Monday, January 30, 2012

Revelations regarding the upper tidal Patuxent River

JACKSON'S LANDING ON THE PATUXENT --- The trouble with Maryland's tidal Patuxent River is that it is too close to the Potomac River. When given a choice to fish the upper tidal reaches of either waterway, it's the Potomac hands down, every time, because the wider, longer Potomac provides better largemouth bass numbers, fat crappies, giant catfish and nowadays even a battling alien character known as the Chinese snakehead. In the hill country's freshwater portions, there are a lot  of smallmouth bass, even some decent walleye and muskellunge numbers. Consequently, like Rodney Dangerfield, the PAX River, as some locals refer to it, gets no respect.

Bob Lunsford started the parade with a small bass.
But the Patuxent has a loyal group of supporters and fans. For starters, in its lower tidal sectors, few rivers can match its seasonal supplies of croakers, Norfolk spot, rockfish, bluefish and white perch --- even fat flounder are found near the mouth. It's the upper tidal parts, however, where the water to many anglers appears to be like the Dead Sea. The bass fishing of years gone by has taken a nosedive and you'll be hard-pressed to see expensive sparkling bass boats in the area of Hall and Mattaponi creeks, or Jug Bay, or up around Hill's Bridge, the way it was 10 or 15 years ago. 

Former DNR freshwater and tidal water bass boss, Bob Lunsford, who now has retired and who spends a fair amount of time fishing the upper parts of the PAX River, believes that the largemouth bass that once delivered the goods for many fishing fanatics slowly disappeared simply because the river didn't supply enough suitable spawning grounds, very little gravel that is desired by spawning bass, and vast flats that might have been great for reproduction if the tides weren't so strong that during the ebbing stage the flats laid bare, nearly dry. If any roe had been deposited during high water, it now was exposed when the water ebbed.

So why did Lunsford invite me to meet him on the Prince George's County side, near Croom Station Road, at Jackson's Landing, which is administered by the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission?

Gene Mueller with a Western Branch crappie.
He met me at the boat ramp and said that his bass boat, the "Leakin' Lena," was about to take its last voyage. Bob is getting another, newer craft. Nonetheless, the "Leakin' Lena" and its Johnson outboard carried us upstream, past dense mud flats lined with wild rice and other plants that must have water.

With the tide rising, he made a sharp left turn into the Western Branch because the wind was whipping the river and we needed to hide in a well-protected winding creek. The temperature was in the 30s, but we were prepared, what with our heavy jackets, pants, hats and gloves providing suitable protection. The spinning and casting rods carried either Sting Ray grubs on 1/4-oz. jig hooks, or smaller 1/8-oz. and 1/16-oz. jig hooks that were pierced through 1- and 2-inch Gulp grubs or Berkley Power Minnows. The lighter grubs occasionally were fished with a bobber 3 or 4 feet above the lures. Whenever casts were made, an additional dabbing of Smelly Jelly completed the set-ups.

Bob Lunsford caught a fair share of the crappies.
In various parts of the branch Bob and I suddenly began to hook young largemouth bass and sassy adult crappies that were fat enough to provide dinner. Bob and I finished a 4-1/2-hour outing with 14 bass, 40 crappies (all but 5 were let go), a yellow perch, a fat creek sucker, and a large sunfish.

Although we couldn't fish the main stem and its many fallen trees, docks, points, cuts and dropoffs because of the wind, we caught all our fish in the Western  Branch. But could it be that the upper Patuxent is undergoing a kind of rebirth? That would be sensational good news for local fishermen yearning for a river besides the Potomac.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Will we soon be able to buy our duck stamps online?


A U.S. House of Representatives vote recently could mean permanent easy access for hunters looking to buy their federal duck stamps online. The e-Duck Stamp program, started four years ago on a trial basis, allows hunters 16 and older to purchase temporary duck stamps online until their physical stamps arrive in the mail.

Prior to this pilot program, waterfowl hunters were required to buy federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps, or duck stamps, at post offices and sporting goods stores. The trouble came when suppliers ran out of stamps early in the season or small rural post offices didn't carry the stamps at all.

