Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You're never too old to learn new fishing tricks

My steadfast, frequent fishing partner, Andy Andrzejewski, and I will never forget  a day  last week when we fished a shoreline area not far from the Marshall Hall, Md., boat launch. We caught a few bass, -- me hooking one on a Strike King Baby Rage Tail, fished Texas-style with a 1/8-ounce slip sinker and Andy landing one on a Pulse Worm or a Chatterbait -- I can't remember which right now and it doesn't matter because of what happened 10 or 15 minutes later.

He lifted a stringer of bass that could have choked a quarter-horse.
A young man in a kayak paddled near us, a fishing rod pointing toward the bow. We, being basically friendly types (even though Andy occasionally answers to the name "Grump"), waved hello and asked the kayak occupant -- a person of apparent Vietnamese heritage -- how his day was going.

"Oh, oh, I have nice fish," he said, lifting up a stringer of bass that could have choked a quarter-horse. We know that the newer Americans, especially those from Asia and Central America, are not yet into catch-and-release fishing the way so many bass-boating locals are -- us included. Andy and I agreed not to say a bad word to the man, whose name we couldn't make out when he said it and we weren't going to embarrass him by repeatedly asking for it. However, we knew that the bass he had would not be wasted, unlike quite a few of  those released after big river tournaments and later are found dead. (They're either dead or doing the backstroke.)
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However, we did ask about his fishing method, fully expecting to see him lift a bucket of minnows or a packet of nightcrawlers into the air. "I use spinnerbait in three feet of water, no more," he said. (His pronouncing the word spinnerbait wasn't quite the way I spell it here, but we understood.)

Andy caught one bass after another.
We also soon discovered that the spinnerbait was a 1/8-ounce model made by the Terminator company and as best as we could determine, the young angler (who was in his 20s) could not find any more of the little chartreuse/white-skirted lures. "WalMart do not have more," he said, but we tried to explain to him that most any 1/8-ounce chartreuse/white spinnerbait might do as well. However, it was clear that he wanted this particular Terminator model.

Eventually, the lad got us to understand that he had to go to work, so we bade him farewell and he paddled away to an upriver destination, waving once or twice.

Andy looked at me; I looked at Andy, and both of us said, practically at the same time, "Do you have any 1/8-ounce spinnerbaits with chartreuse/white skirts?" Moments later, after rifling through a dozen boxes of various types of fishing lures, we each had what the doctor ordered: A 1/8-ounce chartreuse/white-skirted spinnerbait, with mine most likely being made by Strike King and Andy's possibly one that he made himself.

That doesn't matter. What mattered was that in three feet of water, just like our Vietnamese acquaintance told us, we began to whack largemouth bass like we were fishing in an aquarium. Andy had one after another, I did well, too, but also lost several that chased the lure to within a foot of the boat, snatched up the bait and tore free a nano-second later.

Gene Mueller with one of a number of willing bass.
We laughed, fished, caught bass after bass, let them go, and had the time of our lives. As the tide receded, the fish catching continued, but eventually came to a halt because the three feet of water we were in soon turned into one foot. We could have changed locations, but instead decided to visit a while with Toby Rickard, a Virginia bassboater who stayed a courteous distance from us, fishing across a weed-dotted nearby flat during our bonanza fishing period. His patient wife sat on the boat's bench seat, reading a newspaper. After chatting a while, comparing notes about other fishing spots, it was time to go home to listen to more boring, never-ending broadcasts of a hurricane named Irene that, happily, did not affect our Charles County neighborhood.

Postscript:  For those who don't already know it, Andy Andrzejewski, is a top-notch U.S.C.G. licensed fishing guide. He can be reached at 301/932-1509.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Remarkable Hunter Education Program is an Eye Opener

What possesses a dozen men to give up a considerable number of days in their lives to help their fellow citizens -- especially young people -- without receiving a dime for it?

Chief instructor Brian Rehm stresses the importance of safety.
In the case of Maryland's mandatory hunter education program, required by all newcomers to hunting, it is heart-warming to see highly qualified volunteers, even several Maryland Natural Resources Police officers, show up at a local hall -- in this case the La Plata Volunteer Fire Department -- to teach new hunters the practice of firearms and hunting safety over a 4-day period. Three hunter safety classes call for 3-hour indoor sessions, with the final outing held outdoors at the Charles County Izaak Walton League facility in Waldorf. (Similar programs are held in a variety of venues listed on the Department of Natural Resources website.)

