Friday, February 25, 2011

Allen's Fresh perch are in a biting mood

The popular Allen's Fresh area of Charles County's Wicomico River is alive with thousands of yellow perch. Currently, most of them are bucks (males) filled with life-giving milt. In addition, expect plenty of hits from newly arriving white perch.

My day (Saturday) began in the pre-dawn darkness, but already the headlights of several vehicles could be seen rumbling down the pothole-filled gravel lane that stops at the high banks of the river. I would have company, for sure.

Charlie & Tommy had plenty of perch
It wasn't long before Charlie Stewart and Tommy Morgan, both of Hollywood, Md., found a suitable parking spot and when the first rays of sun and plenty light bathed the Wicomico, Charlie was the first to score. He hooked a male yellow perch that easily measured 9 inches. The perch fell for a small, white feathered jig known as a Roscoe. Old-timers might remember a lookalike lure that was sold under the name Dollfly.

Charlie got busy hooking, keeping, or releasing yellow and white perch, but his friend Tommy and I, as well as others who knew Stewart and Morgan, such as Ray Hayes, of Nanjemoy, Md., and William "Byrd" White, of Charlotte Hall, soon connected on the springtime harbingers.

My favorite rig is a 1/16-oz. bucktail-haired shad dart in yellow/red or white/red, tied to 6- or 8-pound monofilament and held off the bottom with a thumb tip-sized bobber. This day, the perch picked up my shad dart that gently bounced about 3-1/2 feet under the bobber. Ray Hayes, incidentally, absolutely whacked the perch. It was clear that he knew how to hook 'em, plus he had found a river pocket that was loaded with the gold-hued fish.

Yellow & white perch are in at Allen's Fresh
The Allen's Fresh sector can be reached via Route 301 a few miles south of La Plata. Watch for a traffic light and a Route 234 sign; turn left and before you know it you'll cross the river. Park well off to the side and if you have a pair of chest-high waders you can fish on either side of the river. There is a bumpy gravel access lane past the bridge (to your left) that can be used to reach shoreline fishing stretches, but sometimes there are so many cars jammed into a tight space, you could have a time getting back out.

Ten perch of at least 9 inches in length are permitted. A freshwater license is needed upstream of the bridge, and a Chesapeake Bay license is required downstream of the bridge. My friend James Drake, who writes the outdoors column for the Maryland Independent says he's sure the barbs on your shad darts and other lures must be pinched back.

By the way, imagine hooking a 10-perch limit in the company of good friends, while munching on Charlie Stewart's home-made goose breast jerky and sipping a cup of coffee. Can life get better than that? I think not.

How about this alligator gar?
Commercial fisherman Kenny Williams of Vicksburg, Miss., didn't mind when one fearsome, tooth-laden fish tore up his $300 net last Monday at Chotard Lake in Issaquena County.

The 42-year-old Williams, a commercial netter who works the Mississippi River and its oxbows and tributaries, netted the largest alligator gar ever recorded, a 327-pound behemoth that measured 8 feet, 5-1/8-inches long, with a girth that was one inch shy of 4 feet.

Mississippi fisheries officials have scoured the books and the Internet,  checking records that were up to 60 years old and found that no one has ever caught a bigger alligator gar. However, since it was netted and not taken on a sporting rod and reel,  the 'gator gar cannot receive an official world record from the International Game Fish Association -- the one record-keeping body that is recognized the world over.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yellow perch bite in some places, not in others

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Keith Lockwood said the annual yellow perch run has begun in the Tuckahoe River, in Caroline County,on the Eastern Shore. A few days ago, bunches of male (buck) perch made a showing, but they usually are smaller than the females. However, by this weekend the bigger roe perch should arrive and provide good catches in the upper reaches of the river around Hillsboro. Lockwood says you'll see vehicles lining the road sides. It's a dead giveaway that something good is happening.

If you head east on Route 50, cross the Bay Bridges, and follow 50 to a left turn at Route 404; the road will cross the Tuckahoe shortly thereafter and will also show the Hillsboro direction sign. Don't forget to look at a map and find Tuckahoe State Park in the same general area. This is where the river begins. If all goes right, the perch will soon travel as far up as the bottom of a spillway at the park's lake, spewing forth ribbons of eggs along the way.