Ducks Unlimited's Scott Sutherland, director of the Governmental Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources to keep the e-Duck Stamp program alive after its pilot period ended. He lauded the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia.

Originally enacted in 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp was created as a federal waterfowl hunting license and a means to conserve waterfowl habitat. The program has generated more than $800 million to protect more than 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States, land now part of the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System. The stamps now cost $15 per year, with 98 percent of revenue going straight to land purchases, easements and leases.

Now that the House has responded positively to this push for the program, with a 373-1 vote, DU is asking the Senate to do the same. If the Senate vote is successful, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would have the authority to make the program permanent and extend it to all states.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Look what a cell phone camera captured in Yellowstone

My step-daughter, Ceilon Aspensen, and her husband, Jonathan, live in Bozeman, Montana --- not a bad place to be if you have a hankering to reach places many of us normally can only dream about. Not long ago, Ceilon and Jonathan took a quick trip down to Yellowstone where they encountered these beautiful elk. Ceilon shot the photos as they were leaving the famous park.

"I took these pictures from the driver's seat of my car, stopped in the middle of the road (along with all the other gawkers)," she said and added that the bull was bugling and putting on a fine show for the "ladies" he was with.

The photos were taken with her Droid (smart phone), on the 4x zoom setting. "I was surprised they came out as well as they did. Usually, photos I take of animals in Yellowstone look like Bigfoot photos in the National Inquirer."

The elk were spotted between Madison Junction and the West Yellowstone entrance to the park.

Foot note from a tidewater Marylander: Montana unquestionably is one of the most beautiful places on earth. There are several drawbacks, however. You can't run a trotline to catch a bushel of blue crabs because the state's waters aren't home to the blue-claws, and chances are you'll have a hard time finding a bowl of oyster stew made from native bivalves. Other than that, Big Sky Country is in a class all by itself. Go, Montana!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Coastal Conservation Association Maryland sponsors "TieFest"

Ask if it's possible to hook a striper like that on a fly rod. -- Ken Neill photo
Local fishermen will have the chance to meet and learn from internationally-recognized fly anglers at the 10th annual TieFest, a popular fly-fishing show, Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Kent Narrows Yacht Club in Chester, MD.

Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Fly patterns for fishing the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic seaboard will be demonstrated and questions about casting, techniques and locations where fish can be found fly fishing will be answered. More than 500 anglers from four states are expected to attend. “TieFest presents a great way to experience fly fishing during the winter months,” said Tony Friedrich, executive director, Coastal Conservation Association Maryland,  the TieFest sponsor. “What makes it special is that any angler can walk up to the numerous experts attending, ask a personal question, and expect an answer. This doesn’t happen in most other

In addition to tying demonstrations, there will be numerous fishing guides, equipment manufacturers, and fly shops to offer advice on local angling.

More information can be obtained from Friedrich. E-mail tony@ccamd.org.

















Sunday, January 22, 2012

If you're into waterfowling and decoys, put this on your calendar

IMPORTANT UPCOMING EVENT FOR WATERFOWL HUNTERS!

The East Coast Decoy Collectors (ECDC) consists of collector members from Long Island, New Jersey, Potomac, Delaware Valley, Upstate New York and Carolina. They will meet for a buy/sell/swap weekend, rain or shine, April 13 & 14, 2012 at the Best Western Motel (410-745-3333) in St. Michaels, (Eastern Shore of Maryland). 

The weekend includes motel rooms full of old decoys, all available for buy/sell/or swap, as well as a cookout Saturday evening.  The public is welcome. Free decoy appraisals will be provided. Representatives from waterfowl-related museums will be on hand as well as representatives from Decoy Magazine and H&F Collectibles Magazine, the two periodicals that service the decoy collecting community.  Many take this opportunity to preview decoys at the nearby Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter headquarters facility for their forthcoming spring decoy auction at Pheasant Run. Auction representatives from Frank & Frank Sporting Collectibles, Copley Fine Arts and Decoys Unlimited will also be on-site. 

