Frank G. Dwyer
July 17, 2002
You can tell it’s July in the Port with the arrival of the ravenous greenheads. You know, those horrible flying insects that take fleshy bites out of us humans, resistant to most everything but a good slap! As if it’s not bad enough that we have to deal with the Greenheads during the day, the midges and mosquitoes at night seem to be just as bloodthirsty. The final tell tale that mid-summer is in full swing is the incredibly over crowded waters of the Merrimack River, filled with boats of all sizes and types, some captained by knowledgeable pilots, others by clueless buffoons.
Let’s start with the less harmful of the two, the bugs. Greenheads, or Tabanus nigrovittatus in the scientific world, are known as the horse fly of the salt marsh. The flies mate and lay their eggs on the salt marsh, and from what I can tell, in quite large numbers. To aid in the production of eggs, the female fly needs a blood meal, AKA: you and I. (or Fluffy and Fido for that matter) The female hunts for her meals during the daylight hours and the season lasts about three to four weeks, or the average life span of the female fly. Although the our beloved Commonwealth spends quite a bit of money to spray to control the population, and those black-box traps appear every year in the salt marsh, the greenheads seem to always come on strong. I have not found any bug repellants that consistently keep the greenheads away, but there are some on the market that claim to work. The best deterrent is a strong, gusty wind in my book.
Once the sun goes down and the greenheads retire for the evening, a nighttime fisherman is treated to the midge and mosquito brigade. I can’t count the number of still nights I spent on Joppa Flats dealing with the microscopic midge and mosquitoes the size of small birds. How those tiny midges can make things so uncomfortable is beyond me! Yes, certain repellents do work for these bugs, but some fishermen, me included; feel that the bug spray can affect the fishing in a negative way. Even so, I’ve used repellent on a number of occasions when the bugs were just too much. Once again, a gusty wind is your friend.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the boat traffic in the Merrimack River to contend with as mid-Summer moves into full swing. These July and August weekends I am typically on the water by 5am, and off by 10am. If you want amusement, just hang around the channel leading out to the mouth of the river, and watch the show. Boats of all sizes, throwing very large wakes in some instances, motor through the river at high speeds, often times ignoring “No Wake” zones. It’s not just some of the moving boats that are candidates for Darwin Awards, but also those fishermen, and I use the term extremely loosely, that insist on anchoring in the channel and fishing. I’ve seen the Harbor Masters and the Coast Guard move these clueless individuals off their poor choice of anchorage, only to see them move back in once the authorities are gone. Some say a mandatory boat safety class would help the problem, but I’m not sure it would judging from some of the same stories I hear from folks in States that have mandatory safety classes. A little common sense could go a long way.