Lighthouse 1978 Mahon
After we got our boat, fishing was on the agenda every weekend. Many times we went to Port Mahon which was closer than Mispillion Light. It is east of
, north of Little Creek Preserve and
south of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, a more than excellent bird
watching area. Dover
Port Mahon Road extends about four miles
and requires the driver’s close attention as parts may be under water during
high tide or after storms. It’s best to time your trips with the tide charts.
It is a beautiful drive right along the water of the Delaware
Bay and at the port itself you can see the remains of an old fish
factory and several dilapidated pilings that used to be piers for fishing and
oyster boats. The shoreline is strewn with rocks and shells of all kinds with
intermittent patches of sandy beach. If lonely is what you’re looking for, this
is the place.
Nothing as exciting as getting lost in the fog happened at Port Mahon, but I do have some very pleasant memories of fishing there. We never went out into the Bay as far because the best fishing was closer to shore. After coming back in, I always liked to explore the shoreline for rocks and shells and shore birds and snap a few photos. There was an osprey nest on top of a large pole near the parking area that drew my interest on several visits. A falling-down store and a shucking house were near the old fish factory, and I had to explore those much to Jim’s chagrin. Exploring old buildings was one of my things in my younger days.
I recently read that the old lighthouse, which looked ready to fall down in the 70’s when we were there, was set afire in 1984 by some young kids up to no good. It completely burned except for the sixteen rusted iron pilings. It was built in 1903 and had a keeper of the light until 1939 when it was automated. It remained active until 1955 when the Coastguard transferred the light to a nearby skeletal tower. Once it was abandoned Mother Nature and vandals began a long twenty-nine year goodbye. I never could find out if it was actually built in the water or if the Bay encroached underneath later. I suspect the latter. At least the pilings were a good idea either way. I’m sure it shone the way to many an oyster dredge, but I do remember a couple boats that were dead in the sticky salt marsh mud. That reminds me that the water was usually very dark and churned, not the kind you’d want to swim in.
I do remember one embarrassing moment that luckily went unnoticed by all but us because of the desolation of the place. Jim had just lowered the boat off the trailer into the water when to our surprise the Bay started coming inside the boat. Immediately we knew what had happened and Jim quickly reloaded it back onto the trailer. The water drained out of the stern through that little hole below the motor, the transom drain hole you’re supposed to put the plug back into after washing out the deck from the previous fishing trip. It only took one time to never forget again.
We caught many different kinds of fish at Port Mahon, but I think the most abundant were sand sharks. Some people said they were good to eat. Except for one time, we never kept any to try. They weren’t aggressive as you would expect sharks to be, but they had fierce-looking teeth that intertwined through each other. The one we kept went to our next door neighbor who was a master fish chef and often cooked our catch. He made a fish gumbo with the shark but I couldn’t get past the smell to manage a taste. I never liked any kind of fish stew so I was likely prejudiced to begin with. Everyone else said they enjoyed it.
As I write this I Google “Port Mahon” and find that the road today is almost impassable during high tide because of the rise of the Bay. Some new boat launching docks have been installed and there is a thirty-five car parking lot, but fisherman must pay close attention to the tidal charts for a safe return and exit. Much of the road traffic is from Dover Air Force Base trucks off-loading jet fuel from Bay tankers. That’s a picture I don’t care to remember. I’ll keep my memories of fishing trips, shell picking, and the old Port Mahon Lighthouse imagining its guiding beam to incoming ships of the past.