A paid $15 ECDC membership also includes the cookout. Questions? Contact potomacduck@cox.net 

See you in St Michaels!

Friday, January 20, 2012

It could have been the latest Maryland blue catfish record

Robert Wills, who lives in Manchester, Md., likes to fish for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac River. We can't mention the precise place, lest Rob gets upset. Take a look at him and you'll quickly realize that he's not someone you want to mess with.

Anyway, around New Year's weekend he was fishing the main stem of the Potomac somewhere between the Piscataway and Broad Creek (that's not pin-pointing the place, is it?) when he caught the 75-pound blue catfish you see in the photo. A friend in a nearby boat latched onto a 71-pounder. Rob's fish could have been a new state record for the species, but since it was a holiday weekend the Dept. of Natural Resources offices were closed and they had no way to get in touch with a state biologist who could weigh it on an official scale and verify it as a record.

Rob Wills let the big "cat" go. He turned a potential state record loose! It's still out there in 20 to 30 feet of water and it likes large minnows or herring (if you can find some). The photo was snapped by the current blue catfish record holder, Ronald Lewis, who caught a 67-pound, 10-ounce blue "cat" in 2008 in the Ft. Washington area of the river.

Robert Wills and his unofficial 75-pound blue catfish that might have been a state record.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In spite of cold spells, fish are caught --- and a buck is shot

Talk about a guy who never quits, our friend Dick Fox is one of them. Dick lives in Front Royal and he fishes the Shenandoah River even when most folks stay indoors. He's showing us a fine Shenandoah smallmouth here that struck a tube lure. "The fishing isn't as fast and productive as it might be in the summer and fall," he said, "but the sizes of the smallmouth bass are almost always bigger."






Then there are the . . . .




. . . largemouth bass that Dick finds in the 'Doah, as some locals call this famous historic river. The largemouths might not be as plentiful as the smallies, but as you can see, they're well-fed and go after the same lures as the "brown" fish.





Andy Andrzejewski shows off a bass caught on a Sting Ray grub in the Pohick Bay area, on the Virginia side of the tidal Potomac River. Andy fished inside the Bay to stay away from the wind that whipped the main stem.





Belated congratulations to Andy Sulzbach who shot this fine 8-pointer in Harford County during Maryland's modern-gun deer season. Andy's buck fell to a shotgun slug. Good show and fine eating!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A pretty young lady with a mission: To shoot her first buck!

Kristie Baxter and her first buck -- with a bow, yet
(Photo by Jonathan Boyd)
I first met Kristie Baxter last year when I took my grandson, Jake, to hunter safety classes in La Plata, Md. Kristie sat a few tables away from us and as I looked at the pretty 20-something, who lives in Waldorf, Md., I had to ask why she was attending the classes. "I want to shoot a deer," she said and she knew that she had to pass the hunter exam before she could attempt going after the biggest game to be found in Southern Maryland.

Weeks went by and Kristie, who'd passed the hunter safety exam with ease, began to hunt.

"I bought my bow in February of 2011," she said. "Its an Electric Pink Mathews Passion. I wouldn't have it any other way. The bow is set at 45 pounds. Its a 50-pound bow [and I] practiced with it all year long.

"I got my hunting license in August of last year," she continued and mentioned how she began hunting on opening day of the archery deer season and since then has been out 37 times. "I keep track of everything on a calendar because I'm a girl," she said and mentioned how she had several close calls, but overall hadn't seen any deer in the past two months. Kristie put up a tree camera near her stand and she learned (like so many of us gun hunters) that the deer appeared to move mostly between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. "Then, over the last few weeks they started to come out at 6 to 6:30 p.m.

"I have about 10 bucks on camera," she said, which included two fine bucks that she'd been following all season. "Well, on Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, it started snowing. I thought it would be perfect to go out because I had a feeling that deer would come out earlier than usual. The weather was amazing. It was so beautiful! Being the photographer that I am I had to take a few short videos with my iPhone before the deer came out! It was cold and I had on about 5 layers [of clothing] and 6 hand warmers, but no gloves.

