Saturday, April 20, 2013

James Island

August 2008: A trip report.

James Island was once a very sizable island, in fact a peninsula on the south shore of the Little Choptank River. However, with falling sea levels—yes I do mean falling sea levels, since it was a sandbar formed when sea levels were much higher—it has eroded into three islands that will probably disappear in my lifetime. You'll not find a description of James Island in any guidebook and little on the Internet. I spotted it on Google Earth as a lonesome spot with potential, researched on the Internet that the owner doesn't mind visitation by low impact users, and stopped by briefly on a trip a year earlier, while passing from Smith Island to St. Michael's. What we discovered was one of the nicest little desert islands on the Chesapeake Bay. The east side of the center island forms a beautiful sandy crescent, protected from all but east winds. From any other direction doesn't look like much.

 Thin Water. Though we spent the night, 3 to 4-foot depths extend for about 1/2-mile.

We arrived mid-afternoon, anchored near the shore and next to two small powerboats. We walked the length of the island to reacquaint ourselves with the beach. Jessica explored the tidal pools at the north end. She then began to lead me through the brush and in the middle of the island… and within 15 seconds came charging back at me, followed by a cloud of flies and mosquitoes. Her assault on the interior of the island had been repulsed.

The rest of the afternoon was spent… well, not really doing anything. That's an odd choice for an adult like me, who is inherently goal oriented. Not that I'm a super achiever in business. Not that I'm a workaholic. But my goal is to go sailing I want to go sailing well. If the goal is to go rock climbing, I want to climb well. Today my only planned activity was to relax, and I suppose I did that well. With a book in hand, bug spray applied to the back of my neck, my boat anchored 30 feet off the beach, and the calm sandy bottom on which to plop my butt (chest deep in the 80 degree waters of the Bay), I proceeded to think about very little for the next few hours. I fished a little, but only tiny croaker and spot were biting.
We settled down for the evening. A passing thunderstorm grazed us, providing some fresh air but no rain. We watched a Jackie Chan movie on a portable DVD player. We tried fishing again—I reasoned that if there were small croaker during the day there might be larger fish at night—and we cleaned up. One fat fish after another, all over a foot long. “Fishbites” was the trick, an amazing fake bait. I tossed the cleanings off the stern, attracting squadrons of smaller fish.


Visit while you can; these islands will be gone in a generation. There has also been discussion of converting James Island into a dredge spoil disposal site. The Army Corp of Engineers has the project on temporary hold.

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I'd be happy to add entire descriptions, if you have an idea that fits. Just give a hint here and we'll swap e-mails.