"It is important to pass our love for hunting on to the youngsters, but it must be done properly," says Brian Rehm, the chief instructor of a Charles County team that includes senior instructors Brian Malpasso, Steve Laudenslager, Jay Bird, Pete Charney, Tony Malpasso, Joe Novak, Bill McConnell and Dan Dove. Instructors Jamie Printz, Doug Printz and Tom Scheid round out a truly dedicated group. All of these men are Maryland state certified range safety officers and NRA certified range safety officers.

Bill McConnell tackles the important points of blackpowder hunting.
Talk about hundreds of years of combined shooting and hunting experience -- this is it. They teach the importance of complying with hunting laws and behaving ethically, fully aware that one bad apple afield can make the entire sport-hunting community look bad. In fact, I've had an experience where one slob dropped an empty soda can and a sandwich wrapper on the ground in the landowner's wonderfully productive Eastern Shore woods. When we arrived a day later to hunt deer (we originally had permission to do so) we were informed that the property now was off-limits to everybody. Don't let that happen to you, was the message from the older, long-time hunters.

Joe Novak explains the art of bow hunting  in a way that all can understand.
The people in the firehouse hall soon would understand that and also how a rifle functions, how we must  safely point hunting weapons in a safe direction at all times, how a blackpowder rifle is loaded, cleaned and handled, what a hunting longbow consists of and how it stacks up against more modern archery equipment, such as a compound bow or a crossbow. And all along the clear message is "Safety" and setting a good example that a non-hunting public that does not mind recreational hunting will fully support.

In the class of well over 50 newcomers to the sport sit a number of girls and women, a welcome sight to old hands at hunting. All too often the sport has been thought of as a "man's" activity. Not so, and increasing numbers of ladies are kindly telling us men to make room for them. It's wonderful to see it happening.

Tony Malpasso shows how various bows differ.
Two 20-somethings, Kristie Baxter, of Waldorf, and Lauren Warring, of Indian Head, sit near the front, intently listening to one of the instructors. "I want to go deer hunting with a bow," she said. Kristie, who owns a fine Mathews bow, has been practicing quite a bit. Meanwhile, Warring nods her head and tells me, "I intent to go goose and duck hunting this year." Way to go, ladies! All my best wishes.

Roger Broadwater, Sr., and his wife Lillie sit nearby, observing their grandsons, DeMarco and DeJohn, checking out the Maryland guide to Hunting Responsibility & Safety. It is clear that the youngsters enjoy listening to senior instructor Brian Malpasso tell stories of past hunting trips, or watching senior instructor Bill McConnell address the vagaries of blackpowder shooting. McConnell shows how to load a real flintlock rifle, but there is no live powder and shot in the room; he does it with hand motions and pushing down a ram rod that isn't really packing down powder, patch and round ball. But everyone understands what he talks about.

Thirteen-year-old Jake Jewell eagerly sits through each session because he wants to hunt deer with his grandfather. The boy is pumped about the quickly approaching deer season.

A 50-question test is part of the hunter education class.
Two other senior instructors, Joe Novak and Tony Malpasso, display a wide variety of archery equipment, including several standard bows, a compound and a crossbow, along with lethal homemade and store-bought broadhead-tipped arrows, the two men work smoothly as a team. Time and again, Novak stresses the importance of practicing with your gear. "Take the time. Practice, practice, practice, because if you hunt with a bow it is your duty to dispatch an animal as humanely and quickly as possible,"

By the time all the men have imparted the necessary knowledge into the newcomers, it becomes crystal clear that the sport of hunting is in good hands.

For additional information about hunter education go to www.dnr.maryland.gov/nrp/education

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Here are some of the better catches earlier this week

Our long-time friend, Dick Fox, of Front Royal, Va., enjoys northern bass fishing, especially for smallmouth bass. Despite experiencing bad weather in Mexico Bay on Lake Ontario, Dick latched onto this beautiful smallie that fell for a plastic Goby on a drop-shot rig. Dick had lots of wind and rain, which curtailed his visit.


