The Diamond Jim component of the 2014 Maryland Fishing Challenge kicked off this month when DNR biologists and members of the Maryland Youth Fishing Club caught, tagged and released striped bass into the Chesapeake Bay. One of the tagged fish is the official Diamond Jim, worth $10,000 to any angler who catches it before midnight on June 30. The other tagged “imposter” rockfish are worth at least $500 each if caught and registered before midnight on Labor Day, Sept. 1.
Over the summer, hundreds of imposters and Diamond Jim will be pursued by anglers. Each month that Diamond Jim goes uncaught, the reward increases, from $10,000 in June, to $20,000 in July and $25,000 in August. With a $25,000 guaranteed payout, if Diamond Jim is not caught by midnight Labor Day, the cash will be split equally among those who catch imposters.
Last year was the first time in the contest’s nine-year history that the official Diamond Jim was caught. The lucky angler, Blair Wheeler, 25 of Herndon, Va., walked away with the $25,000 and other great prizes. A novice angler, Wheeler caught the winning striper while fishing aboard a charter boat.
Anyone who catches and registers a Maryland Angler Award-eligible sport fish will receive a certificate of achievement and free passes to the Maryland Fishing Challenge Finale, held in conjunction with the 2014 Maryland Seafood Festival at Sandy Point State Park on Sunday, Sept. 7. There, the anglers have the chance to win prizes, including a boat, trailer and motor package from Tracker Marine; a tropical vacation package from the World Fishing Network; tackle packages from Bill’s Outdoor Center and Bass Pro Shops; and event T-shirts from Under Armour.
The DNR will also randomly select 12 members of its Maryland Youth Fishing Club, who post any catch on the Youth Angler’s Log, to win guided fishing trips sponsored by local fishing and conservation organizations. The winners will be presented with their prizes at the finale event.
New this year is an Invasive Species Award component, which recognizes anglers for reporting the harvest of blue and flathead catfish and northern snakehead. Anglers may enter the category with an Angler Award entry, a new state record catch, or by submitting a report of the fish’s catch to the DNR Angler’s Log.
Anyone without a boat looking to get out on the Bay and join in the hunt can find a guide using the DNR’s online Map of Licensed Charter Boats & Fishing Guides at dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/charters/map.asp. Additionally, public access shore fishing is available at state and county parks, such as Sandy Point in Annapolis and Matapeake on Kent Island.
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Turkey hunting success
Hunters reported harvesting a total of 3,325 wild turkeys during the 2014 spring turkey season that ended on May 23. This year’s harvest was close to last year’s record-setting harvest of 3,344 and was well above the 10-year average of 2,982.
High turkey populations and good weather likely contributed to the excellent harvest. Turkey numbers are on the rise in many counties such as Carroll, Kent, Queen Anne’s and St. Mary’s. Garrett County reported the highest harvest again this year with 383 turkeys, followed by Washington with 343 birds. Rounding out the top five counties were Allegany (258), Charles (254) and Dorchester (239). Rounding out the Mid-Shore harvest was Queen Anne’s with 165 turkeys taken followed by Kent (150), Caroline (141) and Talbot (83).
Youth hunters took advantage of the special Junior Turkey Hunt and reported taking 165 turkeys. The Junior Hunt was open statewide on Saturday, April 12, and in select counties on Sunday, April 13.
Hunters were able to hunt on Sundays in seven counties this spring. Sunday turkey hunting was limited to certain dates in Allegany and Garrett counties, but was permitted throughout the season in Calvert, Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, and St. Mary’s. A total of 159 turkeys were harvested on Sundays.
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Striped bass fishing is now open in all waters of the Bay and the tidal rivers. Trollers are still finding medium-sized rockfish and a few large ones, but many anglers are beginning to switch to chumming and jigging over suspended fish. Traditional chumming locations such as Podickory Point, Love Point and the Bay Bridge Piers are providing decent catches of stripers on good running tides. Jigging around the Bay Bridge Piers has been productive and live-lining spot up close to the piers has also been a very good option.
Rockfish are also being caught by boats trolling a mixed spread of medium and large bucktails around steep channel edges at Bloody Point, Thomas Point and the western edge of the shipping channel out in front of Chesapeake Beach down to Parkers Creek. Medium-sized striped bass are now making up the bulk of the catches, but some boats are finding one or two large stripers still in the area willing to hit larger lures. Chumming has been productive at Hackett’s, the Hill, and the Clay Banks as long as the tide is moving.
Live-lining spot is more popular now that spot can be found in most of the tidal rivers in the region. Channel edges in about 30 feet of water are usually the first place to look and the action is on when fish are located on depth finders. Jigging over suspended stripers at prominent channel edges and points, and when breaking fish or slicks are encountered, has been another successful technique.
At press time, some black drum were still being found on shoal areas such as Stone Rock and the James Island Flats, caught on soft crab baits and stout tackle. Croakers are beginning to show up at the mouth of the Choptank River and Hackett’s Bar, but so far most have been small. White perch are being caught in the lower sections of tidal rivers on lures and bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, bloodworms, or peeler crab. The perch and spot will provide a lot of fun fishing for kids and adults from docks and piers throughout the summer months.
On the freshwater scene, largemouth bass fishing is now producing after the usual post-spawn funk. Bass are feeding near grass and other bait holding cover. Water temperatures in most lakes, ponds, and tidal rivers are now in the 70s, so it’s time for topwater lures. A variety of baits such as plastic frogs, chatterbaits, buzzbaits, and even some of the old favorites like Hula Poppers and Jitterbugs can elicit a surface strike.
At the beach, anglers are catching large rockfish on cut menhaden. There are also some small bluefish and a mix of kingfish and croakers in the surf. In and around the inlet, stripers and tautog are being caught. Flounder are biting in the back-bay channels with white Gulp baits working well. On the near-shore wreck and reef sites, black sea bass are biting along with tautog, ling, and flounder. Offshore, a mix of thresher, mako, and blue sharks are being reeled aboard from the 30-fathom line out. Boats trolling the canyon areas are finding bluefin, big-eye, and yellowfin tuna.
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Duck blind know-it-all
Large bullfrogs are known to eat hummingbirds and ducklings.
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