|Duck Season Looks a Bit Brighter
As I peck out this column, only two days remain until the first day of the second split of the 2000 waterfowl season. Like many Chesapeake waterfowlers, I'm excited to figure out where to go, what decoys to set. And I'm anxious to lose myself (literally perhaps) in the beauty and solitude of the Bay's marshland. That excitement is strengthened in some part by the Estuaries and Clean Waters Act of 2000 recently passed by Congress, which includes an estuary restoration bill authorizing $275 million in federal funds over five years to help restore one million acres of vital habitat - the wetlands, underwater grasses and riparian buffers that protect the Bay and provide habitat to about 20 species of ducks and several kinds of swans and geese.
Parts of the United States' Prairie Pothole region, including large tracts in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana, may also benefit from the recent Congressional wisdom. Known as the duck factory, these areas - with the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta - produce some 55 percent of North America's ducks, a fair amount of which make it to our Chesapeake to winter. We can thank many conservation groups and the leadership of Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, who worked with the late Sen. John Chafee from Rhode Island to get this bill past the tricky shoals of Congress.
The news gets a bit better. Maryland's U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes sponsored a second bill re-authorizing the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program, which has helped coordinate protection and restoration efforts since the 1980s. This comes four months after the Bay Program partners signed Chesapeake 2000, an agreement outlining specific target goals for Bay watershed restoration over the next 10 years. Like they say, 'show me the money.' As a result, the Bay Program's overall funding increases from $18 million to $40 million per year over the next five years.
Perhaps just as important, the bill gives the program more leeway to authorize vital restoration work, and it establishes for the Bay region a Small Watershed Grants Program, which helps local and regional groups and local governments launch projects to restore pieces of the larger watershed.
More money - along with citizen action to reduce our individual impact upon the Bay - is what it will take to make serious progress toward a healthier Chesapeake.
This bodes well for the ducks. Now if we can just figure out how to get rid of those darn mute swans - about which I have a few ideas.
Fish are Biting
Fall is a great time to fish Chesapeake Country, perhaps the best for many anglers. Pickerel action in the upper tributaries of the Severn and South rivers is picking up, and the freshwater reaches of the Gunpowder River are producing trout, the upper Patapsco smallmouth bass. DNR recently stocked 66,000 adult trout in 14 counties.
The fantastic trout fishing in the Bay - sea trout, that is - can be found along the channel edges in front of Hoopers Island past Poplar Island. The colder temperatures have them in tight schools. Also, the mouth of the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, above the Bay Bridges and Tangier Sound are all hot for trout, which also are called gray trout or yellowfins. Feather and bucktail jigs as well as various metal spoons are the ticket for these tasty fish.
Small bluefish seem to have a schizophrenic disorder, busting bait one second only to sound the next moment. There are lots of small rockfish at West River, The Hill and Diamonds, with enough keepers to keep the hordes of boats coming back. Shallow-water action should continue at least another week or two, and the evening bite is a better bet.