 
The perch didn't bite, but a few crappies obliged
Closer to home, it has been Skunksville for many anglers
 
Our favorite yellow perch waters, the Nanjemoy Creek, in Charles County, Md. (Route 301 south to La Plata; turn right on Route 6 west and follow to Route 425 and to Friendship Landing Road) was a big disappointment during several outings in the past 10 days. Although our electronic fish finders consistently marked schools of fish in 46-degree water (ideal for yellow ned spawning), we weren't able to hook much of anything, using flat-tailed grubs, dropshot rigs with Berkley Power Minnows, or small Silver Buddy blade baits. My partner Andy Andrzejewski did catch a fat female in one instance and perhaps the schools of fish we marked on the screens were gizzard shad or something else, but the perch have been playing hard to get.

All that can change on the drop of a hat. On a good note, our last outing brought us several fat crappies, a catfish and a bluegill -- but no yellow perch.


Some bass and plenty of crappies are up near D.C.

 
The always reliable Spoils Cove, just above the Potomac River's Wilson Bridge on the Maryland shore, continues to give up fair to good numbers of crappies and some scattered bass. Much the same can be said for the Blue Plains waste treatment site's discharge waters upstream of the Spoils and the adjacent Fox Ferry point.


Lake Gaston continues to offer bass and other species

 
Marty Magone and his friend, Dez Rubesch, both of whom live along the shores of south-central Virginia's Lake Gaston, continue to find action. A few days ago Rubesch hooked a variety of fish including a fat walleye that I'm sure graced his table later that evening.

Magone released the bass after taking photo
Magone, who has been whacking the bass, had good luck even when the temperature dropped sharply during the middle Atlantic's snow days Monday/Tuesday. But let him tell it. Magone said, "I went out yesterday, froze my butt off, but managed one striper, four bass and two white perch." This time of year, Magone likes to fish with a multi-color Lazer blade bait or jig worms.

Yesterday (Wednesday, Feb. 23) Magone did it again. "This morning I had 8 bass on jig worms in Hawtree Creek," he said. "The water temperature was 49 and the bass were on the drop by the old road bed near the Hawtree bridge," and as soon as the jig worm fell from 2 to 5 feet, a fish nailed the bait."


Shenandoah continues to deliver smallmouth bass
Dick Fox and one of 14 Shenandoah smallies
Our Front Royal, Va., reporter, Dick Fox, appears to have no problem finding smallmouth bass. Last Sunday, fishing in 44-degree water, Fox caught 14 smallies, some of them measuring up to 18 inches. He was using a variety of lures, including the 2-inch avocado color Mann's Sting Ray grub, Senko fat worms, some tubes and smaller jigs and grubs.


Stripers, trout, tilefish and tautogs

 
From her Virginia Beach office (or her boat), Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com, www.IGFA.org), tells us that the recent warmer weather ought to encourage more striped bass to head closer inshore, as well as further up the coast. "Although nice fish are still available, most are still off Carolina or in deep water more than 10 miles offshore where they are illegal to target. A few boats are learning this the hard way with tickets and hefty fines," she says. Dr. Julie says if you want to charter a good captain, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center (757-491-8000). Good skippers and crews offer daily outings.

Ball also adds that speckled trout are still receiving a lot of attention in the Elizabeth River, although the 'speck' action is not hot, but decent catches are possible. "The best performing lures are adorned with orange," she says, "with the 'electric chicken' color still a top choice." The popular orange and black Mirrolure and plastic jigs also find action.

Ball reminds us that keeper tautog are available on the deeper wrecks. "Crabs work well for bait, but with crabs scarce, folks are using alternative baits such as clams and mussels," she points out, and also mentions that boaters who venture offshore find some nice blueline tilefish.

Finally, the bluefin tuna bite is beginning to heat up off Carolina.

Second Yellow Perch Appreciation Day set
 
Marylanders will have the chance to celebrate the restoration of the yellow perch fishery Saturday, March 5, during the second annual Yellow Perch Appreciation Day hosted by the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland (CCA MD) and its Upper Bay Chapter. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at North East Town Park, North East, MD.

The event will include a fishing tournament and hot food and drinks. The celebration is free, and there is no requirement for a fishing license although anglers must register with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources which can be done at http://dnr.maryland.gov.swregistry.asp. Additionally, Nettie, the five-foot yellow perch, will be on hand to have photos taken with young anglers.

