This weekend ...
* Probably no fishing for rockfish this weekend for either charter or recreational fishermen -- but maybe the following weekend, which would mean a head-on conflict with the opening of the Maryland deer season.
Late yesterday, the Department of Natural Resources was still trying to compare catches with quotas.
Guidelines call for 48-hour notice to fishermen, which indicates that if the recreational fishery is to be reopened for the fourth time -- and charters for the third -- the fishing will have to start later than Saturday. If a re-opener comes Thanksgiving weekend (unconfirmed rumors have it that there could be fishing on the holiday through the following Sunday), the Saturday turnout would probably be light because more than 100,000 big game hunters go afield.
With fishing unlikely this weekend, deer chasers will have the opportunity to scout their hunting grounds. Maybe luck plays TC role in bringing home venison, but over the long haul the hunter familiar with his area and the deer within it has the advantage.
* Tomorrow: Kent Island Chapter of Ducks Unlimited annual dinner-fund raiser, 6:30 p.m., Washington College, Chestertown. Call 1-301-778-2860,
* Saturday/Sunday: Last chance to sight in your deer rifle at NRA hunter's rifle sight-in at Baltimore County Game and Fish Protective Association, noon to 4, 3400 Northwind Road. $3 donation.
* Monday: Opening of Pennsylvania's three-day black bear season for which a harvest of 1,500 is expected of the state's estimated population of 7,500. Pennsylvania's bears average larger than anywhere else in the nation; each year a few of more than 600 pounds turn up. A record of 2,213 was the 1989 count, which tailed off to 1,200 last year. Crop damage complaints are down this year, but that could be because of an abundance of wild natural foods -- berries in particular.
* Monday: Opening of the first phase of Delaware's split Canada goose season, and the outlook is fairly good, though the bag limit will be one a day throughout the entire season. Incidentally, Maryland's Eastern Shore goose hunters are still doing fairly well despite the full moon. Maryland's first split closes Nov. 29 to make way for the deer season opener.
* Monday: Opening of the West Virginia deer season statewide, though 14 southwestern counties were closed to all hunting because of forest fire dangers. A record buck harvest is predicted.
* Next Thursday: Opening of second two-day early Maryland duck season, and the first opportunity for black ducks -- though they don't appear plentiful. As for mallards, don't look for a quick rebound in populations even though the drought in much of Canada was broken last summer. The trouble is there were not enough ducks to utilize all the nesting opportunity.
It's going to take time for mallards to bounce back -- if they do. The situation is even worse for the once so popular pintail. Last spring, they reached another record low with only 523,000 counted on the prairies -- a decline of 75 percent from 20 years ago, which is 71 percent below the objectives of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (I've seen one pintail this fall). To get an idea of the pintail's plight, North American Wildlife Foundation reports they once outnumbered canvasbacks on the prairies 10 to 1; now the ratio is 2-to-1 -- and keep in mind canvasback numbers are so poor that we haven't even had a season hereabouts for years.
North America's fall wild mallard flight is figured to be 10.2 million, down nearly 7 million from 1971. In this area, mallard numbers are bolstered by state releases, also those raised by farmers and clubs, especially on the Eastern Shore. However, it appears that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking a tougher look at the role barnyard ducks play in serving as live decoys in attracting other waterfowl -- whether intentional or not by those who could profit by their presence.
In past years, the policy was that if they could fly, technically, they were considered wild, even if they promptly settled down from where they took to wing. These ducks are referred to as "scroochers" or "scrunchers." When approached by man they scrooch or scrunch down; stay put even when there is shooting on their home pond; it takes a lot of agitating to get them on the wing -- then they promptly return.
Hunter Hal Robinson said his party was warned by federal agents about their presence when shooting for geese recently in Kent County. He said he was told that even though the ducks flew they could constitute live decoys, and was advised to shoo them away during his shooting hours in the future. Are we witnessing a collision course involving farmers who like to raise ducks to enhance their own duck shooting or for aesthetic reasons and goose hunters who lease their farms? And what about state-released mallards, some of which don't rate high as flyers or in the wary department? Stay tuned.