With gobblers in abundance, state season opens Saturday


April 15, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

By the beginning of this century, wild turkeys had disappeared from their traditional range in 18 of 39 states, and, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation, there were only about 30,000 wild birds in the country when the Great Depression hit.

But in the past several decades, many states have reintroduced wild turkeys through trap and transplant programs, and the wily bird Ben Franklin once proposed as a symbol of the United States is back again in force.

The NWTF estimates there are 4.8 million turkeys in the wild, and every state except Alaska has a spring hunting season for them.

Maryland's spring season opens Saturday, and wildlife biologists believe it could produce another record harvest.

In past seasons, the highest turkey kill has come in the four western counties, where extensive, forested lands provide excellent habitat.

But Calvert County, as well as Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties on the lower Eastern Shore, have shown substantial increases in the spring harvest and wildlife managers belive they could become the state's premier turkey-hunting areas.

Although turkey reproduction was not exceptional in western Maryland last year, game managers report populations are near record levels in most of the state, and increasing numbers of hunters will be in the field for the season, which ends May 15.

"The spring turkey-hunting season continues to grow in popularity across Maryland," said John R. Griffin, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. "Our wild turkey population continues to increase and hunters should find ample opportunities to take one of America's truly great game birds."

With increasing numbers of hunters in the field, DNR and the Natural Resources Police stress the following precautions for the spring season:

Identify your target, to be certain the bird has a beard. Only bearded turkeys are legal in the spring season. Do not fire at a sound you think is a turkey; it could be another hunter calling birds in.

Make your position known to other hunters by speaking loudly to them. Do not wave a handkerchief or hand to signal position.

Do not wear red, white or blue, because these colors are naturally found on wild gobblers. Wear blaze orange when entering or leaving the woods, especially when carrying a turkey.

Flounder regulations

Maryland has implemented emergency regulations for Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean coastal waters to meet a 40 percent reduction in catch mandated by the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The recreational season in coastal waters opens today and runs through Nov. 30. Minimum size is 15 1/2 inches and the creel limit is eight per day.

The recreational season for Chesapeake Bay will run from May 8 to Dec. 31, with a 15-inch minimum and a creel limit of eight.

Flats update

The special catch-and-release season for rockfish on the Susquehanna Flats opened last Saturday, with high winds roiling the shallow waters and keeping angler effort low, according to DNR reports.

Fisheries biologists making an aerial survey on Saturday counted 109 boats on the Flats at 4 p.m. Saturday, but also noted seeing several small boats being towed to shore after being overpowered by wind and waves.

DNR crews surveying catches during the first three days of the fishery, the first open rockfish season on the flats in 17 years, found that only five of 128 fish sexed were females, and two of those had spawned.

Most of the fish caught and released were males less than 24 inches long.

The experimental season, which runs through May 2, is being closely monitored by DNR's Fisheries Service to ensure that pre-spawn female rockfish are not present on the flats, which are adjacent to a major rockfish spawning area.

The fishing report

Salt water

Upper Chesapeake: While the flats rockfish season is a hot topic, there also is very good white perch, hickory shad and largemouth-bass action. Deer Creek is the spot for hickory shad, which are continuing a strong run. The North East River, Susquehanna River, Turkey Point and Big Elk Creek all are good choice for white perch, with Millington on the Chester River also worth the trip for white perch.

Middle Chesapeake: Pickerel have been very active in the Severn and Magothy rivers, but all those caught must be released until April 30 in all state tidal rivers.

Ocean City: The flounder season opens today, but a better bet might be a headboat trip for mackerel, which, according to DNR, showed up in full force reasonably close to shore over the weekend.

Tidal Potomac River: Largemouth bass fishing has been very good, according to Life Outdoors Unlimited outfitter Ken Penrod, who suggests fishing rocky points with jigs, crankbaits or plastic shads. Rockfish, perch and herring are on the move in the areas from Mattawoman to Little Falls.

Fresh water

Gunpowder Falls: Water temperature in the low 50s, with hatches of Hendricksons, stoneflies, some caddis and blue-winged olives. Ants also work well.

Morgan Run: Water temperature in the low to mid 40s, with sporadic hatches of midges or stoneflies during warm hours.

Upper Potomac: Tiger muskie catches have been picking up in the area below Dam No. 4, and walleye, too, have been good early season catches.

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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