San Bernardino County Surf Fishing Bucket

Fishing can be a phenomenal and fun activity for children and youngsters. Fishing can be a very fulfilling sport; you and your family can fish rather than dealing with the hectic routines of day to day life in San Bernardino County, and enjoy the outdoors. Families regularly enjoy the outside air, find out about the earth, and even create great memories. Best of all, fishing is quality time spent together talking, laughing and sitting next to each other. It can be a perfect game for little children, on the off chance that you present it emphatically. For some families, the experience of fishing with live bait, and catching fish that later become dinner, can be a memory making experience that lasts a lifetime.

Here are some of the thought to make your fishing trip successful in San Bernardino County with your kids.

bait well

San Bernardino County Live Bait Well

shrimp fishing bait

Live Bait and Dead Weight

I did not go to Smith Island to relax in the quiet of a peaceful fishing village, I did not go to bask in the natural beauty of its marshes; although I certainly did all of those things. I went to learn how the people who have populated the island for centuries in relative isolation go about their lives. What keeps them there? How do they earn a living? What is it like to be a waterman?

Luckily, as I was wandering around the docks on my first evening there, a golf cart sped up and Captain Billy stepped out. After talking for a while he offered to take me out in his boat the next day, something that I cannot thank him for enough. By allowing me to join him on his boat the Miss Frances, and letting me take part in his daily activities — sorting through grass we scraped, inspecting tanks, sitting back in his shed drinking beer and eating crabs — gave me a true sense of island life.

Billy is the last of a dying breed. The watermen once ruled the Chesapeake Bay, but now Tylerton has fewer than 10 living in the village. Billy has worked the waters of the Chesapeake chasing crab in the summer and oyster in the winter for 40 years just like his father before him. He has traced his ancestry all the way back to people sailing from England to the Carribean in the 1700s — surely he is a man who has saltwater running in his veins. He has a wealth of knowledge that extends beyond the reach of most anyone I have ever met. You may think that a waterman is just a fisherman, but you would be wrong with such an oversimplification, as they are so much more in both skills and duties. In addition to bringing in the catch, a waterman must be skilled in: handling watercraft, navigation, carpentry, painting, engine mechanics, radio, weather forecasting, ecology, biology, first aid, and so much more.

Early in the morning when Billy picked me up all was calm on Tyler Creek, the main waterway that runs through Smith Island, but as day broke he pointed to some clouds and said, “you see those clouds there that are breaking up?” I said that I did and he said, “that means wind.” It seemed like an old sailor trick I would have seen in a movie, but within an hour, he was right. during a hard gust he turned to me and said with a laugh, “remember those clouds?!” Later he pointed to a foggy area and said that it would be raining soon, yet again, he was correct. I complimented him on his skill of reading the sky and he told me that some of it you just pick up and some of it was part of his work while in the navy. Over several years he traveled the world and took in the sights of many distant places. Here i was in one of the smallest towns I had ever seen, and I was with someone who had seen more of the world than most people ever get to see. The fact that he chose to return and settle here speaks to the character of the place. The people from Smith Island are not cut off from the rest of the world, the water they live on has opened the world to them.

Billy’s knowledge of aquatic life in the bay is probably greater than many marine biologists. There are two types of crabbing done commercially: potting and scraping. Potting involves setting baited traps and then collecting them. In scraping, a net is cast off the side of a boat and dragged along the bottom of the bay. the net is then lifted, its contents dumped on a table,and sorted through. Billy does scraping. He does it because he can scrape and sort without the assistance of a crew, which is ultimately cheaper. He also believes, and I tend to agree with him, that scraped crabs are sweeter because they have been feeding on natural food as opposed to bait which is often rotting fish. Sorting through the grass I was shown many things I had never seen before. At one point we caught a flounder, he turned it over and showed me recently hatched flounder which looked like something found under a microscope clinging to their mother. We threw it back so that those flounder may have a chance to grow. The watermen use whatever they can. If the flounder was of legal size and without babies it could have made a decent meal for his family. He also showed me several varieties of blowfish, needlefish, flatfish that resembled but were not flounder, spot, shrimp, and many other varieties of fish i had never seen, at one point we even caught a skate. He showed me the different stages of the molting process that crabs go through. He showed me a pair of crabs that were engaging in a mating ritual. He showed me another pair engaged in the act and the two penises of the male crab. He showed me a crab that had lost its claw and was growing a new one under its shell which would grow out as the current one is shed. He showed me the seeds of the grasses which are so essential to his occupation — no grass no crabs.

For as many bad things as Billy had to say about “environmentalists” it would be difficult to find anyone who cares more about protecting the natural resources in the Chesapeake Bay than him. His frustration comes from the ignorance of those who are pushing legislation affecting what he does. He explained that many people think that by scraping his nets along the grass beds he is destroying them, but what he is doing is more like mowing a lawn, the root system remains perfectly in tact. The grass beds he scrapes have been used for over one hundred years and are still perfectly healthy. It is not about simply using the bay. It is stewardship. The watermen take their catch but they care deeply for the bay which gives it to them and want to protect it. Billy explained to me that the marketing of oysters as “cleaners” has allowed sewer pipes to drain into historic oyster beds which have existed since prehistoric times. The oyster rock which had been harvest for centuries disappeared. When the watermen’s union came together the pipe was removed, and within a year oysters returned to the rock.

He told me about a friend of his who went to a meeting where a retired businessman and sport fishermen stood up and said that the watermen are going to take the last rock fish out of the bay. When the man was finished his friend stood and asked the man a series of questions:

“Do you fish?” he asked

“Yes, i love to fish, i go out on my boat every day to fish.”

“And how many rods do you use when you are fishing?”

“At any given time i can have 6 lines in the water.”

“And do you depend on that catch to support your family.”

“No, I am retired, I do it for fun.”

Billy’s friend then said, “Well sir, it is you who will take the last rockfish out of the bay.”

It was clear that Billy is generally frustrated with the government. Who can blame him? He has lived his whole life on an island with no local government, no mayor, no police force, only a volunteer fire department. No one locks their doors. Billy has no memory of a crime ever taking place on the island. Everyone on the island is like family, They look out for each other, and yes they have their disagreements, but at the end of the day they are all on the same island and ultimately have to find ways to live together. He told me his best friend moved to Costa Rica because he was,”tired of America.” Billy considers doing the same, but his wife does not feel up to the move.

Much of his frustration comes from fees which make it more difficult for him to live the life he knows and loves. The fee to have a commercial fishing license is in the thousands, compounded with the registration of his boat and the cost of fuel there is barely a profit to be made on his catch. The regulatory departments which collect these fees have sent a clear message, “go big, or get out.” Regulation of our fragile fisheries are crucial, and the large corporate fishing companies must be kept in check. Corporations harvesting more than the bay can provide must be held accountable. By choking out the independent watermen, we lose the only competition to industrial exploitation of our great estuary, one of the few means of receiving sustainable seafood, and a crucial link to our past.

The docks where he keeps his boat have always been free, but the state of Maryland has claimed them and now charges him rent to use them because they “take care of it,” ironically very little had been done to fix the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

Billy told me that scientists have told him that Smith Island is sinking. I asked if he believed them, he said half laughing in his thick accent, “of course I do, its been sinking my whole life, but we’re still here!” I don’t think he could have given a better answer. The people of Smith Island are born and raised in the bay, they eat what comes out it, work hard to earn a living on it, and are eventually buried on land which will one day be reclaimed by the tide. Everything moves in cycles. The people of Smith Island are as much a part of the bay as the brine itself. It is one of the last places in the country, possibly the world, where the people are completely in tune with the place they live.

San Bernardino County

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