"I was in my tree stand at my Dad's place in Port Tobacco, Md., my Mathews ready to go. I had just said to myself that these deer are really going to be easy to see because the ground is white! No more than a minute later I started seeing does. First time in probably one-and-a-half months. I was stoked! The third deer was a buck! Bad thing was his antlers were camouflaged thanks to the snow cover. They weren't in shooting range for a good 20 minutes. I went ahead and got ready. I made sure my peep sight was right on, my arrow was nocked properly. I didn't want anything to go wrong.

Kristie waited for the buck. "Next thing I know there are about seven deer surrounding me. I was shaking but I knew it was finally my chance to prove to the boys that I could do this! There were 10 minutes left of shooting time. That buck came around a tree and I pulled back. Again his antlers were camouflaged but I could see he had three points on one side and he was WIDE, so for me he was a shooter. The buck stood perfectly broadside. I took my time, took a breath and let go. My G5 T3 [arrow] hit him perfectly in his lungs near his heart. He kicked and ran off."

Kristie waited for about half an hour in her tree stand, then called her boyfriend and her father. "They were excited and anxious. We followed the blood trail, which was easy, thanks to the snow," she recalled. The buck dropped no more than 40 yards from Kristie's stand. It was a beautiful 8-pointer.

"I was so excited. What an amazing feeling. We took pictures," Kristie said. "My boyfriend did the dirty work for me and gutted him and we dropped him off at Edelen's Taxidermy in Faulkner, MD. I'm still pretty happy [although] he wasn't one of the two bucks that I had my eye on."
 

Some rabbit hunts are more about having fun with your friends

Chuck Richardson's beagles accounted for one cottontail
SOMEWHERE IN CHARLES COUNTY --- When Bob Greer put out the word to come to a rabbit hunt on his property, it wasn't long before the pickup trucks started arriving, parking neatly next to one of his barns. 
There was Chuck Richardson who showed up with three beagles, Annie, Curly and Whitey. Not far from Chuck's vehicle was Bobby Jones who brought two of his little hounds, Hanky Panky and Flapjack. The other hunters, Mike Hubbard, Bill Turner and I, simply went about loading our shotguns to get ready.

No sooner had Bobby's eager beagles and Chuck's raring-to-go little hounds been freed from their holding boxes, the dogs took off, "tasting" the grounds, picking up a cold scent here and there that most always was followed by a mournful deep-throated wail that meant nothing. But after Bobby and Chuck began to hail their hounds with shouts of encouragement, the humans and animals quickly penetrated dense brambles and a maze of fallen branches along a field edge.

Dense cover like this can give a cottontail an advantage
"Heah, heah, get in there, Whitey," I heard one of the hunters shout. "Heah, Annie, doggone it, get over here."

Chuck's beagles tore through the wild overgrowth, baying, wailing on the spoor of a cottontail. Suddenly, they stopped and gathered around a woodchuck hole next to a tall yellow poplar. "Yeah, they jumped one and now it has gone down into that hole," said Chuck. "There's no use hanging around there. That rabbit isn't coming out."

"Heah, heah, Curly, Annie, Whitey, let's go," Richardson hollered once again and off went the dogs, while Bobby Jones called to Hanky Panky and Flap Jack to do the same on the far side of the wood lot.

Bob Greer and Bill Turner (rear), Mike Hubbard, Chuck Richardson and Bobby Jones (front)
"There aren't as many rabbits around here this year," said Mike Hubbard, who ventured a guess that the presence of coyotes in the county might have something to do with a lack of cottontails. Coyotes are among the best small-game predators anywhere, so it's possible that they could be responsible. However, don't count out the local red or grey foxes. Our host, Bob Greer, doesn't believe it's the coyotes. Among other things, he thinks that heavy rains during the rabbits' springtime birthing period might be the culprit. "I think some of the young ones drowned in their beds, it rained that much," he said. Richardson, meanwhile, figured that it was a simple cyclical population problem that almost always fixes itself.