That's my nephew, Chris Mueller, a professional firefighter, who is showing off his 7-pound, 13-ounce largemouth bass, caught at Lake Meade, around East Berlin, Pa. Chris convinced the bass to inhale a white Booyah jig in 20 feet of water. Good show, nephew! Chris probably likes fishing and hunting more than eating barbecued ribs -- and that's saying something.


Randy Carter, left, and Marty Magone, both of whom have a Bracey, Va., address, which means they're in Lake Gaston Country. The two have been whacking the freshwater stripers on surface lures and legally keeping some for supper. In Virginia's freshwater lakes you can keep more than the two fish you're allowed in the Chesapeake Bay.


A day after Randy Carter and Marty Magone went after Lake Gaston stripers, using topwater Rico and Chug Bug lures, the two Virginians did it again. Here's Randy with some of their uplake Gaston catches.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A sorry assortment of poorly filmed outdoors shows

I have no idea how you feel about viewing the mind-boggling assortment of cable and satellite TV shows that attempt to tell us hunters and fishermen how the real outdoors world functions. Right from the start, let me say that I have yet to see even one of these shows that I would eagerly await to see again. No way.

A TV show buck is about to be shot.
In our home, our telly is attached to the Dish Network satellite system and along with dozens of unwanted infomercials that promise to make the ladies' boobies look "perkier" (as one of the 1/2-hour commercials says), or telling me that a certain exercise machine is just what I need to look like a Greek god, and unending numbers of mattress, real estate or get-rich-quick ideas  by doing some kind of work from home, there also are a number of hunting and fishing channels that --- when I first saw them in a program listing --- made me jump with joy. (A 265-pound guy jumping with joy is a sight to behold, trust me.)

My happiness didn’t last long. The first program I clicked on with the remote was something called “Outdoors Man with Buck McNeely” on the Angel Two (ANGL2) channel. How on God’s Green Earth anybody with even a tiny sense of TV production know-how wanted this bearded, often boorish-appearing man to star in a TV show is anybody’s guess. Maybe Buck is married to the producer’s sister. Could be. But giving a fellow his own television program in which the host simply does not exude any kind of pleasing on-screen personality or top-flight field talent, is a mystery to me.

Many outdoors shows are about bow-hunting.
Then there’s a man who wants to be known as Dr. Jimmy Sites who hosts the “Spiritual Outdoor Adventure” on the Pursuit network. I don’t know if Sites is a real medical professional, so I’ll withhold my calling him Dr. Sites. (In case he’s a PhD, I just don’t feel like calling PhDs doctors, having known a number of them who couldn’t steer a self-propelled lawn mower, much less write lengthy philosophical theses.)

Anyway, Jimmy Sites is a man of faith --- which is okay with me – and he regularly lays the word of God on his audience, which doesn’t bother me either, although I don’t know how Jewish viewers feel when he tells them they have to get with Jesus. I’m a Christian, so it doesn’t upset me, Jimmy, but not all TV viewers are ready to switch beliefs just so they can see you or a friend shoot a deer. 

At least Jimmy Sites speaks clearly. That’s a huge plus over competing hosts who often sound as if their gullet is stuffed with deep-fried chicken livers and grits while they speak, and let me tell you that just about all of them apparently believe that non-stop talking is far more important than actually entertaining us with good action footage -- which speaks for itself; it doesn't require some motor mouth to ramble on endlessly how it was cold or hot when he arrived in, say, Kansas, and how the wind blew, and what kind of bow or sure-fire arrow he was going to use, and how grateful he was to some lady who did the cooking. Gee whiz, already, show us the hunt. No further comment needed.

What kind of bothers me are shows, such as “Non Stop Hunting,” “Deer Thugs,” “Outdoor Edge – the Love of the Hunt,” “Tree Stand Buddy’s Game On,” “Scent Blockers – The Chase,” and others, that apparently do not know that the typical American hunter uses firearms when afield. Although we sometimes see the use of modern rifles or muzzleloaders, I do need to ask why so many of these poorly produced hunting programs insist that we all hunger for a preponderance of bow-hunting segments? Gun-using hunters outnumber archery users by huge percentages, so why cater to one portion of the hunting public when you could get many more viewers for your sponsors by showing what the American majority prefers? I am not anti-bow hunting (some of my friends are into it), but common sense dictates that you should please the majority if you want to succeed.

