Get ready for some duck hunting

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 14, 2002

This Saturday, Nov. 16, is a pretty big day on the sportsman’s calendar. It is the closing day of the early muzzleloading season statewide and it is the opening day of the general duck season. The Saturday opening of the waterfowl season is the start of the second segment of the three-part season. This segment closes Dec. 7.

Just to review the bidding, during this second segment hunters may not shoot pintails and I hear that there are a few in the neighborhood of the James River. The daily bag limit is five ducks of which four may be mallards, but only two of the mallards may be hens. The five-bird limit may include three scaup (broadbills or bluebills), four scoters, two wood ducks, and two redheads. Also within the five duck limit hunters may have one black duck, one mottled duck or one fulvous tree duck. There is a closed season on canvasbacks and harlequin ducks.

As far as Canada geese are concerned in the western zone, which is all of Virginia west of I-95, hunters may bag two Canada geese daily from Nov. 16-30. In the eastern zone, east of I-95 the Canada goose season is divided into two segments; Nov. 22-30 and Dec. 14 to January 25. The bag limit is one Canada goose daily. Back Bay is closed to Canada goose hunting.

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The season for hunting snow geese opened Nov. 6 and continues through March 10. Hunters are permitted to take 15 snow geese daily. Saturday marks the opening of the first segment of the two-part Atlantic brant season, which runs from Nov. 16 until Dec. 7. The second segment opens Dec. 10 and continues until Jan. 25. The bag limit is three brant daily.

Ducks Arriving

The early snows and freezing weather in the upper New England states have hustled a few birds south. At the Game Department’s Hog Island Wildlife Management Area my son tells me that he is seeing more and more birds moving in and passing through. This past week he has seen green-winged teal, black ducks, mallards, widgeon, gadwalls along with just a few ring-necked ducks (ring bills) and pintails. A few tundra swans have paid their respects and last week a small flock of snow geese about a dozen or so, most of them in blue phase plumage, dropped by. Serious waterfowlers should keep their eye on the Weather Channel, making a special note of weather from Maine south. It is my belief that the colder and nastier the weather is to our north the better are our chances of seeing a few birds.

Speaking of cold weather, I remember the weekend of Nov. 10, 1953. I was going to IBM School in Washington, D.C. and tried to drive to Jersey on the night of Nov. 9 to participate in the opening of Jersey’s small game season on Nov. 10. I never made it; I was snowed in in Baltimore that night and the next day Route 40 was closed down to just one lane. What ever happened to winter?

Wow! Obviously, Hugh Self of Powhatan knows where to find big, I mean really big, catfish in the James River. On Nov. 19, 1999 he caught a 71-3/4 pound blue cat from the James to set the state record for that species. A 70-pounder caught from Buggs Island Lake came close to the record last year, but this weekend, Self came close to beating his own record. He weighed a blue cat that went 70.4 pounds at the Castaway Sporting Goods in Dutch Gap.

Bigger Stripers

It’s that time of the year. Some pretty nice stripers are beginning to appear at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Claude Bain tells me that the larger ones are being caught by wire liners operating from the shoals to the High Rise at the northern end of the bridge. The largest striped bass Claude has heard of measured about 41 inches. Some school size stripers have been found feeding on the surface under flocks of screaming sea gulls. Anglers who let their lures sink below these surface-feeding fish are finding larger ones, running from 28 to 32 inches.

Some flounders continue to be caught and there are still a few spot around. Three of citation proportions, a pound or more, were caught from Rudee Inlet last week. There are also some flurries of puppy drum action in the Virginia Beach surf. There were some caught at the foot of Second Street and I have had reports from Margie and Rays of puppy drum in the suds at Sandbridge. Some nice catches of tautogs have also been reported at the Bridge Tunnel.

Some big bluefin tuna are showing up. Three, topped by one weighing 325 pounds, were caught near the Light Tower, Normally, this fall run appears a bit further out, around The Fingers.

From Dashiels Half Round Showroom in Suffolk I hear of good speckled trout action in the Hot Ditch in the Elizabeth River. Speaking of this with Claude Bain, I learned that the excellent November fishing for trout in the Hot Ditch is sort of an open secret. Although one would think that the best fishing in the Hot Ditch would come when other waters are much colder, this is not always the case.

November speckled trout action here can be the best of the year.

At Reedville Ferrell McLain of Bayfish Charters says chumming continues to attract stripers around the local reefs. He says trollers are keying on feeding birds which are finding mostly school-size stripers.

He says the stiff southerly winds last weekend built waves to about three feet, but those that took the beating caught fish.

At the Queens Creek Outfitters on Cobbs Creek in Mathews Jerry Thrash also reports finding stripers under working birds, especially early and late in the day. The most consistent action continues to be between Winter Harbor and Wolftrap Light and two to three miles above Windmill Light. The stripers are running from 18- to 36-inches and are being caught chumming over reefs and wrecks, on live spot, trolling and by casting to breaking fish. Of course, there are still bluefish mixed in with the stripers.

In the deeper holes Jerry says anglers are jigging up keeper-size gray trout. Crippled Herring, Deadly Dicks and Sting Silvers are working. He says on the fish finder the trout look like a heap ten feet tall. Tautog continue to be caught on the iron ore bottoms off Gwynn’s Island and above Wolftrap Light. Speckled trout are scarce following the recent bad weather, but one citation speck was caught by a troller in the Rappahannock River on a bucktail aimed at striped bass.

A few big drum continue to be caught at Cape Point on the Outer Banks along with puppy drum and black drum. A few stripers are being caught in the surf along the Outer Banks, mixed with small bluefish, sea mullet and puppy drum. This same mix is showing up in the catches on the piers. A few big drum continue to be caught at Avon.

Field Notes

Gordon Holloway, who owns and operates the Fall Line Orvis Shop in Fredericksburg, has recently opened a private shooting preserve off Route 17 east of Fredericksburg. I hunted doves on this tract and it is super for the stocked quail and pheasants they are shooting. If interested you can reach Gordon at 540-373-1812….In Montana, Beaver Creek Reservoir suddenly rose a foot and then dropped a foot in reaction to the Alaska earthquake that occurred 1700 miles away. According to the Havre Daily News the event is called a &uot;seiche.&uot; The article added that similar effects were caused as far south as Louisiana.

Jack Randolph is a resident of Virginia and a regular columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald.