Limited hunting for migratory geese endorsed

On The Outdoors

August 26, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

A limited January hunting season for migratory Canada geese came closer to approval yesterday after being endorsed by waterfowl biologists and the state's Wildlife Advisory Commission.

Michael Slattery, director of DNR's Wildife and Heritage Division, said the advisory commission voted 7-2 in favor of opening the season, which has been closed since 1995.

The proposal to lift Maryland's ban on shooting migratory Canada geese was forwarded to the secretary of the Department of Natural Resorces yesterday.

The moratorium was initiated to allow the number of breeding pairs in the Atlantic Flyway to reach a sustained population of more than 60,000. Breeding pairs dropped to a low of 29,000 in 1995, but have increased each year since, reaching 77,400 this year.

The season would run six days (Jan. 6-8 and Jan. 14-17, excluding Sundays) and would be limited to 12,200 birds. Hunters would have to apply for and receive special permits to participate, and the season bag limit would be one bird per permit.

At a public meeting attended by about 140 people in Easton on Monday night, many spoke against reopening the season. Approximately 65 percent of those present were opposed, Slattery said.

"But those comments we have received [at the meeting and through the Internet] represent less than 1 percent of Maryland waterfowl hunters, and I'm not sure that's a real good barometer," Slattery said. "There was a lot of opposition that was not appropriate."

In group discussions Monday, opposition focused on a probable lottery system to distribute permits and the fact that Virginia and states north of Delaware have larger bag limits and longer seasons.

Several hunters said that a lottery system would be unfair because not many people would go to the trouble of applying for a permit to hunt one bird a season.

Under U.S. Fish and Wildlife guidelines, Virginia will be allowed a six-day season and a limit of one bird per day, while flyway states from New Jersey north will be allowed 15-day seasons and one bird per day.

Larry Allbright, president of the Maryland Sportsmen's Association, said the balance of the seasons is wrong because Maryland's Eastern Shore holds about 75 percent of the flyway's wintering population of migratory Canada geese.

"We will have the most birds and get the least," he said. "How can that make sense?"

Waterfowl biologists believe that, because so many birds winter in Maryland, hunters in Virginia and states north of Delaware will kill far more non-migratory Canada geese than migrants.

"It does make sense," Slattery said. "If Virginia and New Jersey hunters are killing 99 resident geese to 1 migrant, and we are shooting 99 migrants to 1 resident, then we do have that responsibility [of limiting the harvest].

"This should be about sustaining interest in a cultural tradition, introducing new hunters to rural heritage and conservation of the resource. It should not be about who gets to shoot how much and how many."

DNR secretary Sarah Taylor-Rogers is expected to reach a decision in time for DNR to submit its dates and bag limits to the USFWS for approval by Sept. 1.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake -- White perch and jumbo spot over hard bottom areas from Sandy Point to 7-Foot Knoll, with some croakers and sea trout mixed in. Chummers have been doing well for rockfish in the Swan and Love point areas. Drifted eels also have turned up big stripers in the cuts from Sparty's Lump to Worton Point. Bluefish are spread out as far north as Turkey Point.

Middle Chesapeake -- Spanish mackerel mixed with 2- to 5-pound bluefish have moved into the area and fast trollers using gold or silver spoons will do well for them. Troll the edges of schools on top, rather than through the middle of them. Casters also will do well on breaking schools. Spot and white perch at the mouth of the Choptank, Holland Point Bar, Tolley Point, Hacketts and the Diamonds. Evening bites for croaker still are strong in many areas, including James Island, Eastern Bay and the Summer Gooses. Summer flounder catches are increasing at False Channel, the eastern edge from Buoy 84 to Scarps Island Light, Gum Thicketts and Poplar Island Narrows. Trolling has been the best method for stripers, some of which range more than 30 inches.

Lower Chesapeake -- The plane wreck near Buoy 72A continues to produce limits of rockfish for chummers. Throughout the region, anglers could encounter breaking schools of blues, rockfish and spanish mackerel. Croaker action on the Middle Grounds in the evenings. Spot, sea trout, croaker at the Mud Leads and Cornfield Harbor and Kedges Straits and Loon Hill and the Puppy Hole in Tangier Sound.

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