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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

We need sustainable, not ­seesaw, management

Our blue crabs are in trouble again. Since last year, the juvenile crab count had plummeted to 111 million, down from 587 million in 2012, according to the 2013 Winter Dredge Survey results. The overall number of crabs in the Bay dropped by over 60 percent.     Blue crabs may, once again, be approaching the crisis levels of five or six years ago.

You heard right: Trolling is no longer required

Not everyone trolls during trophy rockfish season. A growing contingent of shore-bound anglers fish bloodworms or cut bait on the bottom. They have been catching an ever-more impressive number of big migratory stripers.     An equally expanding cadre of small- and medium-sized boat anglers have also been chumming and chunking fresh menhaden (aka alewife or bunker) to hungry post-spawn giants. A big, juicy bloodworm on a bottom rig is just as effective fished from a skiff as it is from shore.

When the forsythia bloom, the hickories start running

Pulling into my driveway this week, I caught the briefest  flash of bright yellow out of the corner of my eye. A neighbor’s forsythia bush was beginning to bloom. My mind returned to this exact time a year ago.     Late that morning, a friend and I were pussyfooting up to a riverbank on the upper Choptank. We had already spent a number of fruitless weeks chasing elusive yellow perch and again feared failure. What we saw in the water restored our hope.

The river gave up gold

It had turned into a beautiful day despite a forecast of high winds and rain. Trees were whipping overhead, but down the well-worn path we followed on the forest floor, it was sheltered and calm. When we broke out of the tree-cast shadow line, the bright sun warmed us so that we had to open our jackets and slow our pace.

DNR is planning a trophy ­fishery for specs

The fish hit my Clouser streamer fly as it sank at the end of a long cast. I was waist deep, wading off Thomas Point and had not seen any action that evening. Surprised, I cinched the fish up and had it quickly on the reel. The rascal realized its predicament and began to take drag as it made its first run.     I judged it was a rockfish. But this fish acted differently. There was not a lot of head-shaking, just a firm surging run, first in one direction, then another.

Changing conditions bring new characters to Chesapeake waters

Perhaps it’s global warming. Maybe it was a super-successful spawn. Or it could be another one of those things that can’t be explained. Whatever the cause, young redfish are pushing up the Bay in search of new sources of food.     This high up in the Bay is the northern edge of these fish’s customary salinity range. But anecdotal indications are that a pretty fair number of redfish overwintered here. That means you’re likely to encounter these game fish.

We pay our way; commercial fishermen should, too

Recreational fishing license fees have been increased twice in recent years to meet shortfalls in the Department of Natural Resource’s operating budget for the administration of recreational programs. As a result, DNR brings in enough money to fund its sport-fishing management, including police enforcement.

A few Marylanders still follow the hounds that follow the hares

Danny’s 12-gauge pump boomed out twice off to my left as a streaking gray rabbit cut in and out of a long, narrow copse of briars parallel to us. Raising my 20-gauge and trying to track the tricky rabbit as it neared my position, I fired twice as well, also to no effect.

I wasn’t just fishing last season; I was learning from experience

Cold and rain have had me housebound and dreaming of last fishing season. Along with great memories, I learned a couple of new lessons.     My fishing partners and I experimented with different types of fishing lines during an extended chumming and live-lining rockfish bite in the mid-Bay. We fished often, up to four times per week, trying braid, monofilament and fluorocarbon lines.

But without ready money, plans are just plans

In a bold, all-encompassing and optimistic plan, the National Park Service (NPS) has finally brought together all of the players that enjoy the waters creating our great Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, New York and the District of Columbia. No prior federal planning efforts for the Chesapeake have attempted anything of this geographical scope.