These three anxiously awaited the start of the hunt
It wasn't a total blowout, though, because we heard the little hounds tear loose again on a hot trail, baying wildly, and then a shot rang out. Chuck emerged from the thickets and held up a rabbit.

"We'll have a hunt on another property within a week or so," said Richardson. "That  place ought to give up a few more than we saw today."

So now we were assured that the aroma of fried or stewed rabbit would eventually permeate the insides of our houses. I'll be waiting for it with some anticipation.
  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Can tidal river bass fishing in January get any better? Can it?

Could bass fishing during this so-far whacky month of January get any better? It's true that the temperatures  have been up and down, and back up again, only to drop through the bottom a day later. But consider the fact that few places in the middle half and upper parts of the United States could even begin to match what the tidal Potomac River can deliver during winter. Yes, we know that Southern fishermen never hang up their rods just because it's January, but if you live in Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia, Mississippi or Alabama, winters simply aren't much to worry about. Seriously, when was the last time you've heard of how great the skiing is in Mississippi?

Andy was the first to set a hook to a bass
Here in the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and all of Maryland, however, we do see snow and frozen ponds, and stores whose snow shovels have been sold out. Still, it's a fact that unless the entire river freezes over (which is extremely rare), the Potomac between the nation's capital and western Charles County, Md. (including the Virginia counties on the opposite side of the river), can deliver great fishing action throughout winter. 

Not only are the largemouth bass biting if you know where to drop a line, but there are also blue and channel catfish, crappies, yellow perch, resident stripers and white perch that can be hooked. In fact, large blue catfish tend to group together more during the winter months when good readers of depth locators around the main river's general Fort Washington area cash in big-time.

But no other outing can match a day of fishing better than when our pal Marty Magone leaves the "semi-tropical" warmth of south-central Virginia's Lake Gaston and heads north to Prince William County's Pohick Bay. It is there that his long-time friend and fishing partner, Andy Andrzejewski, picks him up, then heads off into the wilds of the Potomac to deliver a first-rate trip. Andy, of course, is a well-known bass guide in these parts and he knows where and when bassy things are about to happen. Trust me. That's no exaggeration.

A few days ago, near the mouth of a Virginia feeder creek, Andy found a shoreline area during a slowly receding tide that showed 3 or 4 feet of water. That narrow flat suddenly dropped over a ledge into 12 and 13 feet of creek depth. (Andy says there are probably dozens of such shallow-to-deep ledges in the upper river that hold fish. All it takes is to locate one and experiment a bit.)

Marty Magone and his 7-1/4-pound largemouth
Experiment in our world means using proven winter-time methods that consist of strong monofilament on the reels, the line tied to 1/4-ounce round-headed wire jig hooks that are fed onto the broad side of a Mann's Sting Ray grub, the hook point and part of its belly emerging about half-way down the grub's body, then dabbed with Crawdaddy or Baitfish flavored Smelly Jelly. We know that we might lose a grub now and then to bottom snags, but after you look at this part of my web page, you'll know why we do it.

Andy was the first to strike. He cast the fragrant, avocado color grub toward the shallows, slowly hopped and dragged it toward the edge of the dropoff, allowed it to fall and when he lifted the rod he felt weight on the end of his lure. It could have been a sunken branch or a piece of a log, but those dead objects generally do not shake their heads. This one, however, did. Andy set the hook and pretty soon a largemouth thrashed on the surface.

Andy repeated this a half dozen times before anyone else stuck a hook to a bass, but then Marty Magone let out an audible "Ooomph!" that was followed by, "What the heck have I got here?" It was a fish, the line shooting out to the left, then right, then toward the boat and back out again. When Andy laid prone on the boat deck to help get the fish in, he eventually lipped a fine bass and all of us said, "Wow!"

Yellow perch snatch up Sting Rays, too
It was a largemouth that, as it was weighed on a digital scale, saw the little screen's numbers stop at 7-pounds, 4-ounces. Folks, a 7-1/4-pound bass may not raise eyebrows in Santee-Cooper, S.C., or Lake Casitas, Cal., but on the tidal Potomac River (which has been classified by visiting bass pros as one of the best bass fishing rivers in the country) a bass of that size is a whopper. Tidal bass can grow to 10 pounds or more, but most local anglers will agree that they might actually see a mythical unicorn long before they'll catch a 10-pound-plus Potomac bass. It has been done, but don't plan on visiting a taxidermist until after you've caught such a river monster.

