Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rising tide

The view of the salt marsh from our backyard.
A cold, gray, dreary April morning, we drive to the summer house and notice that we have a new neighbor.

But thank God, the nearby cottages are still occupied by our friends from years past.

No, this stealthy neighbor is slowly moving in and changing the geography of our coastline.

Last fall, Hurricane Sandy caused major overnight modifications to this salt marsh, flooding the nearby wetlands.

However, we thought the brackish water would creep back into the shallow inlets and during ebb tide flush out of the salt wedge estuary.

But it hasn’t.

When we were children, my brother and I carried our nets, fishing line, bait and pail to this salt marsh, which was inhabited by blue crabs.

Tying a fish from our morning catch onto one end of the fishing line, we flung the bait into the center of the channel.

It was a waiting game. Sometimes we left without even one tug on our line. But when the crabs were hungry, they grabbed the fish with their large pincers and started devouring their catch.

The tug was ever so slight at first; then the tension on the line increased as the crab tried to swim away with the fish.

Pulling the line in slowly, we placed the net over the water just behind the crab; and the crustacean was in the net with one swoop.

We also headed down to the estuary to dig for clams.

Turning over large stones that had been covered with water a few hours earlier, we looked for telltale holes in the muddy soil. We then began scooping the wet earth with quahog shells, searching for the prize.

Sometimes there were slim pickings in the clam cove, but other times the soft-shelled clams were in hiding together, nestled in a community a foot deep. They would squirt at us as we tossed them into the pail.

Later, my brother and I took turns dragging the heavy pail all the way home.

Today, I stand in our backyard and gaze at the untilled farmland leading to the salt marsh. Instead of the distant tributaries that have been there since childhood, I see a river that could shortly encroach on my next door neighbor’s property.

The sand on this coastal flood plain is shifting, and it is highly probably that someday the land will be taken back by its original owner.

But on the bright side, if there is a bumper crop of blue crabs this year, it will be a cinch to carry the pail home.

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