In the tournament, anglers will be able to fish either from a boat or the pier in the park. Prizes will be awarded for the heaviest single fish with $250 going to the first place winner. Second place will receive $200, third place $150, fourth place $100, and fifth place $50. A CCA Calcutta will provide the chance to double winnings.

For more information, contact tony@ccamd.org.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hunters/shooters need to keep an eye on the antis

Recently, a Montana legislator introduced a bill that would have forced the state's fish and game offices to fork over sportsmen's dollars to pay for the removal of dead deer that are struck by motorists along the highways in Big Sky Country. The wildlife and fisheries departments are mostly funded with dedicated federal and state sharing funds, along with license, registration and special permit sales.

Legislator wants hunters to pay for
removal of road kills
Imagine the nerve of that state legislator! A hunter or angler who has absolutely nothing to do with Aunt Mildred or Uncle Jake hitting an unfortunate whitetail deer or -- heavens forbid -- an elk, being told that their license and wildlife money ought to pay for the removal of the carcass. That's like a sink hole suddenly appearing in the middle of a highway and the state telling a local school system that education funds must be used to fill the hole and repave the road because school buses use the roads.

Then there was a New York Assembly member who wanted auto-loading shotguns and rifles declared as assault weapons that had to be rendered inoperable. The state police would have the final say on what is and isn't an assault weapon.

Yeah, that's what I want -- a Smokey deciding whether my auto-loading shotgun meets with his approval.

There is no end to the wackadoos that pop up in our country. Read on, please:

New York bill would require gun registration

The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, a watchdog group that fights to protect our right to own firearms, hunt, fish and trap, passed along word that a bill in New York would require all gun owners to register their firearms and pay yearly gun ownership fees.

Senate Bill 2994, introduced by Senator Eric Adams (D- Brooklyn), requires gun owners to register each firearm currently owned with their local county clerk’s office or local precinct station, says the USSA. The bill also calls for any firearm that is acquired in the future to be registered with the state, including such information as to where and how the gun was acquired.

Under the measure, gun owners would be required to provide the serial number of each firearm owned, in addition to their name, address, phone number, and the location where the firearm will be located when not in use. 

The bill also calls for a fee of $15 for each initial gun registration. In addition, gun owners would face a $10 per year renewal fee for each gun owned.

Take action, urges the USSA. New York sportsmen should contact their state senator and urge them to oppose Senate Bill 2994. To find your state senator’s contact information, please visit www.ussportsmen.org/LAC.

Alaska senator raps TSA for caving in to PETA

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) isn't going to receive happy hugs from Alaska Senator Mark Begich (D) over its recent handling regarding the recruiting of new workers during the 2011 Iditarod dog race in Alaska.

Sen. Begich is greatly upset that the TSA caved in to demands by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which claimed that the agency was supporting a "cruel" event.

Sen. Begich fired off a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole, expressing shock and disappointment. “It is outrageous the TSA would act on one complaint from a group with virtually no understanding of the ‘Last Great Race on Earth,’” he wrote and concluded with, "Your decision may have PETA howling with delight, but Alaskans know you have headed down the wrong trail.” The letter was also copied to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano.

The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance tells us that the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race covers over 1,100 miles of Alaskan territory. Sled dog teams of 12 to 16 dogs are on the trail from one to two weeks.

(For information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its website, www.ussportsmen.org.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The season's last rabbit hunt

From left: Bob Greer, Chuck Richardson and Bobby Jones
My friend Bob Greer will never see this blog because he doesn't have a computer, doesn't plan on getting one, and usually just relies on us "regular" folks to fill him in on the latest happenings from the wacky world of the Internet.

But say something about needing a couple of cottontail rabbits for supper and Bob quickly makes his farm acreage available for his many friends. That's his bailiwick. He likes to hunt and consequently likes most people who take to fields and woods seeking wild game.


Take a day last week when Bobby Jones and his foursome of fine-looking beagles showed up at Greer's Charles County, Md., farm. It wasn't long before another hunting partner and friend, Chuck Richardson, rolled up along the gravel access lane and parked close to one of Bob's barns.

No sooner had the vehicles been emptied of partially fluorescent jackets, well-worn shotguns and boxes of shells, and the little hounds were freed from a truck bed's doggie cage, the chase was on.

