School, is back in the field, but this time with his new bird dog Boone. In a case of “this dog can definitely hunt,” Andrew sets Boone off to show off his extraordinary hunting skills.

This video is approximately three minutes. Gibson Anthony is the videographer.