One of America’s wryest philosophers, Yogi Berra, once noted that predictions were difficult to make, especially about the future. Despite his sage warning, I feel compelled to make some Tidewater prophecies for the New Year.
Fish Are Biting
At last! A slight warming spell has freed many of the ice-bound tributaries, and the pickerel and perch are on the move. Lip-hooked minnows on a shad dart under a bobber will tempt them and relieve your winter doldrums — at least until the next frigid blast ices us up again.
Oceanside, the rockfish season is still open, and those hardy souls venturing forth are catching a few linesides in the suds. Try bloodworms, mullet, squid or cut menhaden on the bottom. Evening and morning are still the best times. Dress warm and stay dry.
Details at: Hunting_Seasons_Calendar.pdf
Ducks: thru Jan. 29
My first prediction is a banner year for yellow perch. The population of this incredibly beautiful and delicious fish has rebounded in the last two years, due completely to Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ efforts in curbing commercial exploitation.
The fat, healthy, golden fish — some of them measuring up to 14 inches — caught last year by anglers of all ages were many times the number I have witnessed in previous seasons. I’m looking forward to even greater numbers, especially the big ones, in 2011.
Our white perch fishing for the coming year will also be good, if not outstanding. I missed the spring run, but my summertime forays for these rascals, the most plentiful fish in the Tidewater, produced excellent results in both numbers and size up until late fall. I’m anticipating another great season starting in April.
My prognostication for recreational crabbing is for a fantastic season. The blue crab population last year was the best in over a decade (due singularly to DNR’s emergency restrictions on female harvest). I’m forecasting an even greater season in the coming year. The vast number of undersized crabs I witnessed roaming the Bay in the latter part of the summer points to crabbing that may just be the best ever.
My 2011 prediction for our rockfish is not quite as enthusiastic. The steadily declining success of striped bass spawns over the last decade calls for a forecast of a decent but not particularly great year. Some accounts claim an overall decline in our striped bass population by as much as 25 percent from year 2000 levels. While this does not put the species in a threatened category as yet, unless something changes soon, it will be definite cause for alarm.
Last but not least is my prediction that our oysters will be increasingly successful in their struggle to re-proliferate throughout the Tidewater. State restoration efforts combined with pollution reduction, continued apprehension and prosecution of poachers and the expansion of commercial oyster farming will at last turn the tide in our favor.
The year 2011 is going to be the beginning of something especially great for the Chesapeake. Spurred by the Environmental Protection Agency’s bold new restoration plan for the entire Chesapeake Watershed (forced by a lawsuit from our own Chesapeake Bay Foundation), Maryland has at last produced a comprehensive (though expensive) plan for forcing reduction of pollutants entering the watershed.
A new paradigm for the Chesapeake could emerge at last, one of restoration and recovery. The outdoor experience on America’s largest estuary has an unlimited potential to reinvigorate all generations of Marylanders with a love for our beautiful Bay and a true appreciation for the treasure that it is.
I also have a few specific wishes for the New Year. I wish that optimizing (at the highest levels) all our Bay species’ populations will become Maryland’s management strategy for natural resources in the future. Our historical approach, apparently based on maximum sustainable harvest, has been proven to be an absolute failure. It’s time for a change.
My second wish for 2011 is that the number of Natural Resources Police be restored to previous levels. Despite commercial poaching, increasing recreational activity and the need for a police presence on the water, their numbers have been decreased by half over the last decade. It’s a false economy: A bank doesn’t fire its security guards to save money — not if it wishes to stay in business. We need the NRP on the Chesapeake.
Finally, for everyone in our great Maryland outdoors, I wish a Happy New Year! May the coming months on our great water be even better than my predictions.