Herb Floyd and his wife Rhonda of Trappe, Md., pull up a striped bass at Cook's Point oyster reef during the Rod and Reef Slam fishing tournament on the Choptank River on Oct. 7, 2017. The tournament was hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to highlight the return of trophy fish species that rely on oyster reef habitat in Chesapeake Bay.
Oyster reefs are home to much more than just oysters. Bottom-dwelling critters such as mud crabs, sand worms and grass shrimp make their home in and around oyster reefs, as do blue crabs and many small fish. They, in turn, attract larger game fish and even birds.
“We’re trying to see in this tournament not just who can catch the biggest fish, but who can catch the most species of fish,” says John Page Williams, senior naturalist with CBF.
Cook's Point is a site where CBF has worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to install reef balls to spur oyster recovery. Located nearby are Harris Creek, Tred Avon and Little Choptank, three waterways in the Choptank River Complex that have been selected by the Chesapeake Bay Program for oyster reef restoration. Those waterways all contain projects, including sanctuaries, spearheaded by NOAA and other Bay Program partners.
At the end of the day, participants caught 54 fish from 10 different species, including striped bass, white perch, weakfish and spotted seatrout. “This was backbone habitat, keystone communities in the Chesapeake,” says Williams, “and the more we bring those bottom communities back, the more we’re going to see fish populations coming back.”