Originally, today's effort was targeted to a rundown on the Spanish mackerel explosion on the Western Shore in the Chesapeake Beach area, but decision time for waterfowl has intervened.
But, first, be it known that the mackerel run is for real -- the best anyone can remember. Much of the action is from the Radar Station to Calvert Cliffs; yesterday Carl Taylor and I caught 24 on gold Clarke spoons in several hours of deep trolling off Chesapeake Beach. We kept 10 of from 2 to 3 pounds, preferring not to take advantage of the no creel limit on these unpredictable fish that are so tasty, scrappy and swift.
The current run is a turnabout. It's not a situation of macks mixed in with blues. It's the other way around -- many more mackerel than blues. And just think, a decade ago a single Spanish mackerel would have been the talk at the docks.
No one knows why or from where they come, but they sure are here. The trick to catching them is to troll deep with up to 16 ounces of sinker; also troll about one-third faster than for blues. Blues, incidentally, usually strike on turns when the lure is slowed down.
Silver spoons will catch macks, but they're gold diggers in the true sense of the word. Go catch some, but don't keep them all. We want some for next year if they choose to come our way again. Need we be reminded how we overfished blues, rock, sea trout and other species of the Chesapeake?
Now for waterfowl, a more serious subject. DNR waterfowl managers will offer their recommendations for upcoming duck and goose regulations to the Wildlife Advisory Commission tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area. This will be followed by public hearings, the details of which will be announced later, then on Aug. 29, final commission recommendations will be made to the Department of Natural Resources.
Tomorrow's session is open to the public, and some guides will be present to press for liberalized Canada goose shooting days and bag limits. Their interest in ducks is negligible; ducking has become a sport pretty much confined to do-it-yourself shooters -- too unpredictable and unsuccessful for guided parties.
The news was mostly ominous as the Atlantic Waterfowl Council met in Burlington, Vt., to evaluate the status of fowl. A sampling:
* Pintails: This once popular species is on the fringe of the fully protected list. Hunter harvests are low, about 4 percent of overall numbers nationwide, but nesting problems are overwhelming. Atlantic Flyway kills are the lowest, so don't expect any curtailments here. Our flyway's population is relatively stable, but nationwide the estimated breeding population count has dropped from 7,045,000 in 1972 to a record low of 1,798,000 this year.
* Black ducks: The black duck harvest in the flyway last season was 108,900, the lowest on record. In Maryland it was 9,900, the second lowest ever. Ten years ago it was 38,800.
* Canvasbacks: Though flyway biologists urged a highly restrictive season, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vetoed it. The season has been closed here since 1985, but other flyways continue to shoot -- even though it is now believed canvasback populations are one, not two discreet subpopulations.
On the goose front, the DNR is back in familiar territory -- smack in the middle. Those involved commercially in waterfowl hunter traffic want relaxed regulations as incentives to bring more hunters to the Eastern Shore. They're interested in people.
Waterfowl managers are most interested in the resource, and they know that any push for hunter incentives are blatant moves to provide more honkers in the bag. What else can more shooting days, or increased bag limits accomplish?
In view of increased postseason goose populations on the shore last January -- and slight improvements in nesting success this summer -- the DNR will be pressed hard to ease up on a species still in trouble. On the other hand the department can consider how biting the bullet over the long haul paid off for rockfish.
And once fishing for rock resumed, the fishermen came back. Cannot we expect the same among waterfowl hunters?