Jay Fleming’s first book, “Working the Water,” is a visual narrative of the lives of those individuals whose livelihood is directly dependent upon the Chesapeake Bay — America’s largest estuary. The book comprises photographs of seasoned watermen, scenic seascapes, weathered workboats and bay bounty — a true and complete depiction of Chesapeake Bay life. Equal parts informative and aesthetically pleasing, Jay’s flagship book, “Working the Water,” is relevant to the seafood enthusiast, the history buff, the biologist, photography fan, and Chesapeake Bay lover alike.
Spring, a time of transition on the Chesapeake
As the waters warm and the days get longer, the Bay comes to life – anadromous fish return to their natal rivers to spawn, and bay grasses emerge from the bottom to provide the fish and crab with a habitat and protection. Watermen shift gears from oystering to fishing and crabbing.
Summer, Seafood, and Life on the Bay
For many, summer has become synonymous with crab feasts, and this is especially true along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Crabbing opens earlier in the spring, but gets into full swing come Mary and June. As the bay waters spike in temperature, watermen see a wide variety of fish species in the Bay come into the bay from the Atlantic Ocean.
Cooling water temperatures and a shift in gears
Dropping water temperatures are a trigger for Blue Crabs to fatten up for their winter hibernation. Crab picking houses will pick until early November and pasteurize meat in excess supply to feed the market with product during the off-season. Oystering on public ground opens in October and demand for oysters peaks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Ice, oysters, and down time
Oystering continues on the Bay until the end of March, generally slowing down during the latter half of the long season. Crabs spend the winter hibernating in the muddy bottom of the bay. During harsh winters, ice can prevent watermen from getting out on the water to work. February and March provide watermen with down time to prepare gear for spring fisheries.