Oops, missed by an archer. Better luck next time.
I’ve also railed against a number of these shows where participants do not wear at least some fluorescent orange on their bodies while deer, pronghorn antelope, or elk hunting. It is required in most states, but I guess since a lot of these shows are filmed on game farms and other well-managed private properties (that very few of us will ever be able to visit because of the high cost), the hunters do not need to wear any international orange. But what kind of message does it send our young, novice hunters into whom we try to instill a constant awareness of safe hunting practices?

Don’t even get me started on TV fishing shows. Like all the hunting programs, the producers and on-screen “talents” must believe that the most important part of these shows also is emitting non-stop chatter --- yak-yak-yakking. They don’t ever shut up.

What’s wrong with letting good camera work and exciting action footage do most of the talking?
  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to find stripers while fishing from a small boat

Folks, there's nothing wrong with hiring a charter fishing captain to find a couple of rockfish for you and four or five friends willing to share the cost of a day's outing. In fact, if you can afford it, I recommend it, especially if the captain promises to do some live-lining with Norfolk spot, or chum with ground menhaden. For novice anglers, there's much that can be learned. Ditto for those who know little about trolling, but want to know how to rig fish-catching umbrella rigs and other ways of finding fishing action.

However, not everybody wants to be out on the wide Chesapeake Bay. There are plenty of small-boat owners who want to catch stripers, but they have no idea how and where to do it.

My nephew, Lou Mueller, with a river buoy striper.
For example, my most frequent mode of water transportation comes courtesy of my friend, the local fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski, who runs a 22-foot Triton bass boat. If I have to, I use my own 18-foot, super heavy-duty Sea Ark aluminum boat (it has a 92-inch beam) that is outfitted with a 90 h.p. Evinrude E-Tec, a strong bow-mount saltwater Minn-Kota trolling motor, two depth finders and a very nice Garmin GPS unit that can be a life saver.

If I want to hook a rockfish in the Potomac River, for example, there's no use asking Andy to help me do it. The guy we jokingly refer to as the "Fishing Pole," is a clean freak who hates it when rockfish slime ends up on his carpeted bass boat, which invariably happens with this "never-give-up-the-fight" fish species. In short, it's my Sea Ark or staying home.

In the case of the Potomac, the best time of year for finding keeper stripers is right now. You have to be willing to rise long before sun-up, launch your boat in the dark, and reach your destination just as a hint of pink is seen in the east. For me, that means launching at Goose Bay Marina in Charles County's Port Tobacco River, where a launch fee is charged. I could also slip the boat into the water at the free Friendship Road Landing ramp of the Nanjemoy Creek in Charles County.
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My destination will be several river buoys that are surrounded by rocks, which means No. 5 (Mathias Point)  on the King George County, Va., side of the river, or No. 8 (Hawk's Nest) near Blossom Point on the Maryland side, or a nearly mid-river marker, No. 11, that has rocks, but they can't always be seen unless the tide runs very low.

These stone-surrounded Potomac River markers, just like others in Maryland's lower Patuxent, Choptank, Chester and Nanticoke rivers, as well as Virginia's Rappahannock and James rivers, draw rockfish like a magnet. Why? The buoys are sure signs that you have shallow water adjacent to sudden deep dropoffs. The shallows around the rocks are home to minnows and other aquatic creatures favored by white perch, which in turn are a favorite snack for striped bass. Not only that, after the stripers have eaten their fill of perch and the sun becomes too bright, they can easily slip into cool, dark, deeper water without anything bothering them.

Two typical rockfish caught among buoy stone piles.
For example, I arrive at the Hawk's Nest or Mathias Point buoys, turn off the outboard, slip the battery-powered trolling motor over the bow, spinning or baitcasting rod in hand, the business end of the 12- to 14-pound testline tied to a 1/2-ounce lip-less rattle bait. I prefer Strike King's RedEye rattle baits in chrome with a blue back. It imitates a baby blueback herring (which is a seasonal snack for rockfish). A plain silver color with a bit of black across the back looks like a perch, so that also works well.