Don't ask me how well I did the day Marty visited us. I caught a few bass, but have had better outings. Andy had 17 or 18 bass; Marty had an easy state limit, including the 7-1/4-pounder.

I've made up my mind to go rabbit hunting next week.

Meanwhile, Andy can be booked. His ad is on the left side of our page.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Not everybody has stopped fishing. What about you?

Fred Drury, of Stephens City, Va., fished the Shenandoah River over the weekend and this is one of the smallmouth bass he and his fishing partner, Dick Fox, of Front Royal, Va., caught. Fox said, "The river is in good shape, a little high and cold, but fish can be caught." They used tube baits.



Kevin Wilson, who runs the fine web site http://fatboysoutdoors.blogspot.com fished the upper Potomac River, hoping he'd catch a muskellunge. This walleye apparently figured that Kevin's rather large musky lure wasn't too big. It tried to eat it.
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                      Looking for my weekly fishing report? 
            Go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports/outdoors/
                    The fishing report is updated every Thursday 
      If you want to share a photo or brief story with us, send it to channelbass@gmail.com
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Nine-year-old Michael Guy, the son of Mike Guy (of Guy Brothers Marine in Clements, St. Mary's County) fished in grandpa Al Guy's farm pond where he latched onto this crappie. Michael also caught other specks. Good show, Michael!



My friend Dick Fox (right) went out onto the Shenandoah when the mercury sank to 29 degrees. The water temperature stood at 34 degrees, but that didn't stop him from nailing several respectably-sized smallmouth bass on tube baits. Dick is a hard-nosed fisherman who will wet a line no matter what the weather forecasts say (at least as far as temperatures go).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Make plans to attend this fishing seminar coming to Annapolis

As part of its 25th Anniversary Tour, George Poveromo’s Salt Water Sportsman National Seminar Series will be in Annapolis, Md., on Feb. 4.

Instructors will be: Captain John Oughton, Captain "Walleye" Pete Dahlberg, Rick Burnley, Dr. Ken Neill III (who shot the photo of George, below), "Crazy" Alberto Knie, Captain Jimmy Price, Captain Brady Bounds, Captain Chris Dollar, Bill Carson, Harry Vernon III, and George Poveromo.

George Poveromo with a Virginia striper
Topics include: Live-lining for trophy stripers; refined striper trolling tactics; Big stripers on top water lures; Secrets of fishing the Susquehanna Flats; Chunking tricks for striped bass; Flutter-jigging for striped bass and bluefish; Targeting jumbo bluefish; Bluefish on surface lures; Inshore wire-line trolling techniques; How and where to catch more and bigger fluke; Bucktailing for fluke; How and where to catch fluke by the numbers; Secrets for catching big tautog; Can’t-miss tautog tactics; How to locate and set up on productive bottom (for tautog, black sea bass, fluke and spot).

In addition you'll learn how to target jumbo sea bass; Jigging for sea bass; No-nonsense weakfish and speckled trout tactics; How and where to locate weakfish and speckled trout; Spanish mackerel the easy way; How to find and use offshore temperature breaks to your advantage; No-nonsense strategies that produce more and larger makos;  Kite fishing tactics that take more sharks and tuna;  Hot methods for catching yellowfin and bluefin tuna; Offbeat tactics that score more yellowfin and bluefin tuna; Can’t miss tuna trolling strategies (includes sub-surface trolling techniques); Live-chumming, chunking and live-baiting for tunas; Trolling for white marlin; Little-know tricks that yield more white marlin; How to create and troll a deadly offshore teaser system (including dredges); Canyon trolling strategies; Secrets of fishing the canyons; plus comprehensive sessions on fishing the upper, middle and lower Chesapeake Bay!

