Greetings FishTalkers, welcome to September. This is the month when we get a glimpse of the fall to come, the air and water first begin cooling, those fall feeding frenzies begin firing up, and this year, when many of us will begin to consider the upcoming elections.

Elections?! Wait a sec Rudow, what the heck does that icky political stuff have to do with fishing? Like it or not (not!), they are related. As the spring and summer seasons are now mostly in the rearview, in many portions of the Bay anglers will look back at some of the toughest rockfish fishing that can be remembered since the moratorium was lifted. Species like weakfish, flounder, and croaker haven’t come back in any real numbers to fill the void; the population level of wild oysters in the Bay is pitiful; and even the uber-resilient crab population is at low numbers. We do have bright spots in some portions of the Bay (like specks and reds), but we also have a burgeoning blue catfish population to worry about in others.

The Chesapeake Bay is and always has been the strongest geographic and cultural point on my personal compass, and I’m sure that’s true for many people reading this right now. But I never “voted the Bay” because I was brought up in a family that believed being a one-issue voter was negligent. That it was incumbent upon us, as citizens, to learn about candidates for office and judge them on the whole before deciding who to support. I’ve lived by this concept, and more than once held my nose to vote for a candidate who may not have been the best choice for the Chesapeake, but had other positions I agreed with.

flounder fishing in the bay
Flounder fishing between Tolly and Thomas Points circa 2008, the last year big flounder came this far up the Bay in large numbers. Whether we’ll ever see fisheries like this happen again depends at least in part on political will, swayed by our votes.

No more.

The Bay is simply too important to chalk up as potential political collateral damage. I’ve watched candidates I’ve opposed protect oyster sanctuaries, only to see candidates I’ve supported try to open them up to harvest. I’ve seen candidates I opposed build strong regulatory structures that worked, and watched those I’ve supported disassemble them. I’ve seen candidates I opposed initiate environmental policies that made sense, only to see candidates I’ve supported cancel them. I’ll bet a lot of you folks have noticed the same things.

No more. The Bay is simply too important, too precious, to sacrifice in the name of other issues. So, I plan to abandon a long history of voting based on wide-ranging considerations and instead vote based on how a candidate has acted towards the Chesapeake in the past. Not based on who says they want to “save the Bay” — they ALL say that — but instead based on their history of action.

Yes, this is myopic. No, I don’t expect everyone to agree with this stance. Conceptually I still don’t agree with it myself. Single-issue voting isn’t how things are supposed to work. But there comes a time when an individual priority demands complete dedication, and IMHO we’re hitting a critical mass when it comes to the health of the Bay. The Chesapeake needs 100-percent support from those of us who treasure it, and it’s time for us to go to the mats. You may not believe the same, and I respect that — but I hope you’ll think on it before filling in any ovals.