If you've hunted with beagles you know what I mean when I say the dogs tore across a harvested sorghum field to a heavily wooded edge that was dotted with thick briars and dense weeds true to their breed. They were born and bred to do this.

I don't recall whose shotgun was the first to bark, but it wasn't long before the beagles picked up the scent of a rabbit and began to sound of. Sure enough,  one of the two-legged hunters connected on a long-eared critter that tried to slip past him.

Several other cottontails found safety in gopher holes, but in all four rabbits eventually were destined to grace a stew pot or frying pan.

Bobby Jones considered the brief hunt a success because it gave his little hounds much-needed exercise. Besides, true rabbit hunters enjoy the sound of the beagles on the trail of their quarry as much or more than the actual firing of a shot.
 
Most non-hunters wouldn't understand that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Virginia's Lake Gaston is turning up plenty of action

Dez Rubesch with a Lake Gaston striper and a fat crappie
Lake Gaston, Va., shoreline resident, Dez Rubesch and his neighbor, Marty Magone, have been whipping up on a number of fish species in the large, beautiful impoundment on the Virginia-North Carolina border.

Earlier this week, Rubesch said he had six stripers in the 5- to 6-pound range, one 3-pound crappie, and one bass -- all on a Lazer blade bait in black and chrome.

His partner Marty Magone went out the same day and nailed eight stripers at the creek junction by the Americamps facility. "Some nice bass up to 7 pounds have been caught at this same location," he said.

On Monday, Magone fished again and he reported that it was very windy. "It blew 20 to 30 m.p.h. and the water temperature stood at 44 degrees," he said. "Dez and I caught three stripers, seven yellow perch, one crappie, one bluegill and 23 bass." Magone did it again on Tuesday when he had 25 bass.

One thing is sure, Lake Gaston is hot as a firecracker (if you know where to head to in your search of bass or stripers). The creek junction by the Americamps facility appears to be a good starting point.


Yellow perch are biting in the Susquehanna
Capt. Jeff Popp sent photo of Susquehanna yellow perch

Small-boat charter fishing captain Capt. Jeff Popp (cell phone 410.790.2015), who specializes in Susquehanna Flats striper outings, as well as other Chesapeake Bay trips, sent a photo of a batch of well-fed yellow perch. He said, "The yellow perch are moving along the edges from Port Deposit down to Havre de Grace. We fish in water from 17 to 70 feet, using standard top-and-bottom rigs with live minnows or Berkley Power Minnows.

"You have to keep looking till you hit a nice grade of fish," he added and then predicted, "They are there on that edge somewhere."


Remember the trout stocking at Gilbert Run?
These Gilbert Run anglers had no trouble catching trout
Local Charles County anglers are hitting paydirt at the 65-acre Gilbert Run Lake (actually, we used to call it Wheatley Lake) with stocked trout. Berkley trout nuggets, corn, even gardenworms will work. But the stocked rainbows and brown trout are traveling around the lake now.

It might not be so easy finding them, but that's why we call our sport "fishing," not "catching." Our thanks to John Earle who snapped a shot of four successful trout fishermen.


Shenandoah River catches are improving

From Front Royal, our friend Dick Fox sent an e-mail. "Hit the Shenandoah River at 10 a.m. Wednesday," he began. "The water temperature was 36 but rose to 38 before we left at 4 p.m. We caught 14 smallmouth  bass up to 16 inches. Almost all of them came on little crappie tubes. They would not bite anything else, except a flat-tail grub.The river is low and clear."

 Big stripers and tautogs continue to please in Atlantic
Saltwater specialist Dr. Ken Neill ran about 50 miles south (from Virginia Beach) earlier this week as he looked for striped bass. In a joking way, Neill said, "We never found anything to fish on [and] declaring the striped bass 'extinct,' we went offshore a bit and ran back north just looking for life and still never found anything.

"We stopped on the Consols wreck and caught 15 tautogs on leftover clams from the day before. Wes Blow lost our one cod at the boat [but there were] no citation-sized 'togs this time. Running in, could barely make out some birds on the Radar directly into the setting sun inshore."

Charles Southall and Wes Blow had trophies


What transpired next is what dreams are made of in our part of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Neill, his friends Charles Southall, Steve Martin and Wes Blow, found the striped bass just as they lost the sunlight.