For more information on this seminar series, visit: www.nationalseminarseries.com .
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                      Looking for my weekly fishing report? 
            Go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports/outdoors/
                    The fishing report is updated every Thursday 
      If you want to share a photo or brief story with us, send it to channelbass@gmail.com
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Maryland deer kill totals up slightly, but late hunt not included

Maryland deer hunters saw a broad range of weather during the two-week firearm season, but they managed to shoot an estimated 41,421 deer ─ a 2 percent increase from last year’s kill  of 40,694 deer for the same period. This year’s total included 14,302 antlered deer and 27,119 antlerless deer. Sika deer totals were 455 antlered and 549 antlerless.

Region A deer hunters (Garrett, Allegany, and western Washington counties) reported 4,960 deer for the two-week season, up 12 percent from last year’s total of 4,422 deer. The antlered kill increased 12 percent from 2,528 deer last year to 2,830 this year, while the antlerless take increased 13 percent from 1,894 deer to 2,130 deer.

The Region B deer kill of 36,461 deer was similar to last year’s 36,272. The antlered kill increased 4 percent ─ from 11,077 deer last year to 11,472 this year. The antlerless total decreased about 1 percent ─ from 25,195 deer last year to 24,989 deer this year.

Note to our web visitor about the word "Harvest"

A web visitor sent us a link to some type of new dictionary that, indeed, included the word "harvest" in matters of killing wildlife. What bothers me is the entire meaning of the word. To harvest corn, potatoes and other farm crops is the accepted form of a harvest. Now people want to include warm-blooded wild creatures, such as deer being "harvested." What is next? Will the egg-heads who attempt to produce ever new meanings of new words (i.e. "humongous" instead of big, "chill" instead of calm down, etc.) eventually include the word "harvest" to the military? Imagine, a general in some army, somewhere, saying "We harvested 1,200 enemy soldiers today."

For heaven's sake, where will it end? Let the harvest stay where it belongs. Harvest farm crops, not deer or turkeys.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I'm still waiting for my buck, but look what Fred did

Fred Fox and the two bucks he shot in Charles County, Md.
That fellow on the left, holding two very respectable deer heads, is Fred Fox, a neighbor of mine who lives in a fine house just up the street a ways on our dead-end road.

Fred hunted the same property that I have permission to hunt on. His first buck came along near the end of shotgun season in December. The second one was shot by him during the Maryland blackpowder season.

Congratulations, Fred. Just  one word of warning. If the one on the right is the same one I had been seeing all through November, I will personally get one of your goats (Fred actually has several goats) and barbecue it on my backyard grill.

While Fred was out whacking the bucks, all I saw during the whole season were 6 fat does and they traveled through dense cover. I didn't dare shoot for fear I'd only cripple one of them.  The only buck that showed up was the well-fed young spike on the right. He made an appearance at 2 a.m. one morning, no more than 50 yards from one of my ladder stands. The motion sensor wildlife camera that I strapped to a tree took the photo, but it did little for my freezer since I was still sleeping when he arrived to model for the camera.

One final word. I recently watched one of those awful, terribly-produced hunting shows on the Pursuit Channel that I get on my dish antenna. An unshaven hunter who babbled incoherently and incessantly (he never shut up) was waiting for a deer with his compound bow. He kept mentioning that he wanted to "harvest" a deer. Harvest? You don't harvest a living, warm-blooded creature. In the case of deer, you shoot it, kill it, convert it to venison, but you do NOT harvest it. Want to harvest something? Harvest corn, wheat, potatoes, beets and turnips. What a terrible and wrong use of the English language. Don't be afraid to say "kill." When you pull the trigger, that's what you hope to do: kill it. Believe me, it's not a bad word.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

We started our usual New Year's Day outing with a bass'n bang

For well over 25 years the local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski has fished on New Year's Day -- many of them with me in tow, occasionally also one other person.