Hopefully, the tide is beginning to come in, or starting to recede, but as long as there's water there's a chance there'll be rockfish among the stones.

A cast as close as possible to the rocks, a quick closing of the reel the moment the lure hits the water, and immediate medium-speed retrieve, is absolutely necessary because if you're too slow in closing the bail and slow in beginning the retrieve, chances are the $5 lure becomes snagged between several rocks and you can't afford to risk boat damage trying to get the rattle-bait out. Trust me. I know what can happen.

So I work my way around the buoys, round and round several times. If there's no action, chances are it won't happen when the sun is high in the sky. It's best to move to another nearby river marker. Just be aware that the typical rockfish that you will catch in late summer and autumn will measure from 17 to 23 inches, occasionally more, but I simply look for some 18-inchers to be served at supper. If they exceed the minimum size requirement, all the better.

I have done very well doing this and I recall the days when I lived down at Swan Point, below the Route 301 Bridge, and I hit every rock-surrounded buoy down there, using Rat-L-Trap, Sugar Shad, Diamond Shad or RedEye rattle lures, but also casting and retrieving 4-inch soft-plastic white or chartreuse Sassy Shad bodies that were pierced onto 3/8-ounce and 1/2-ounce jig hooks (with the hook coming out of the back of the bait). The stripers cooperated more often than not.

Can you do it? Of course, you can.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spanish mackerel are finally here; and other fish are biting, too

The first Spanish mackerel to come back to Buzz's Marina in St. Jerome's Creek belonged to Marc Lefebvre, of Gold Hill, N.C. Marc caught the tasty mackerel around Point No Point, not far from St. Jerome's Creek.



Chuck Thomas, came down from Oxon Hill, Md., to fish the Point No Point waters of the Chesapeake, and look what he caught. It's another fine Spanish mackerel.



My friend Carl D. Brown shot this photo of his fishing pal, Jeff Palmer. The two Northern Virginians were live-lining spot in the False Channel, on the Bay's eastern side. Those are fine eating rockfish.



Goldie Glotfelty, a popular Southern Maryland bass angler, caught this 5-pound Mattawoman Creek largemouth bass not more than 500 yards from the Sweden Point Marina in Smallwood State Park.




Take a close look at the lure that is hanging from the mouth of the bass that Goldie caught. It's a custom crankbait hand-made by Goldie Glotfelty. (I can't even put a hook through a plastic worm without hurting myself. Imagine what would happen if I tried to fashion my own crankbaits.)



That's our friend, Marty Magone, who caught a bunch of bass in Virginia's Lake Gaston -- particularly Hawtree Creek. The bass Marty is holding up weighed over five pounds, as did several others he hooked. Way to go, pal!


This great photo of a white marlin about to leap clear of Atlantic Ocean waters was shot by Dr. Ken Neill, the well-known Virginia sport fisherrman. Dr. Neill frequently assists scientists in studies regarding the health of a particular fish population, such as the white marlin. This billfish was caught, tagged and released near Washington Canyon, one of a number of whites that was hooked that day.

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                      Looking for my weekly fishing report? 
            Go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports/outdoors/
                  The fishing report is updated every Thursday 
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Win Prizes at new Potomac River Snakehead Tournament

The 2011 Potomac Snakehead Tournament is open to anyone with a valid Maryland or Virginia Fishing license. Participants can win cash and prizes for the heaviest fish and overall total weight. Participants can fish with hook and line or use bows, beginning September 2, 2011, at 6 p.m. until September 3, 2011, at 12:30 p.m., anywhere on the tidal Potomac in Maryland or Virginia. Cost to enter is $40 online registration by September 1, 2011, or $50 day of the tournament. 