"Nice class of fish," he said nonchalantly, as if everybody does this. "[We] caught about 20 in a very short time of remaining light." The trio had every rod double over. If a rod was rigged with tandem baits, it soon would have two rockfish on the hooks.

"Charles Southall weighed in a 45-pounder," said Neill. "Wes weighed a 42-pound fish;  Steve Martin released a 45-inch fish. [They] were all over the boat," Neill added. "I think there were some other citation size releases but we did not measure any others; we just released them and got the bait back into the water as fast as possible."

Their slow day ended in happy bedlam as the skies turned black. Those big rockfish were caught 22 miles south of Virginia Beach's Rudee Inlet. Neill mentioned that the trophy stripers are heading north (and soon will show up in the Chesapeake Bay), but the sad news came when -- during the cleaning of a few keepers -- Neill and friends discovered that their stomachs were empty. That's not a good sign.




Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pennsylvania puts clamps on Susky bass tournaments

From Pennsylvania comes word that the state's Board of Fish & Boat Commissioners isn't all that enthralled about tournament anglers who conduct many of their competition events on the Susquehanna River. For that matter, they aren't real pleased with river guides targeting certain fish species during particularly vulnerable spawning times.                                                                                
                                                                          
Susquehanna River smallmouth bass are in trouble
New smallmouth bass regulations should be permanently in place by April (a temporary  emergency order is  in effect now) because the Susquehanna's smallmouth numbers have been declining for several years. The state will enforce catch-and-release regulations for the "brown fish" -- as smallmouth bass are affectionately called by some -- on lengthy portions of the river. This includes the rock-laden waterway's parts from the inflatable fabridam at Sunbury downriver 98 miles to the Holtwood Dam in York County, including the popular Juniata River tributary.

The catch-and-release regulations will put a halt to a normal tournament practice of catching bass, keeping them in aerated live-wells on particpants' boats until they can be tallied and weighed at an official tournament weigh site, then turning the fish loose after the scoring.

One tournament fisherman from Middletown points the finger at bass guides who he says they are targeting spawning beds. Other competition fishermen agree. They say the guides kill many bass. A member of a local club, John Rossi, told a Pennsylvania newspaper that the guides should be stopped from sitting on spawning beds. "Shut it down during the spawn. Stop the guides out there at that time of year," he said.

Then there are the cormorants, deadly effective divers who take a share of any fish population.

Meanwhile, the state fish commissioners have an internationally famed angler and fly tyer, Bob Clouser, in their corner. Clouser, who lives in Middletown on the shores of the Susquehanna, supports the regulations that might help restore smallmouth bass numbers.


Do you want to help catch the rockfish thieves?

You saw our account of the recent illegal gill netting of rockfish on Maryland's Eastern Shore as the Natural Resources Police found more than 21,000 pounds of mature rockfish (aka striped bass or stripers) hung up in in totally unlawful nets.

This sport fisherman hopes the rockfish thieves are caught
"Both  recreational and commercial fishermen are horrified and angered by this blatant disregard for a treasured resource," says Eastern Shore sportsman, Dr. Jack Scanlon. "Striped bass deserve better," he adds -- and then follows up with a great idea.

"You can really help by contributing money toward the reward being offered by the DNR to catch these thieves," he says. "Make a pledge for whatever amount you choose. Send a letter saying you want to help and pledge your contribution to:  Col. George S. Johnson, Superintendent, Maryland Natural Resources Police, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21410.

Dr. Scanlon says, "Don't send any money now. When the thieves have been arrested and convicted, the DNR will contact you to redeem your pledge. Lets all show our support for the NRP and demonstrate that the recreational fishing community really cares. Even a few dollars plus your support will make a difference."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Local bass, crappie and catfish action picks up

Fred Drury and a Blue Plains bass
Front Royal, Va., resident Dick Fox wrote, “We had another great day on the Potomac.” Fox and Fred Drury, who lives in Stephens City, Va., a few days ago spent a couple of hours in the Blue Plains treatment plant area and the back of the nearby Spoils Cove. “If you want to catch crappies, now is the time,” he said in an e-mail. “We probably caught 100 crappies and five or six bass. I think we are doing better now than we did in the summer.”

