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‘Ghost pots’ haunt creatures at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay

By Darryl Fears, Published: January 1

GLOUCESTER POINT, Va. — Under the murky waters of the York River, an eerie blur appeared suddenly on Edward Hogge’s sonar, near where his 40-foot deadrise boat sailed about a mile offshore on a cool December morning.

Hogge made a hard right turn. “I’m going back to get it,” he said. He called out to his wife and first mate, Cheryl. “All right, honey, get your gloves on. Get ready!” When the boat stopped, she tossed a long rope lined with hooks overboard and yanked it. “It’s got something! It’s heavy,” Cheryl Hogge said.

Be warned: This is a ghost story. A hidden killer haunts marine life in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries: tens of thousands of baited crab traps left behind by watermen each year.

These “ghost pots” capture legions of crabs, eels, terrapins, fish, muskrats and even an occasional duck, leaving them to die. For three years starting in 2008, more than 22,000 blue crabs, male and female, were....