Ducks expected to make splash in fall

ON THE OUTDOORS

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

Duck hunting seasons are several months off, but waterfowl experts are predicting the fall flight south might be the largest in more than 50 years.

Waterfowl biologists are basing their estimates on breeding ground surveys that show conditions in the northern prairie states and Canada have been prime this summer with abundant habitat and continuing precipitation.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service figures, the annual survey estimated 43.8 million ducks, the highest number since the survey began in 1955. Counts are 12 percent higher than last year and 34 percent above the long-term average.

"Virtually all the news this year is good," said Dr. Bruce Batt, chief biologist with Ducks Unlimited. "We're seeing some of the best habitat conditions ever. And that, in turn, means a greater nesting effort and an expected increase in the fall flight."

USFWS figures indicate that eight of the 10 species counted in the survey are more numerous than last year and several are at record levels.

Figures from the survey of breeding ducks are:

Species .......................1998 .........1999 ........Pct.

(in thousands) ................................................change

Mallard .......................9,640 .......11,118 .......+15

Gadwall ......................3,742 .........3,326 ........-11

Wigeon .......................2,858 .........2,964 ........+ 4

Green-winged teal ......2,087 .........2,826 .......+35

Blue-winged teal .........6,399 .........7,210 .......+13

Northern shoveler ........3,183 ........3,892 .......+22

Northern pintail ............2,521 ........3,061 .......+21

Redhead ......................1,005 ...........973 ........- 3

Canvasback ....................686 ...........743 ........+ 8

Scaup ...........................3,472 .......4,420 .......+27

Tuna tournament results

John Miller of Lebanon, Pa., won the Ocean City Tuna Tournament last weekend by catching a 151-pounder aboard Capt. Mike Boulsir's Reel Release.

The crew fishing aboard Box Lunch with Capt. Craig Zieglar, won the award for most weight of tuna with 465 total pounds.

A record 102 boats entered the tournament, and most anglers focused on the bluefin bite at the Parking Lot and 26-Mile Hill.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake Bay: Drifting eels have started to pay off for rockfish anglers in the cuts from Sparty's Lump to Poole's Island and north to Shad Battery Shoal. Trollers can find good action on rockfish to 34 inches along the 40-foot contour from Baltimore Light to Sandy Point Light, and chumming has been reliable on the southwest area of Belvedere Shoal, the Triple Buoys and Swan Point. The oyster lumps off the Magothy River and Hodges Bar are good choices for white perch along with some croaker, spot and sea trout.

Middle Chesapeake Bay: Bottom fishing is steadily improving, with white perch, croaker and jumbo spot over hard bottoms from Hackett's to Thomas Point Light in depths ranging from 22 to 36 feet. The drop-offs near points in the lower Choptank River also are good bets, along with Franklin Point Bar, Holland Point Bar and Can 1 off Breezy Point Marina. In Eastern Bay, croaker are off the channel edges in 22- to 30-foot depths, and big spot are over oyster bars in 17 to 25 feet of water. Flounder fishing has been good on the edges from Tilghman Point to Wade's Point.

Lower Chesapeake Bay: Bluefish, mostly ranging from 1 to 3 pounds, have moved into Maryland waters in large numbers, and reports from Virginia indicate that Spanish mackerel are close behind. Rockfish action, meanwhile, remains steady along the eastern edge from Buoy 72A to the Target Ship, with the Targets area producing stripers to 34 inchers from time to time. Croaker action is terrific from Hooper Island Light to the Target Ship, and weakfish are mixed in.

Ocean City: Flounder fishing is the best of the summer so far, with many checked last week exceeding four pounds and some over eight pounds. Good locations are Buoys 9, 3 and 5, the Thorofare and the Inlet. Offshore, action for white marlin has been picking up south of the Baltimore Canyon, where last week Fred Ames of Shadyside released a blue marlin estimated at 500 pounds. Farther inshore the tuna bite remains reliable and the first wahoo of the season has been caught.

Tidal Potomac River: Best bass bite is early in the day, with top-water boats fished over grass beds. Later, marshy banks and wood cover are good choices with spinnerbaits and plastic worms.

Upper Potomac River: The river has been extremely low, but a release from dams upstream will help cool the waters and raise the level.

Deep Creek Lake: The evening bite for big bluegills continues to be very good for around floating docks, where yellow perch also can be caught. Minnows drifted in 6 to 14 feet of water will catch smallmouth.

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