Only 24 hours before that outing, Fox was in the same places and told us, “We had an awesome day. We started out at Blue Plains and the stripers were busting [the surface] everywhere. As the day went on we ended up with 23 largemouth bass, 18 crappies, a carp as big as a house, and the biggest catfish I ever saw. We had several other catfish on but could not hold them.” All the fish were hooked on small hair or plastic jigs, or on Mann’s Sting Ray grubs.

Dick Fox and a Shenandoah smallie
A day after he cast grubs and jigs into the waters of the Spoils and the Potomac River’s Blue Plains plant, Fox wrote, “Well, we got out on the Shenandoah River for the first time this year. The water temperature was 35 degrees and the fishing was tough, but we managed to hook four smallmouth bass from 11 to 14 inches.” Dick said the smallies were caught on grubs and tubes. “There’s still some floating ice, so use caution right now, but the river is fully open,” he added.

Speckled trout and tautogs are hooked

An Elizabeth River speckled sea trout
Virginia Beach residents, Dr. Ken Neill, along with fishing friends Charles and Hunter Southall, stood in the rain all day last weekend, waiting for the Elizabeth River’s speckled trout to bite and some up to 21 inches di cooperate. They saw a neighboring boat landing a “speck” that measured 27.5 inches long.

“Super Bowl Sunday was a different day; calm winds and clear skies,” said Neill. “We ran out (offshore) and anchored on one wreck and stayed there. We ended up catching 15 tautog. No big fish, largest [was] 17 to 18 inches long.

Neill said that local angler Keith Blackburn caught the first cod of the year. “The cod seem to be spreading south a bit,” said Neill. “They are a nice by-catch while tog fishing,” then added that he and his friends tagged and released most of the tautogs. The few that were kept were stored in a collection freezer for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s research.

Neill is an International Game Fish Association representative www.igfa.org and can be seen on his web site www.vbsf-hookedup.net/healthygrin/

Trout are stocked in local Maryland lake 

On Thursday, February 10, Charles County’s Gilbert Run Park should have received a stocking of 1,000 trout. County parks and green spaces chief, Tom Roland, said, “You could surprise your honey with a Valentine's Day [trout] filet.” Not a bad idea, Mr. Roland. By the way, another 1,000 trout should be delivered on March 28th.

Small yellow perch are available

If it’s young buck yellow perch you want, the Occoquan River before you reach the railroad bridge is the place to be. They’ll hop onto 1/16-oz. bright spoons, small tubes in white/gold or white/silver, also shad darts, but you must be prepared to fish in 15 to 20 feet of water – and they are woefully tiny, no more than 5 or 6 inches long, with only an occasional 8-incher seen.

What tickled two of us as we visited the Occoquan was the presence of several Virginia boaters who caught and actually kept these tiny perch babies. What’s up with that? Of course, in the tidal waters of Virginia, you can pretty much keep any size perch you hook. Had these guys done the same thing in neighboring Maryland, the Natural Resources Police would have had a ball writing tickets because yellow perch must at least measure nine inches before they can be kept and the state enforces a 10-perch limit.

Remember the illegally caught Maryland rockfish?

Dr. Jack Scanlon, a sportsman and Eastern Shore resident, passed along Natural Resources photos of the massive number of illegally gill-netted Kent Island striped bass that pretty much everybody in Maryland is in an uproar about.

A DNR photo of illegally netted rockfish
"The massive fish kill from the illegal gill nets at Kent Island make me feel sick and very angry,” said Dr. Scanlon. “I think it is time to end commercial exploitation of this struggling fish stock. [The fish that were netted] are mostly breedable fish. Market gunning for wild birds ended almost 100 years ago, but not before the Labrador duck and the passenger pigeon went extinct. All wild freshwater fish species are commercially banned.”

Dr. Scanlon also said, “Maybe in a few years we can all go to the Baltimore Aquarium and watch the last few stripers swim around waiting for extinction. Sort of like 1920 at the Cleveland Zoo with the Passenger Pigeon.”

I join Dr. Scanlon when he says, “Eat farmed stripers if you must eat them. But make the striped bass a gamefish now.”

If the striped bass (aka rockfish, or striper) were officially accorded gamefish status, it could no longer be netted. I say it’s way past the time to do this, but it’s not too late. Is anybody listening in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, et al?

