Wild Chesapeake: Waterfowl, Stripers, & the Politics of Fish

Chesapeake outdoor guide Captain Chris Dollar brings up-to-date insight to the Bay Bulletin. Check in weekly to see what’s happening out there.

 Maryland’s Canada goose seasons opened last Saturday and end on the 23rd, but comes back in Dec. 14-Feb. 2. (Photo by Chris D. Dollar)

Maryland’s Canada goose seasons opened last Saturday and end on the 23rd, but comes back in Dec. 14-Feb. 2. (Photo by Chris D. Dollar)

Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving, and there’s much I’m grateful for, chiefly being out among the Bay’s wilds things, which fuel my passions and fulfill my avocation and vocation. I’m also appreciative that principles of fair chase, taking fish and game in a legal and ethical way, still exists. Most especially, I’m grateful for the support, encouragement and laughter of family and friends. Wishing everyone a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving.

From deer and dove to duck and rockfish, lots of wild game are in play for a few days more at least. On Saturday, Maryland’s Canada goose season opened and, as of yesterday, reports of success came mainly from the middle and upper Eastern Shore counties. Yesterday’s fog forced a mid-morning hunt. I think the big push of honkers hasn’t happened yet. Diver ducks, however, are arriving in larger numbers, flocking to the grass beds on the Susquehanna Flats as well as around the Bay’s barrier islands (Bloodsworth, South Marsh). Maryland’s duck and goose seasons end on the 23rd, with duck season reopening December 11 through January 26, and goose season reopening December 14 through February 2.

 Fishing with Nick Fulford on Nick’s boat  Defiance , Chris Lankford, Seaford DE, jigged up this fine rockfish near Hooper's Straits on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Nick Fulford)

Fishing with Nick Fulford on Nick’s boat Defiance, Chris Lankford, Seaford DE, jigged up this fine rockfish near Hooper's Straits on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Nick Fulford)

Maryland striped bass fishermen are logging a lot of miles to bend a rod. Similar to last week, the better spots are 84A, Radar Towers, Cedar Point past Point No Point, and the channel edges from buoys 72A to HI Buoy and Hoopers Straits. Eastern Bay still has keeper stripers as do the Power Plant and Point Lookout areas. Delaware-based Nick Fulford and his buddy Chris Lankford had a good day fishing on Nick’s boat running between Hooper Straits to Buoy 72a. Lankford was the high hook with a quality rockfish pushing 35 inches. They were jigging with BKD soft plastics and G-Eye Jig lead-heads. Many of these fish are hugging the bottom, so go with 1-to 3-ounce metal Stingsilver and Specialized spoons or heavy jigs in the 1- to 2- ounce range, tipped with plastics from five to 7 inches.

Virginia Bay anglers continue to chase stripers in the Elizabeth, James, and York rivers, as well as near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. Offshore anglers finally had a good weather window, which sent boats running from the Ocean City and Rudee inlets to the Norfolk Canyon where they caught some nice yellowfin tunas. Dr. Ken Neill, III and his crew fished the Triangle Wrecks on Sunday for flounder and big bluefish, and they report that the blues were small and the flounder were sparse, but they caught plenty of sea bass. Neill says Johnny Boyd caught a nice false albacore on his flounder rig and Stan Simmerman caught a “confused flounder that was brown on both sides with a notch in its head. Other than that, it seemed healthy. We tagged and released that fish.” Crazy ocean. 

If you’d like to fish the 16th Annual Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Shootout, you have until midnight on November 30. You’ll also be entered in the event’s “Nobody’s A Loser” drawing for a chance to win one of two $500 cash prizes that’ll be awarded at the banquet. Register online at midatlanticrockfishshootout.com/register.

Here’s your weekly dose of conservation news: Last week, the Maryland Sportsmen’s Foundation hosted a striper forum covering topics from water quality and circle hooks to catch-and-release mortality and management policy. The goal of the event was to improve communications between sport anglers and charter boat operators since both groups are managed under the same rules by the Department of Natural Resources, and from my seat, it was a useful exercise. Achieving short- and long-term goals for our Bay fishery requires diligent and open dialogue, especially since the much-anticipated striper stock assessment, which will guide striper management decisions, is due out in February.

Bay Bulletin