SOLOMONS, Md. – Before "Jaws" hit the big screen in 1976, sharks in general and Great White sharks in particular were just another big fish to be caught.
Nearly 40 years after the summer the mega-blockbuster, however, sharks still stir the interest of saltwater sport fishermen and those who enjoy swimming in the ocean. For proof of that look no further than The Discovery Channel, which once again presents its widely watched phenomenon knows as "shark week," beginning Sunday evening.
While the Great White sharks of today that patrol the oceans of the world are impressive, they are puppy dogs when compared to the monsters that once called one of the most popular fishing destinations on the East Coast their home – the Chesapeake Bay.
Today, thousands of anglers make at least one trip each year to the Chesapeake for rockfish and the other gamefish that has made the bay a world-class fishery. Relatively few, however, take the time to visit the Calvert Marine Museum on Solomons Island, Maryland, and gain an even greater appreciation of the area.
Ancestors of today's Great White shark, megalodons once ruled the waters of what is now the Chesapeake. Any angler who has the opportunity to stand next to the open jaws of what is estimated to be a nearly 40-foot beast on display in the museum will never be intimidated by the teeth of a bluefish.
One of the factors making the Solomons area such a productive fishery is a major tributary in the Patuxent River. In addition to the gamefish in the river, it also is a source of baitfish for the ravenous rockfish and bluefish that inhabit the Chesapeake.
Each year on Columbus Day weekend, the Patuxent River Appreciation Days Festival is held to create awareness, promote and recognize the economic, social, recreational, cultural and historical impact of the Patuxent River. This year, the festivities are Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13.
Pennsylvania sportsmen and outdoors enthusiasts have long had a special bond with the Chesapeake Bay, not just because of it being an outstanding fishery and recreational destination, but also because of its ecological importance as one of the world's watersheds. In addition to the many county agencies who maintain projects that support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, conservation organizations and private individuals have rallied around the cry of "Save the Bay."
While those of various interests recognize the importance of a healthy Chesapeake, few take a more proactive role than anglers. Cynics who suggest anglers are most interested in having clean water for the purpose of it producing a larger and healthier population of fish species still have to admit the positive effect of those efforts.
Anglers understand that "Save the Bay" is about much more than how big and how many, and there is no better place for visitors to the Chesapeake to get the big picture than by spending some time at the Calvert Marine Museum. Located on Solomons Island along the Western Shore of the mid-bay region, this popular outdoors recreational area is also targeted by those with interests ranging from American history – especially from pre-Colonial times through the War of 1812 to those who just want to escape the daily grind, enjoy the scenic seascapes and landscapes and feast on some outstanding seafood.
Designed and built by volunteers, the original Calvert Marine Museum opened in 1970, but quickly outgrew the facility and was moved to the present nine-acre waterfront site five years later. At that time the renovated Drum Point Lighthouse was moved to the museum site.
Museum director Doug Alves said that from its inception the public, non-profit, educational, regionally oriented facility has been dedicated to the collection, preservation, research and interpretation of the culture and natural history of the region. Those goals have been surpassed, and in '81 it met the criteria to become fully accredited by the American Association of Museums and was reaccredited in '96.
Of special interest to sportsmen who visit the Calvert Marine Museum are the displays that focus on how the area that is now the Chesapeake Bay has supported birds, fish and mammals since prehistoric times. Among the most popular are the petting tanks that allow for a hands-on opportunity to touch sharks, rays, crabs and turtles.
Perhaps nothing makes a bigger impression than the "Treasures From The Cliffs" exhibit in the paleontology hall that features fossils and specimens – some of which are recent discoveries. This area also has the single-most chilling display in the jaws and skeletal display of the nearly 40-foot megalodon.
For information on the Calvert Marine Museum, access the website at http://www.calvertmarinemuseum.com/.