record longnose gar

David Confair, of Secretary, caught this record-breaking longnose gar on Jan. 23 a few miles above the historic Brookview Bridge along Marshyhope Creek.

Young hunters in Maryland have one more chance this season to hone their skills with the help of an experienced adult during a Youth Waterfowl Hunt Day, Saturday, Feb. 9.

Hunters up to 16 years of age may hunt coots, ducks, geese, and mergansers on private and public land when aided by an unarmed adult at least 21 years of age. All junior hunters and their adult mentors must possess a Maryland hunting license or be license-exempt.

All hunters, including those possessing an apprentice license, must also have a Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp. Youth under the age of 16 do not need to purchase a federal duck stamp.

The bag limits for the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day is the same as the regular seasons except:

• Two black ducks may be taken;

• Two Canada geese may be taken when hunting within the Atlantic Population Canada Goose Hunting Zone; and

• Five Canada geese may be taken when hunting within the Atlantic Flyway Resident Population Canada Goose Hunting Zone.

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Deer public comment

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on the state’s management of white-tailed deer. The input will be used to help revise the state’s deer management plan for the next 15 years, establishing long-term goals and identifying objectives and strategies for achieving them.

Through Feb. 28, the public can provide comments online. The department is also accepting feedback by phone at 410-260-8540, by fax at 410-260-8596, or in writing to: Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service, 580 Taylor Avenue, E-1, Annapolis, Maryland, 21401.

“We look forward to hearing from all citizens interested in one of Maryland’s most important wildlife species — the white-tailed deer,” said Paul Peditto, DNR wildlife and heritage service director. “Public input is vital to crafting a well-rounded plan that includes all opinions about deer and how they should be managed.”

A brief summary of the current status of white-tailed deer management will be presented at four public meetings, including 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 at Chesapeake College’s Health Professions and Athletics Center, Room 127.

Meetings are weather-dependent and will be postponed if schools are closed on the scheduled day. You can check the department website for closure and rescheduling information.

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Wild turkey take

Hunters reported taking 73 wild turkeys during Maryland’s 2019 winter turkey season, which was open Jan. 17-19 statewide, down from 87 last year.

According to the DNR, turkeys were harvested in 22 of the 23 counties, with Frederick, Garrett, and Washington counties reporting the highest numbers (7 each). Dorchester and Queen Anne’s were only one behind with six birds. Talbot was the only county without a reported harvest; its highest historical take was three birds in 2015, the year the winter season started. The harvest on the other Mid-Shore counties was Caroline (1) and Kent (3).

Adult males, or gobblers, comprised 56 percent of the harvest, with the remainder being hens and juveniles, known as either a jake or a jenny. Eighty-five percent were taken with a shotgun, but some hunters harvested their bird with a crossbow or vertical bow.

Turkey populations, at one time, were sparse in Maryland. In the 1980s and 1990s, a DNR partnership program with the National Wild Turkey Federation to trap and relocate wild flocks successfully established populations in every county.

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Record longnose gar

Congratulations and thanks to Secretary resident David Confair, 44, who caught a state record 17.9-pound longnose gar on Jan. 23 a few miles above the historic Brookview Bridge along Marshyhope Creek.

An experienced angler, Confair and a friend went fishing there after hearing reports of large blue catfish being caught. A few hours into their trip, Confair felt something unusual tug his line. “Get the net,” Confair yelled to his friend. “This is a big fish.” The fish was attracted by a fresh cut piece of gizzard shad.

Instead of a catfish, it was a longnose gar, a fish that dates to prehistoric times and can grow up to 6 feet long. DNR staff verified the species and Kool Ice and Seafood Company in Cambridge certified the fish’s official weight. The state’s previous record holder, Justin Kelly, caught a 17-pound longnose gar in the Potomac River back in 2011.

Confair kept his catch alive for more than two days and released it back into the creek after the record was certified. “It deserves to live,” Confair said. “I’m hoping to set a bigger record. I know there are bigger ones, I’ve seen them.”

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Duck blind know-it-all

To see at night as well as an owl, you would need eyeballs as big as grapefruits.

Follow me on Twitter @csknauss / email me at cknauss@stardem.com

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