In the past, passing on the legacy of working on the water from generation to generation was commonplace among families who depended on the resources of the Chesapeake Bay. Over time, changes in the industry and environment have caused younger people to leave the seafood business for jobs with fewer government regulations that do not depend directly upon the elements.
In spite of the pressures that have caused the entire seafood industry to adapt, the demand for Chesapeake seafood still remains. It is this demand that has allowed for Logan, 18, and his brother, Ryan, 25, to follow in the footsteps of the five generations before them, and continue making a living on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
I met Dickey, his uncle, John Grussing, and his sons on a crisp April morning during Logan’s high school spring break. About an hour before sunrise, we left the small working waterfront at the end of Quaker Neck Road in Dickey Jr.’s workboat, Margaret Ann. Towing their brand new Rock Hall-built, Deckelman skiff, we headed upriver toward Chestertown to start fishing the fyke nets—stationary nets set perpendicular to the shoreline that trap fish through a series of funnels.
After reaching Southeast Creek, Logan, Ryan, and I boarded the skiff and traversed the upper reaches of the Chester to fish the nets. Dickey and John idled the Margaret Ann in the river while culling through the fish that we shuttled back to them. We continued to fish the nets until the boat was nearly full of white perch, catfish and mud shad. We caught an estimated 5000 pounds that day, an above-average day on the water.
Back at the wharf, Dickey Manning, Sr., Logan’s grandfather, awaited our arrival with the family’s refrigerated truck. Dickey Sr. spent nearly 55 years working on the water in Kent County, Maryland. Now at the age of 81, he considerers himself retired, but like most watermen, he never wants to ‘completely’ retire. Dickey Sr. helped his grandsons load up the totes of fish into the back of the truck and after the truck was loaded, Dickeys Sr. and Jr., Ryan, and Logan posed on the tailgate for a picture.
In speaking with both Dickey Sr. and Dickey Jr., the great sense of accomplishment they have in watching Ryan and Logan continue their way of life is quite evident. Not only will they carry on the tradition of working the river, but they will also carry on the knowledge acquired about the Chesapeake Bay that has been passed down through five generations, a valuable family heirloom. In spending the day with this incredible family of watermen, I was captivated to witness, firsthand, the seamless teamwork employed by the Manning family. Together, they set out to fish their nets, and together they have been able to sustain their livelihood.
Story and photos by Jay Fleming