Andy with a 5-1/4-pounder
That out of the way, Sunday, New Year's Day 2012, began and finished with a bang -- a bass'n bang of the first order. Andy said he'd show up at the Marshall Hall boat ramp in Charles County at 9 a.m. I arrived a little after 8 and Andy's special guest, Bob Lunsford, was already waiting in the parking lot when I pulled into a parking space. Many Marylanders may remember Lunsford from his days as the DNR's freshwater fisheries boss. Lunsford is now retired and he's serious about going fishing as often as possible.

Although the day's temperatures promised to be well over 55 degrees by the afternoon, when you scoot down the wide Potomac in the morning, you'd better be warmly dressed. All three of us wore special flotation jackets that double as a super warm long-sleeved garment, not to mention it being a potential life saver. Warm pants and hooded sweatshirts kept the head and body toasty. Thick gloves rounded out the New Year's "dress" wear.
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Bob Lunsford's 5-pounder
When Andy rounded the corner as he headed into Gunston Cove, no one else was visible anywhere. With a bright sun soon heating up our heavy clothes, it wasn't long before we shed the heavy jackets and gloves. It was time to prepare our gear. Andy and I would not change our usual plan of attack for bass. We tied 1/4-oz. round-headed jig hooks onto strong monofilament or thin braided line -- all of it with a minimum strength of at least 14-pound-test. The jig hooks were fed through avocado-color Mann's Sting Ray grubs, with the hook points emerging half-way down the grub's body. Before the first cast was made, we rubbed a layer of creamy Smelly Jelly onto the rubbery minnow fakes.

Lunsford brought a jug filled with Gulp Alive 3-inch minnows in black shad color. Although totally artificial, the Gulp Alive minnows are supposed to spread their aroma and draw fish like a magnet. The former fisheries official didn't waste any time piercing one of the "minnows" onto his own similar jig hook and shortly after Andy complained that he had not caught a fish "all year," he promptly stuck the hook of his Sting Ray to smallish bass. Bob Lunsford did the same, both of them laughing and saying, "Hey, the first fish of 2012!"

By the time I convinced a largemouth to sample my Sting Ray, which had been dabbed with fragrant Crawdaddy-flavor Smell Jelly, my boat partners were setting hooks again. The first bass I caught -- my first fish of 2012 -- was a fine specimen that might have weighed 3 pounds. I later caught five more, all of them respectable. That, however, was nothing compared to one of Lunsford's bass that weighed 5 pounds on a digital scale. Bob's rod had bent over sharply as he said, "It's a good one." Andy knealt on the boat deck and "lipped' the 5-pounder, then handed it to the man who caught it. The fish was handled carefully; photos were snapped and Bob eventually turned the bass loose.

Gene Mueller with his first fish of 2012 -- a largemouth bass
Of course, Andy wasn't to be denied. A half hour later, he suddenly stuck the hook to something and all I heard was Andy saying, "This might be a good one." It was. The bass weighed 5-pounds, 4-ounces -- not bad by tidal Potomac River standards.

Should you come into Gunston Cove and try to do the same, remember that we fished a ledge on the right side of the cove, just before you reach the U.S.Army landing craft. What these boats are good for nowadays is anyone's guess, but do yourself a favor and stay away from them. In fact stay about 300 yards away from the boats and do not ignore the "Keep Out" and "Restricted" signs. Instead, search for the flat shoreline area that suddenly drops into 8- and 9-foot layers of water. That's where we cast our Sting Rays and the Gulp Alive minnows.

In all, after less than 4 hours of fishing, our trio finished up with 21 bass, one crappie and a yellow perch. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Two Sting Rays on bottom, Smelly Jelly (left) and a container of Gulp baits

Furor over governor's decision to cancel public fishing contest

"The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament is a huge part of why recreational angling contributes so much to Virginia's economy," Northam said in a news release. "The well-run citation, Expert and Master Angler, and annual species awards programs greatly enhance the draw of fishing in Virginia for natives and visitors alike. That means tourism revenue and jobs, two things that we should be looking to create, not destroy. Eliminating this funding is pennywise and pound foolish now and in the long run."

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission says it understands why sport fishermen are upset, but points out that the need to have a balanced budget resulted in McDonnell's decision to cut the popular program.