LOREN ANNE BARNETT/CBF STAFF
CBF Hampton Roads Senior Scientist Chris Moore has been fishing
Virginia waters all his life. Novice Helen gladly takes tips on how to
properly remove a fish from her line.
ANDREA MORAN/CBF STAFF
One of Coastal Living’s 2012 Best Seafood Dives, Chick’s Oyster Bar serves the
freshest seafood straight from the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. And the fare
tastes even better with stunning views of the Lynnhaven River from every seat.
ing, we decided to make a run out to the
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a popular
fishing area. It was rough for our Carolina
Skiff, but we were glad to have taken the
chance. In the distance, we saw a few tall
ships that had been in Norfolk over the
weekend for OpSail 2012. It was a beautiful sight to see them sailing up the Bay
through the gray haze.
Back on the Lynnhaven River, we passed
Pleasure House Point, a 100-plus-acre piece
of waterfront that CBF, the Trust for Public
Land, the City of Virginia Beach, and the
community recently saved (see page 25).
Water quality and habitat in this river have
improved measurably after collective efforts
by CBF, Lynnhaven River NOW, and the City
of Virginia Beach. In areas around the property, oysters actually rise up from the water,
as I had imagined from Captain John Smith’s
chronicles. To the south, the east and west
branches of the river part ways.
Chris pulled the boat over near an oyster
reef and gave us instructions on drift fishing
with our bait on the bottom. Each of our
rigs was different. I had “fishbites,” a packaged bait that looked like strips of pink
chewing gum. Helen had live minnows.
And Chris graciously sported the pink lure.
Almost as soon as I felt my rig touch bottom, I had a strike. Lucky hat of mine! It’s
a spot. My grandfather used to catch these,
and I loved when my grandmother would
pan fry them for breakfast with eggs.
Spot are small, blueish-gray fish with a
signature black spot near the gill. They
are abundant from spring through fall in
the shallow waters of the middle and
lower Chesapeake Bay. These bottom-feeders eat bristle worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and plant and animal debris.
Spot, in turn, are food for bluefish,
striped bass, and weakfish.
Minutes after releasing the spot, I had a
croaker on the hook. They actually croak!
These silvery-pink fish are able to make
noise by vibrating their swim bladders.
Atlantic croaker—another bottom feeder—
also visit the Bay from spring through fall.
But this species will travel as far north as
the Susquehanna Flats. They move up the
Bay in spring and exit in the fall to winter
in warmer waters.
I was excited to get my hook back in the
water. Soon, I was staring at fish number
three—an odd-looking creature called a
sea robin. To me it looked more like something from a tropical aquarium.
The northern sea robin has a mottled body,
wing-like fins, and a flat, bony head. They
visit the Bay from spring through early
winter. Although they are most common in
the lower Bay, they are sometimes seen as
far north as the Potomac River.
I was having all the fun. I was barely aware
that it was raining and that Helen and
Chris had not caught a thing. At this point,
Helen asked to switch rigs with me. I took
the rod with the live minnows, and Helen
promptly caught two spot. I was still enjoying my hat and my first-ever fishing expedition with my daughter.
Well-known fisherman-journalist Charlie
Fox said, “The angler forgets most of the
fish he catches, but he does not forget the
streams and lakes in which they are
caught.” On that day, on that river, I
dared to say that Helen and I would
After one of my minnows disappeared, I
added a strip of fishbites to my rig. We
each caught two more croakers before we
headed back to the pier.
We returned to the facility soaked, hungry,
and without a single flounder. But Helen
and I are resourceful and—after a big
thank you to Captain Chris—we headed
straight to Chick’s Oyster Bar on the other
side of the Lynnhaven.
The rain had stopped and we were starting
to dry off a bit. From the deck, we had a
great view of our new fishing hole—and a
tasty plate of flounder.
HELEN BARNETT APPEL
Loren Anne Barnett—
CBF’s Director of Creative
Services and Editor of Save
the Bay magazine—believes
in lucky fishing hats.