All about Hoofbeats & Footprints

Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay

This afternoon on my way home from my photography class in Cambridge, Maryland, I decided to stop at the Fishermen’s Marina on Kent Island. It was an overcast day and there was just a slight breeze so I was hoping to capture some nice reflections of the boats moored there.

When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised how brilliant the boat reflections shined in the water but that wasn’t what truly caught my attention. There were three gentleman on a small boat that was surrounded by fish outside and inside of the boat. Upon further investigation I saw that they had nets filled to the brim with fish and they were working the nets. One of them looked up and smiled at me and said hello.

Thrilled to be able to get some time to speak with some true Chesapeake Bay Watermen like my good friend Jay Fleming who is an exceptional photographer that specializes in documenting and photographing the lifestyle of Watermen not only on the Chesapeake Bay but other seaboards.

The catch of the day was White Perch which I was told by the boat owner Lenny Wooters, that it is considered to be the best tasting fish around. Even better than Rockfish or Striped Bass.

They throw chum into the water to attract the White perch and it was said that sometimes it can seem as if the water was boiling with fish. Their nets were filled and as they are smaller fish they get caught up in the long nets. Each of the men had a large net pile and were painstakingly removing the fish one by one from the nets.

What impressed me the most, setting aside the fish smell, fish water and generally fish everywhere was the pleasant nature of these Watermen. Each of them were gracious and welcoming, more than happy to allow me to capture some images of them while they worked. Ironically, fishing for these men was a weekend job as they hold regular full-time jobs. So clearly fishing for them is a passion that they thoroughly enjoy.

To have the patience of a Saint to spend hours on end out in the cold removing the fish from the nets made me realize the tenacity and endurance these men have.

It makes one think that if you find something you’re passionate about and you make it your ‘job’ life can seem so much easier and certainly enjoyable.

I am grateful for their time and hospitality in getting to know them and to peek into their lives a little to learn about what it is like to be a Waterman on the Chesapeake Bay.

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