A percentage of the tournament profits will be donated to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to help fight invasive species in the Potomac River watershed. The Tournament is presented by Whackfactor Outdoors, LLC, with sponsorship from Profish and Alewife Baltimore restaurant.
Andy Andrzejewski with a 10-1/2-lb. snakehead

Official tournament events will take place at Smallwood State Park, 2750 Sweden Point Road, Marbury, MD 20658. All participants must attend the pre-tournament conference at 5 p.m. September 2, 2011. Guest speakers will include Joseph W. Love, Ph.D. Tidal Bass Manager, Maryland Department of Natural Resources; and Joshua J. Newhard, Fisheries Biologist, U.S. Fish  and Wildlife Service. Chad Wells, Executive Chef, Alewife Restaurant, Baltimore, MD, will prepare and present a snakehead tasting from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on September 3, 2011.

The team at Whackfactor Outdoors created the Potomac Snakehead Tournament to achieve the
following goals:
• Promote the sport fishing of snakeheads to reduce the population in the Potomac and its tributaries.
• Raise public awareness of Snakeheads as a high quality, commercially viable, food source.
• Support the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in its efforts to combat invasive
species throughout the Potomac River watershed.

For full details on this tournament and to register, please visit the Whackfactor Outdoors website
at: www.WhackfactorOutdoors.com. For more information on the tournament sponsors, see www.profish.com and www.alewifebaltimore.com.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hunting/fishing show coming to Charles County


5th ANNUAL MARYLAND HUNTING AND OUTDOOR EXPO (AUG. 27-28)

Getting geared up for deer season? Want to stock up on all the latest hunting equipment and get some tips on how to pursue the elusive sika deer or call in a flock of Canada geese? Or maybe you just want to come out and be a part of the biggest outdoor show the state of Maryland has to offer.

The 5th annual Maryland Hunting and Outdoor Expo will be under way Aug. 27-28 at the Charles County Fairgrounds south of La Plata, MD. It promises to have something for outdoors people of all ages and interests.

World-famous exhibition shooter, Tom Knapp, will do two shows, one on August 27 at 1 p.m., and one on August 28 at 1 p.m. He performs at less than 20 venues per year, so don’t miss it. You can also participate in the “Ultimate Bowhunter 3D Classic” archery or have your trophy buck scored for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources trophy deer book.

If you enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, boating and everything the great outdoors has to offer, don't miss this event.

For more information on exhibits and schedules, visit www.mdhuntingexpo.com .............. See you there!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Have you started to prepare for deer hunting season?

The ultimate in deer hunting comfort -- a Deer Haus
In our neck of Southern Maryland woods the preparation for the opening day of deer season has begun. What about you? Have your plans been put into action? For example, what shape is your deer stand in, and have you thought about switching from the rickety two-by-fours, nailed to a tree, with a two-by-six board serving as a seat 12 or 13 feet off the ground?

In my case, the whole deal has gone full circle. The older I get, the more comfortable I intend to be. That goes for boats (there are no kayaks or canoes allowed in my yard) and it goes for a place a good way up in a tall oak where I might have to sit for 7 hours on end without so much as touching terra firma.

When I was a teenager, I could plant my derrierre on an old piece of pine wood and sit high enough to get a nosebleed until something happened. Only the Lord knows how many times I was only an inch away from falling out of a deer stand, but I'm certain there were plenty of dangerous occasions that I was oblivious to.

This is not my idea of comfort and safety
Then, when I turned 21 and found a bride who worried herself half to death about me sitting in a tree with the wind (sometimes snow or rain) blowing into my face, I began to realize that my personal safety had to be addressed. I bought my first metal deer stand that -- when properly erected and fastened -- was quite safe. It even had bench seat and an umbrella-like, camouflage fabric device that looked like an umbrella. It was strapped to the tree trunk above my head and it could keep a body half-way dry.

The day came when my good friend, Dean Lee, who now lives near Savannah, Ga., presented me with an easy-to-transport metal ladder stand that I still use occasionally. It is safe with a reasonably comfortable, padded seat -- for anybody whose butt is no wider than 12 inches. (Mine is much broader, hence there's a lot of squeezing and shifting going on in that stand.) However, I've killed a number of deer from Dean's old ladder stand.

