Archery deer hunting season is underway at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge with the first split running through Oct. 16. The season bag limit for archery is three sika deer (only 1 antlered) and 11 white-tailed deer (only 1 antlered). Additional seasons are Oct. 28-Nov. 22, Jan. 13-24, and Jan. 27-30. The refuge’s hunt areas U and B1 are closed to archery hunting on Nov. 2. Maps and more details are available on the refuge’s website.
The refuge’s Limited Muzzleloader season is Oct. 17 and Open Muzzleloader seasons are Oct. 18 (B3 open), Oct. 19, and Oct. 25-26 (antlerless whitetail only). Late seasons for muzzleloader are Dec. 27-28 and Jan. 3-4.
The refuge’s Limited Shotgun season is Dec. 3 with Open Shotgun (deer drives allowed) running Dec. 6 (B3 open), Dec. 7, and Dec. 13-14. Late season hunt days are Jan. 10 (B3 open), Jan. 11, and Jan. 25.
This year’s Youth Hunt is Nov. 2-3.
Remaining scouting days are Oct. 13, Dec. 1, and Dec. 22.
Blackwater is one of over 560 national wildlife refuges in the United States. The primary objective of a national wildlife refuge is to provide habitat for the conservation and protection of wildlife. Hunting is authorized to manage species and to provide for recreation and sustenance for the public.
All Blackwater deer hunts require a permit, which is free and available online along with a brochure explaining specific regulations. The permit authorizes hunters to take deer only. Taking and/or collecting any other wildlife or plants, including shed antlers, is a violation of refuge regulations.
* * *
Chesapeake Forest meeting
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has developed a revised proposal for administering hunting leases on Chesapeake Forest Lands. A copy of the revised proposal and a place for comment is available on the department’s website.
Additionally the department is hosting a public meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. Sept. 24 in Salisbury at Wor-Wic Community College, Guerrieri Hall, Room 101. Staff will be on hand to answer questions and accept written comments.
The revised proposal replaces the previous draft, for which public comment closed on Aug. 19. After reviewing the nearly 350 comments that were received, the department has proposed this revised plan. The public comment period on the revised proposal will be open for 30 days, ending Oct. 17.
The Chesapeake Forest Lands comprise more than 73,000 acres in Caroline, Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties.
* * *
Trolling a mix of spoons, red hoses, and bucktails is producing some legal-sized striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay as the fish are spread out along channel edges and various knolls. Jigging is also productive when suspended fish can be spotted.
Fishing for white perch continues provide some action in the tidal rivers and creeks or out on the bay. When fishing deeper waters, a bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm or grass shrimp is hard to beat; dropper rigs with small jigs can work well also. Casting small spinnerbaits and Rat-L-Traps along shoreline structure offers fun fishing for perch on light tackle, and might produce some yellow perch and catfish as well.
Spanish mackerel are providing most of the buzz on social media. The mackerel are spread throughout the mid and lower bay but are generally congregated along some of the steeper edges of the shipping channel. Bloody Point, Buoy 83, and south of the Choptank have been great places to troll or look for breaking fish on the east side of the bay. Anglers trolling and pulling small spoons behind No. 1 planers and various inline weights at about 8 knots are drawing the fish. Spanish mackerel are fast swimmers, so at that speed, you should avoid the small 12- to 14-inch rockfish spread throughout the region.
Breaking fish consisting mostly of small striped bass and bluefish are chasing bay anchovies along the shipping channel edges and other channel areas, which often attracts diving sea gulls. Mackerel can be seen flashing through the melee snapping up bay anchovies. Casting small flashy metal lures into the center of the action, allowing the lure to sink for a five count, and then speed-reeling can entice the mackerel to strike.
Large red drum can be attracted to the melee and can be spotted on depth finders holding close to the bottom. Jigging with large spoons or soft plastic jigs is a great way to get some exciting catch-and-release action. Sometimes the redfish can be found by spotting slicks or stirred up bottom in some of the shallower waters near the Middle Grounds or the Target Ship, or along channel edges.
Live-lining spot continues to produce rockfish and Thomas Point Light remains a popular place to fish. Spot are available at most shallow hard bottom areas — Tolly Point, the shallow west side of Hacketts Point, and the mouth of the Choptank River to name a few. Small pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig work well and often white perch will be part of the mix.
Farther south in the bay, cobia can be seen swimming close to the surface by anglers watching from elevated positions with polarized sunglasses, ready to cast live eels or large soft plastic jigs. The eastern side near the Target Ship and Middle Grounds are great places to find them.
Crabbers are finding some large and heavy blue crabs. The best crabbing seems to be in less than 10 feet of water, often in 6 feet or so. There tends to be a lot of small crabs and sooks in the mix, so baits are being chewed up quickly.
On the Atlantic Coast, surf anglers are enjoying some good catches of kingfish. When using pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs, spot and a few croaker can also be part of the mix. Anglers fishing with squid are catching a few flounder and blowfish and cut spot and mullet is luring small bluefish and sub-legal striped bass.
Just off the coast, bluefish are being boated at the shoal areas by anglers trolling small spoons behind planers or inline weights. A few Spanish mackerel are also part of the mix. Cobia are still cruising the general area are being caught using live eels.
Sea bass fishing has been good with many anglers reporting double-digit catches, along with a mix of flounder and triggerfish. Anglers heading out to the canyons have enjoyed mild sea conditions and plenty of white marlin releases. Limits of dolphinfish have been common. Some large yellowfin tuna are being caught along with a mix of wahoo, golden tilefish, and an occasional blue marlin.
* * *
Duck blind know-it-all
In a standing position, pigs can’t look up at the sky.