Ducks Are Flying
By C.D. Dollar
At 3:30am, there aren't a whole lot of people on the highways. Truckers, cops and people up to no good share the road with the few folk heading to work and waterfowl hunters off to the marshes. As lead truck in the convoy heading to the public hunting areas on the lower Eastern Shore, Robert Earl Keen cranked up the radio.
Brothers Colbeck and I made it to the ramp in Somerset County, dumped Kevin's boat into the water and headed to a spot where Kevin had had some success earlier in the week. Once the decoys were in place - an assortment of mallards, pintails, widgeon and gadwall - we slumped into a clump of black needle rush and waited.
We didn't have to wait long as a single teal, hell bent to land in our rig, came screaming over my left shoulder well below radar. Startled, I missed badly, and the birds flew off. Fortunately we had other chances. Groups of widgeon and gadwall were hooked in by our deceit, felled and retrieved by Chris Colbeck's Labrador, Tupelo.
Of the ducks taken that day, a few were northern pintails, sometimes called sprigs or sprigtails. Pintails are graceful ducks, both at rest and flying, and are very clever and wary. Their long, fibrous tails, which are much longer on the drakes, can be seen from a distance. Pintails also have elongated necks that they extend to recon landing sites. All of these attributes make them one of my favorite ducks.
Yet over the last century, factors such as development and poor water quality as a result of excessive nutrients and sediment have destroyed the Bay's wetlands and underwater grasses, which provide vital habitat and food to many species of waterfowl including pintails. Most experts agree that less than 50 percent of the watershed's wetlands remain intact. Underwater grasses cover only about 12 percent of their historical acreage, which some scientists estimate at 600,000 acres.
From my perspective, waist deep in a clear saltwater marsh with loads of food for the ducks, the problems threatening the Bay were out of my thoughts. But only briefly, because to enjoy such a day, natural systems that support wildlife, provide recreation and seafood need our immediate attention.
Fish are Biting
Rob Jepson of Anglers (410/974-4013) reports that Rip Deladrier found rockfish stacked up between Hacketts Point and the Bay Bridge, dropped down a feather jig and hauled in a 25-pound beast of a rock. Chummers at Love Point, the Hill, and other spots are scoring legal rock, but most are undersized.
Sea trout are still in Eastern Bay, around the Bay Bridge pilings and in the Chester River. Feather jigs and crippled herring spoons work well. Farther south, Fred Donovan from Rod 'n' Reel (800/233-2080) said the Diamonds and Stone Rock are hot for chummers, though many of the fish there, too, are not legal size.
Trollers working the Gooses, Parkers Creek and the HI Buoy are bringing in bigger rockfish. According to bait guy 'Bubba' from Bunky's Charters (410/326-3241), the Patuxent River quadrant is producing fish. Cedar Rip, the Gas Docks, and trolling the channel edges in front of Hooper's Island has produced several 30- to 40-inch rockfish.
In the lower Bay in the last couple weeks, anglers have taken big rockfish trolling umbrella rigs and bucktails at the mouth of the Potomac River and chumming bunker at the Middle Grounds. As the big fish head out of the Bay, these southern spots will provide much of the remaining action.
| Issue 46 |
Volume VII Number 46
November 18-24, 1999
New Bay Times
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