Apparently, the fish thieves aren't listening. Sgt. Art Windemuth of the Maryland Natural Resources Police reported that officers found a 1,200-yard-long gill net illegally anchored in Eastern Bay.

The net held 1,159 pounds of striped bass and was located roughly one mile south of the illegal nets found last week near Bloody Point Lighthouse. It appears that these commercial thugs aren't afraid of the law.

Now add more dead Carolina stripers 

A third massive striped bass kill has been documented off Oregon Inlet, N.C., as the state’s very pro-commercial Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) has allowed the use of large trawl nets among huge schools of striped bass. For the third time in less than three weeks, a big kill of rockfish has occurred. 

The latest example of what North Carolina officials call "regulatory dead discards" was seen in a long trail of dead striped bass in the vicinity of commercial trawlers. Reports say that this latest kill was four miles long and a half-mile wide and consisted of thousands of dead stripers that were dumped at sea after being snared and culled by commercial boats.

In response to the first two documented striper kills that occurred in mid-January, the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) recently only slightly modified ocean trawl regulations in a belated effort to avoid another tragic slaughter. On Jan. 21, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries implemented regulatory changes to address discards of striped bass in the commercial trawl fishery. The division replaced the previous 50-fish-per-day commercial trip limit with a 2,000-pound-per-day trip limit to reduce high-grading, but the results were the same.

"You can’t allow the use of deadly, indiscriminate and highly destructive trawl nets among large schools of striped bass," said Jay Dail, the chairman of North Carolinas’s Coastal Conservation Association. "The MFC knows this will happen, yet continues to allow this gear among these schools of valuable fish. It shows how antiquated our management system is – at the very least they should be requiring more selective gear that doesn’t generate tons of wanton waste."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Suffering cold weather gladly is a guy thing

Andy with the day's first perch
I don’t precisely recall who described the feeling that comes over people as they sit in bone-chilling cold on an icy river, waiting for a fish to bite, or a deer to show up in bare, cold forests, but he scored a bull’s eye when he said it was “delicious misery.”

By saying “people” who wait in nasty-cold weather, I should have said “men.” Let’s face it, a deep-freeze outing usually is a guy thing. I ought to know. I’m one of the many male loonies who enjoy cold weather as long as some kind of fishing or hunting becomes the main ingredient of a day spent outdoors.

Take my friends Andy, Dale, Bob, Fred, Dick and a few others who’d just as soon freeze sitting or standing in a boat, with the wind “blowing a gale,” as they say in the country where we live. If there’s the slightest chance of hooking a fish, all of us will endure the weather miseries.

Only a few days ago, Andy and I launched his boat in a Southern Maryland tidal creek, idled upstream for half a mile, then began casting avocado-green Mann's Sting Ray grubs into a creek bend where the water dropped from extreme shallows to 17 feet. The wind howled out of the northwest, but high shoreline banks offered some protection. The water temperature stood at 36 degrees and the fishing turned out to be lousy even though in years past the same type of outings most always produced something. To be sure, just before we called it a day because of increasing winds and decreasing supplies in the sack of sandwiches that we started with, Andy hooked a nice female yellow perch. (He has a habit of embarrassing his friends.)

Andy knows to stay comfortable
A day later, just before 10 a.m., we slipped Andy's 22-foot bass boat into the broad Potomac in the Marshall Hall sector. Andy fired up a briefly reluctant outboard motor, and in 29-degree weather motioned for me to sit down and prepare for an upstream run that is guaranteed to keep your nose from running even if you have a head cold.

Why? If the head is not fully protected by a thick, warm cap or hat and some kind of face shield or other protective gear, any liquids in the schnoz will soon turn to ice and all you have to worry about later on is the removal of two nose-born icicles when you arrive at your destination. Nothing to it, right?

Gene ready for a river run in 29 degree weather
Whenever a winter fishing day beckons, Andy and I dress like we’re part of a Himalayan mountain summit assault party. And since we travel in a powerful boat, we wouldn’t think of leaving home without wearing long-sleeved, warmly collared flotation jackets that look no different than garments worn while taking the dog outside to do his business and chase after a squirrel or two. The only difference between our flotation jackets and a regular coat is the life-saving factor should the unthinkable happen. What was it I called our cold-weather outings? Delicious misery?


Yeah, that's what it is -- a kind of enjoyable winter pain.


It’s a guy thing, I tell you.