Every single angler who enjoys Chesapeake Bay fishing should be rooting for congress to pass the infrastructure bill currently being hashed out. In 2021 the Chesapeake Bay Program received $87.5 million, but for 2022 President Biden upped that ante by $3 million (funding which has already been approved). If the infrastructure bill passes in its current form, that figure could jump by about a  50-percent increase with $47.6 million more dedicated to saving the Bay.

chesapeake bay
Funding for Bay cleanup is a critical part of the infrastructure deal. Photo by USGS

While it may be what’s nearest to a Mid-Atlantic angler’s heart, the Bay is only one of the nation’s critically important waterways that stands to benefit from the deal. It includes EPA funding for water and wastewater projects including sewage and stormwater management and drinking water projects each getting an additional $14.7 billion over five years, more than doubling current commitments. Additional areas targeted for cleanup include mine land and superfund sites, the Great Lakes, the Puget Sound, and the Gulf of Mexico.

In a statement issued by the Choose Clean Water Coalition, director Kristen Reilly says “We are thrilled to hear of this major investment to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams, while also supporting new and existing jobs. We look forward to seeing the introduction of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and urge every member of Congress to vote for this historic investment in the future. As we work to leave a legacy of clean water, funding such as this is essential to reaching our goals.”

Just how essential is it? Tuesday evening during a short cruise from Mayo Beach to Thomas Point — a distance of less than two miles — seven dead rockfish (four clearly of keeper size) and a dead white perch were spotted floating on the water’s surface by this angler. Last week when the striper season was closed, multiple FishTalk readers reported seeing high numbers of striped bass, catfish, shad, and other species, floating dead on the Bay between Annapolis and the Rock Hall area.

Blame for the current state of the rockfish fishery in the Bay consistently has fallen upon recreational anglers in recent years, and we’ve been fingered time and time again as the reason for all the floaters. Well, thanks to the two-week cessation of striper fishing in Maryland waters — and the presence of hordes of floaters during this closure — it is becoming abundantly clear that release mortality is not the culprit, or certainly not the main factor in play. Water quality issues MUST be addressed forcefully and quickly if we want these fish to stop dying all around us.

We want to point out that thanking proponents of this deal, which includes both democrats and republicans, is in order. And making your views known to the opponents of this initiative is every bit as important. If you care one iota about the Bay use this link to ID your senator and drop them a note, and use this next link to ID your representative in the House and send them your input.

-Lenny Rudow, Angler in Chief