Muzzleloaders become the tool of choice (and the law) Thursday, Oct. 17, when Maryland’s first smoke-pole season for deer gets underway.
The bag limit for antlered white-tailed deer is two for all seasons combined and one for any weapon season. A third antlered white-tailed deer may be taken in our region, Region B, with a bonus stamp. The muzzleloader hunt for antlered deer is Oct. 17-19 and for antlerless deer is Oct. 17-26.
The resident bonus stamp for antlered deer is $10 and the resident muzzleloader stamp is $6.
Archery season picks up again on Sunday, Oct. 20, in most Maryland counties including all five Mid-Shore counties. The season continues through Nov. 29 when the two-week firearms season is scheduled.
A statewide Antler-Point Restriction is in effect on some, but not all, of the antlered white-tailed deer a hunter may harvest during the license year. The Antler-Point Restriction includes these regulations:
Hunters may harvest one antlered white-tailed deer within the yearly bag limit that does not meet the requirement of having at least three points on one antler. Any additional antlered white-tailed deer taken within the yearly bag limit must have at least three points on one antler. These deer may be taken in any order within the existing bag limit.
All junior hunters, 16 years of age or younger, are not required to comply with the antler-point restriction during any of the deer seasons.
Hunters may harvest up to 10 antlerless white-tailed deer in Region B during the muzzleloader seasons, including the second season, Dec. 21-Jan. 4.
Three sika deer may be taken (no more than one antlered) during the muzzleloader seasons. Antlerless-only sika deer may be hunted Oct. 21-26.
Sika deer daily shooting hours are the same as white-tailed deer; one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset with the exception of certain Sundays in certain counties (check the Department of Natural Resources’ website for particulars).
An antlered sika deer is a deer with at least one antler visible above the hairline.
Bonus Antlered Deer Stamps may not be used to take sika deer.
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Breaking fish everyone is seeing are mostly small striped bass and bluefish with some Spanish mackerel zipping through the melee. This can be a fun time to break out a fly rod with a sinking line and some red and white Clousers, or perhaps some Lefty’s Deceivers. It’s also a great situation to introduce our younger anglers to some fast action with a light spinning rod. Although water temperatures are falling, anglers are reminded that sub-legal striped bass need to be released as quickly as possible, and cautious catch-and-release must be practiced.
Spot are still available in the shallower portions of the Bay, and live-lining is still a popular way to fish for striped bass along channel edges. Recent cool weather may begin their movement south, but for now live-lining spot is a fun and productive way to fish for striped bass. Thomas Point remains the most popular place to live-line. Anglers are reminded they must use circle hooks when live-lining.
The shallow water striped bass fishery is alive and well as cooler water temperatures have lured striped bass into shallower areas during the night. Fishing with topwater lures in the early morning or evening hours is a fun and exciting way to fish for them. Prominent points, rip rap, large piers, and submerged rocks are all good places to fish.
Fishing for white perch remains a wonderful option. Cooler water temperatures are making them very active in the tidal rivers and creeks of the middle bay. Casting small spinnerbaits near shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours is always fun and will not last much longer as water temperatures fall. White perch will be moving into deeper waters in the lower sections of the tidal rivers. Fishing with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm in slightly deeper waters near dock piers or over oyster bottom is becoming popular. Dropper flies on a sinker rig is also another good way to catch them.
The recreational cobia season is over so anyone catching one must now release them. Large red drum continue to satisfy the hankering for a knock-down, drag-out fight for those jigging with large spoons and soft plastic jigs. Redfish can be spotted on depth finders hugging the bottom near slicks, near breaking fish action, or along channel edges. The areas near the Target Ship and Middle Grounds offer some of the best opportunities to catch and release one.
Fishing for speckled trout along our eastern side of the bay has been about as good as anyone could want. Many anglers are catching the limit of four per outing on paddletails. Good ways to target them include Gulp baits by themselves or under popping corks, or casting topwater lures near grass beds or stump fields during the early morning or late evening hours.
According to the DNR, significant numbers of large Atlantic white shrimp have moved into the lower Eastern Shore region as far north as Hoopers Island. This common table shrimp can often be eight inches or so long and generally does not live more than a year. They can be caught with cast nets and are attracted to lights during the night. Their eyes will glow when they get close, making it easier to target them. There are no Maryland regulations regarding creel limits or size restrictions, but cast nets must not have a radius exceeding 10 feet. Dip nets are also a legal way to catch them.
Recreational crabbers continue to enjoy catching large heavy crabs, despite windy conditions and falling water temperatures. Some of the best catches are being made in about 6 to 8 feet of water. Sooks tend to be chewing up baits, so many are using chicken necks with success. The best catches continue to be from the middle bay south.
On the freshwater scene, largemouth bass are slowly beginning to break from their typical summer mode of behavior and responding to cooler water temperatures and declining grass beds. They are on the prowl in transition areas between the shallows and deeper waters looking for baitfish and perhaps a few crayfish that are moving to deeper waters for the winter. In the tidal rivers they are also moving towards feeder creeks where schools of small gizzard shad tend to concentrate. Casting spinnerbaits from shallow to deeper waters is a good tactic, as is using small crankbaits on the edges of drop-offs or near sunken wood. Working grubs slowly and close to the bottom near sunken wood in the deeper waters is also a good choice.
Fishing for northern snakeheads is beginning to change with cooling water temperatures and diminishing grass beds. Many anglers are now switching to the technique of using popping corks and large live minnows in more open waters.
On the Atlantic Coast, this is usually an excellent time of the year for catching sea bass. Cooler water temperatures are bringing tautog into many of the nearshore wreck and reef sites and providing some good fishing. Catches of flounder should begin to increase soon as the fish begin to move offshore. If weather conditions become hospitable, anglers should find a mix of longfin albacore, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna at the offshore canyons. White marlin should also be part of the mix. Limit catches of small dolphinfish will hopefully continue for a bit longer, which provides plenty of meat on the dock.
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Duck blind know-it-all
Over the course of this thousand years, from 2000 to 2999, there are going to be 48 Februaries without a full moon.