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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

The first fish of the year start ­moving in February

     Yes, I know temperatures have plunged into single digits lately. It’s best to consider these events as just the last freeze before the thaw.        The days are getting longer, and already a number of finned species are beginning to respond. February is only a week away, and that’s when yellow perch begin staging to ascend the tributaries to spawn. That’s a cause to rejoice.

Wildlife photographer Jack Turner captures nature’s hidden gems

      Many of Maryland’s hidden gems, its wild wetland birds and animals, are not-so-obvious treasures that few of us fully notice. Unless you’ve the fiery curiosity of youth coupled with the unusual desire to brave hungry mosquitoes, gnats and biting flies, you’ll usually be unaware of the many species of hawks, herons, owls, kingfishers, waterfowl and even the eagles that reside and flourish among the Chesapeake’s wetlands.

Being in shape is not an option for sportspeople; it’s a necessity

      As I walked down a row of cornstalks a half mile long and firmly grasping the seven-pound shotgun in my arms, my breath in the 10-degree air was coming a little harder with each step. I slowed my pace to keep abreast of my two partners, and we continued to push out that last narrow growth of corn, all that remained of a crop that was in the final stage of harvest. We strongly suspected a bunch of big ringneck pheasants were moving just in front of us.

Why hunters love the ancient sport

      Someone in our blind hissed, “Four coming in, right in front. ” We had been straining our eyes for almost an hour, peering out over a broad river for a sign of waterfowl, and now these had appeared as if from nowhere. My hand eased toward my long black Benelli leaning in its perch along the front of our hide.
If you’re not a fanatic yourself, I offer a few suggestions
      Christmas shopping for a dedicated angler is tough.        As editor Sandra Martin wrote a couple weeks back, “Sporting Life columnist Dennis Doyle regularly warns against giving tackle to anglers. Why? Because unless you’re as expert as they are, you’re vulnerable to making a choice they’ll scorn.”

Freak warm days may be too good to be true

      From the front window, I saw the trees about my house were finally still. The sun was shining at last, the forecast was for 60 degrees and one more day on the water suddenly looked possible. After all, rockfish season was still open.

Isn’t it time for a strategy change?

      It was with grim amusement that I read the recent headline, “Bay oyster population cut in half from 1999.” A keystone natural resource crustacean that was once both numerous and largely responsible for a Bay water clarity approaching 30 feet is continuing its torturous decline. Could it finally be time for a radical shift in our resource management policy?

Rockfish and crab can do wonders 

      Once traditional Thanksgiving Dinner is over, there are leftovers to consider. Of course turkey sandwiches with or without stuffing are part of the post-holiday tradition. But have you thought of these other worthy alternatives?   Rockfish Cakes

Clean up, clear out, stock up

     Yes, there’s fatality in the air. We all know the season is winding down. The bite is hot right now, and there will still be a few good days. But the traditional weather this time of year is increasingly cold with wind and rain followed by more rain, then more wind. Then the holidays will be on us, so it’s not too early to begin tidying up.

My gradual approach keeps the door open for late excursions

      Preparing your boat for winter should be the last item on this year’s to-do list. The many mistakes I’ve made over my 65 years should qualify me as experienced if not expert. One of my frequent mistakes is to refuse to admit the season is over.       Because of this, I’ve adopted a gradual wintering schedule over the course of a month or more, prioritizing chores in such a way that any sudden boating re-activation will not set the schedule back to zero.