Dean will join me in recalling the day when -- with the help of professional carpenter Harold Toder and my landowner friend, Dr. Peter Malnati -- we built a Deer Haus, the word Haus spelled the German way because this contraption resembled the deer stands often used by my German father, uncles and grandfather over in the Old Country where some deer hunting seasons were often open during inclement weather. It resembles a tree house, complete with a pitched roof, a walk-up staircase, comfortable chairs, plus shelves for ammo, thermos and lunch. It served almost like a home away from home.

A safe, comfortable 2-man ladder stand
Now where would you rather be -- in a Deer Haus or a rickety, dangerous two-by-four climb-up stand?

Either way, think about it. Check your old stands and do it as soon as possible. In the case of those where the landowner didn't mind your use of nails (although lumberjacks at a later date will hate you for it), make sure the nails aren't rusted through and through. 

My German-style Deer Haus is held in place with an elaborate system of chains and supports. Nails were never an option. The metal ladder stands also do not require driving nails into a tree. They're safely erected with a system of straps and come-along ratchets, as well as wrap-around Cordura belts and metal bracing arms.

Stay safe because I don't want anything happening to my favorite people in the world -- the recreational hunters and fishermen.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Questions about the tidal Potomac's grass beds; are they disappearing or is it a natural up-and-down process?

Concerned bass fishermen have been in touch to ask if there's a problem in the upper tidal Potomac River regarding the apparent disappearance of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAVs) -- the fish-hiding weed beds that are a necessary part of a bass hunter's day.

After discussing this with a professional fisheries biologist and several hard-core river regulars, the consensus is that the presence or lack of the water weeds -- mainly hydrilla, milfoil and wild celery -- in various parts of the river is an ongoing and ever-changing dynamic. One year, the weed beds show up strongly; another year they're not easily found. For example, dense grass beds in the Potomac's Dogue Creek, downstream of Mt. Vernon, have pretty much disappeared. However, new hydrilla and milfoil is again growing and when we fished it a couple of days ago, we found a few bass and catfish that snatched up plastic craws over the emerging vegetation.

It is believed by some bass anglers that Dogue and Piscataway creeks, even certain areas around Wilson Bridge and also parts of Pohick Bay, might have been sprayed with herbicides to answer the complaints of wealthy shoreline residents who wanted the vegetation gone, lest their boats become bogged down in the waterlogged greenery that has become a nationally famed fish nursery. But top river expert and professional biologist John Odenkirk, of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, does not believe this is happening. "The grass comes and goes. Things change from year to year," he said. If I may be permitted to add my two cents worth: "I have 100 percent more faith in the findings of a tried-and-true professional scientist, like Odenkirk, than the disjointed rants of certain fishing guides who might not even be able to spell 'submersed aquatic vegetation' without making a mistake."

One of the people we talked with said that a bass fishing guide who primarily works the waters between Blue Plains Waste Treatment Plant and National Harbor (he's never been seen by our bunch of regulars south of the Broad Creek area and certainly never in Southern Maryland or Virginia's Prince William County waters) has been complaining about a lack of grass beds. I have an idea, give him a river map and show him how to get into the Pomonkey Creek in Charles County and he'll soon be swallowed up by the SAVs. The same goes for most portions of the Mattawoman, Potomac and Aquia creeks, and many main-stem parts.

Seriously, do you really believe there aren't any weeds in the Potomac?

Monday, August 8, 2011

The popular photo gallery of weekly fish catches continues


Our friend Pam Lunsford hooked this bass in the tidal Potomac's Wades Bay. The bass snatched up a Berkley Gulp Jerk Shad. Why Wades Bay? Pam's husband, Bob, wanted to check out the new boat launching ramp at Mallows Bay and Wades is fairly close by. They live in Anne Arundel County.



Charter captain Jeff Popp (410/790-2015) hoists a 38-inch rockfish that was caught by the man standing next to him. Ray Harner, of Frederick County, hooked the beautiful striper on a Storm Shad while jigging along the Bay Bridge's pilings earlier this week. Ray is a long-time client of Capt. Popp's.


Steve Helmrich, of Lexington Park, Md., once again found spotted sea trout in the Chesapeake's Honga River. That's a heck of a good catch, Steve!



