Waterfowl Season Looks Promising
Good-bye, August, and good riddance. Granted I havent put in a ton of time on the Bay in Marylands most oppressive month, but days I did fish were quirky at best. So bring on September, with dove and resident goose opening Saturday and the bonus teal season scheduled to open September 13.
But dont think for a minute that Im putting my tackle away; in fact, the fishing is just now improving. I have, however, taken stock of my decoy spread, cleaned the 12-gauge and ordered my shells for the year. My interest was raised another notch this past Monday when waterfowl experts at the Department of Natural Resources held a public meeting on the suggested 20012002 waterfowl seasons. The biggest buzz among waterfowl hunters, of course, surrounds the states recommendation to reopen hunting for migratory Canada geese for a 30-day hunting season.
State resources officials came close to allowing hunting for geese last year, but they withdrew the recommendation. So, according to some observers, it is quite a bold first move for Chuck Fox, the incoming secretary of DNR. Fox takes the reins of an agency that, sources say, suffers from low morale and timid decision-making, which is understandable if rumors of gubernatorial meddling are accurate.
Regardless of political in-fighting, Fox and his top waterfowl experts, Larry Hindman and Bill Harvey, have science on their side. Six years ago, Maryland shut down goose hunting when the population showed a 75 percent decline. It was the right choice. Today, with estimates that about a million birds will travel the Atlantic Flyway, reopening goose season is also the right move.
Long a tradition in Chesapeake Country, goose hunting was a significant source of income for some farmers, landowners and outfitters. It also brought revenues to ancillary businesses like sporting goods stores, restaurants and motels. According to state officials, the upcoming proposed migratory season will also give farmers some relief from the hordes of geese damaging their crops.
At the meeting, DNR game population specialist Harvey said that 2001 conditions for breeding were very good. Since 1993, Harvey has made the yearly spring pilgrimage to the breeding grounds on the Ungava Peninsula in northern Quebec, a haven for breeding pairs of Canadas sandwiched between Hudson Bay and James Bay. It is encouraging that four of the last six surveys have revealed breeding conditions that have been either good or very good. Compiled with Canadian natural resource managers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff, the 2001 survey estimated 147,000 breeding pairs in northern Quebec.
Research, mostly banding data, has shown the geese that visit our region, unlike ducks, seem to follow restricted routes, which return them to the same wintering and breeding grounds each year. Consequently, if a local population of geese is severely depleted via natural conditions, poor habitat and breeding grounds or over-hunting, the population cannot be rebuilt by an infusion of new birds from other areas without running the risk of destroying its distinctiveness.
The time is right to open up the goose season again, but staunch vigilance should be the watchword.
The proposed season dates are November 19 to November 23 and December 22 to January 19. The daily bag limit will be one goose. For a complete listing of waterfowl seasons, visit DNR at www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife.
Fish Are Biting
Gene strike-out machine Murray landed a nice 17-pound red drum while fishing soft crab at the Target Ships off Tangier Island. Dave Moon pie Cola and Bart Jaeger also fished Tangier Sound area, but in the shallows around Cedar Island, where they landed a limit of fat rockfish. Good reports of breaking fish off Cove Point, plenty of bluefish running up to five pounds and rockfish from 20 to 24 inches. Decent bottom fishing off Podickory Point, with spot and croaker taking worms and shrimp.