Xavier Maddox, of Lexington Park, Md., caught these beautiful striped bass while fishing from shore at Cedar Point, in the mouth of the Patuxent River, close to its merge with the Chesapeake Bay.


Another Lexington Park resident, Ray Cameron, used a Beetlespin lure to catch this 13-inch-long white perch in a Patuxent River feeder creek. (He wouldn't say which one, but all of them are loaded with perch.)

Deidra Baucom latched on to this 13-1/2-inch croaker at Point No Point, in the Chesapeake Bay.


Little Tori Brooks fished in a private St. Mary's County pond where she caught this 15-3/4-inch white perch. The way she shoved it toward the camera the perch looks like a 6-pound bass. Nonetheless, it's a heck of a nice perch anytime it reaches such a length. Tori also hooked sunfish and a catfish.



Dr. Ken Neill and a 53-inch cobia he caught on a live eel in the lower Chesapeake Bay. The cobia is one of the toughest fighting fish anywhere in my estimation. I don't think any saltwater angler who's caught them would disagree.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Another hunter education course in September

The course is mandatory for first-time hunters, not just youngsters who've never hunted before. If you're interested, set your sights on September 6, 7, 8 and 10. The course will be held at the Waldorf Jaycees facility, 3090 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD 20601.

But first you must register in person. Go to Fred's Sports store on Route 301, Waldorf, on Saturday, Aug. 20, 12 noon to 4 p.m., or Dick's Sporting Goods, in the St. Charles Town Plaza shopping center, Aug. 21, 12 noon to 4 p.m.

A $10 non-refundable fee is due at registration. Questions? e-mail HunterEducation@verizon.net

The topics to be covered include hunter responsibility, firearms fundamentals, survival, game care and identification, introduction to bow and muzzleloader hunting, wildlife management principles, practical exercises and live firing.

More information about Maryland hunter education can be found at www.dnr.state.md.us

Accommodations for individuals with disabilities will be provided upon request, but a 7-day advance notice is required.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Do your part by joining a snakehead contest

Catch a Snakehead and win prizes
The Maryland DNR's Jonathan Lucas shows off a snakehead taken from Mattawoman Creek
The MD Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Potomac River Fisheries Commission are asking anglers to kill the invasive northern snakehead.  

The goals of the project are to reduce the number northern snakehead in Potomac River and to document range expansion.

Anglers who catch and kill a northern snakehead should post their catch on MDNR’s Angler’s log, which is good for one entry into the contest.
There is no limit to the number of entries someone can submit. Prizes to be given in January.
Top-prizes include (1) $200 fishing tackle package, (1) Maryland State Park Passport , and (1) Potomac River Fishing license.

To Enter:
1. Catch and kill a snakehead.
2. Photograph the fish with a ruler or other measuring device to show fish size (do not put it back into the water after killing it).
3. E-mail the photo with information on where the fish was caught to fishingreports@dnr.state.md.us

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Chesapeake Bay's Gas Docks headline this week's catches

The weekly fish parade begins with the gang that works at the Tackle Box in Lexington Park. That's owner Ken Lamb (where the word "Charters" is). Capt. Greg Buckner aboard the Miss Susie delivered the goods.

Charter captain Greg Buckner (with sun glasses) shows off one of the bigger fish caught aboard his Miss Susie, while J.R. Foster looks on.




Jess Wissemann, of Lusby, Md., prepares to "kiss" a rockfish that was caught at the Gas Docks.







Johnny Caldwell shows off a beautiful Chesapeake Bay striper.




Gordon Carlon and Chris McCarter (sometimes known as Flaps and Cooter) easily hooked their limit of rockfish at the Gas Docks while live-lining with spot.






Louie Bondalane, of Lexington Park, Md.,  hooked tasty Norfolk spot two at a time.





Scott Hughes, of Hollywood, Md., caught this well-fed 13-inch-long white perch.





Our friend Kevin Wilson caught this nice largemouth bass in the freshwater portions of the Potomac River during the dark hours. A buzzbait drew a strike from the bass. Check out Kevin's fishing website; it's fun to read and look at.



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-------------------------------------------------------------------------
                      Looking for my weekly fishing report? 
            Go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports/outdoors/
                  The fishing report is updated every Thursday 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------