On Sept. 28, a panel of five judges chose an acrylic painting of a black-bellied whistling-duck pair by Eddie LeRoy as the latest winner of the federal duck stamp art contest. This is the first contest win for LeRoy, an artist from Eufala, Alabama.
LeRoy’s painting will be made into the 2020-2021 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or “Duck Stamp.” The winning art will grace the stamp, which will raise tens of millions of dollars for habitat conservation after it goes on sale in June 2020.
Margaret Everson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service principal deputy director, announced the winner at Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel.
The wildlife service produces the federal duck stamp, which sells for $25 and raises approximately $40 million in sales each year. The funds support critical conservation to protect wetland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge System for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of people.
“These artists are extremely talented, and the quality of the art is matched by the incredible conservation work funded by Duck Stamp sales,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a statement. “By purchasing a duck stamp, waterfowl hunters have helped raise millions of dollars to conserve wildlife and healthy wetland habitats within the National Wildlife Refuge System.”
Eighty-five years after it was established, sales of the stamp to hunters, bird watchers, outdoor enthusiasts, and collectors have raised more than $1 billion to conserve more than 6 million acres of habitat for birds and other wildlife and provide countless opportunities for hunting and recreation on our public lands.
Of 190 entries in this year’s competition, 13 entries made it to the final round of judging. Eligible species for this year’s Federal Duck Stamp Contest were the black-bellied whistling-duck, emperor goose, American black duck, bufflehead, and northern shoveler.
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Chesapeake Bay salinities are largely back to normal, allowing some of the more salt-loving fish to push further north.
White perch have been providing plenty of fishing opportunities in the tidal rivers, Kent Narrows, and some of the Bay’s shoals and knolls. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig is the most popular way to fish for them in deeper waters. In the morning and evening hours, casting small soft plastic jigs or spinnerbaits along shoreline structure is providing fun light-tackle action.
A mix of channel catfish and blue catfish are spread throughout the upper bay region’s tidal rivers and many of the upper bay areas. They can be caught on most types of fresh cut fish baits or items like chicken breast, livers, or clam snouts.
In the mid-Chesapeake, Spanish mackerel and bluefish have been providing plenty of action. The bluefish have become more numerous and larger, as have the Spanish mackerel. Both are being caught by trolling or casting to breaking fish. A trio of small striped bass, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel are wreaking havoc on schools of bay anchovies that are being carried along channel edges by strong tidal currents. Some of the best places to find concentrations of fish are the western side of the shipping channel south of Thomas Point and the eastern side from Buoy 84 south past the False Channel.
Trolling a mix of small spoons behind planers and inline weights at 8 to 10 knots has been one of the ways to target Spanish mackerel along channel edges. If you have a hankering for some smoked bluefish, slower speeds and red or green hoses work well.
Perhaps the most fun way to fish for the Spanish mackerel is to locate some breaking fish — look for diving seagulls. Break out a light spinning rod and a heavy metal spoon or jig, cast into the melee, allow your lure to sink a bit, and then speed-reel. Slower retrieves will allow bluefish and small striped bass to catch up.
Large red drum are still being found in the middle Bay, often holding close to the bottom under breaking fish. A depth finder will help reveal their presence — they show up like a submarine due to their large air bladders.
Thomas Point has been a focal point for anglers live-lining for striped bass (circle hooks are required for live-lining). Spot are still being found in the shallower shoal areas of the Bay and tidal rivers, so live-lining will most likely remain popular until the spot head south.
The shallow water topwater striped bass fishery is providing good action. Casting topwater lures near shoreline structure during the morning and evening hours is a fun way to enjoy some exciting light-tackle action. Soft plastic jigs and swimshads cast near deep structure is another fun tactic. Channel drop-offs, jetty rocks and piers are all good places to try.
Cobia are still being found in the region near the Middle Grounds and the Target Ship. Sight fishing tends to be one of the most productive ways to catch them. Live eels are luring the cobia as well as red and green hoses in trolling spreads. The area around the Target Ship has also been one of the best places to find large redfish.
Recreational crabbers are finding plenty of crabs, but not for much longer as temperatures cool through October. Large heavy crabs are fairly common and ideal for picking and putting some crab meat aside for favorite dishes during the winter months. The best crabbing continues to be in the middle and lower bay regions. Some of the best success is occurring in 6 to 8 feet of water.
On the freshwater scene, grass beds and similar shallow water vegetation is beginning to diminish due to shorter daylight periods, and this starts the migration of bait from their shallower haunts towards deeper waters. Look for largemouth bass to be holding in transition areas near drop-offs. Small crankbaits that resemble crayfish, soft plastic grubs, and spinnerbaits are all good lures to retrieve from the shallower areas to the drop-off edges where bass are waiting. Bass will be holding also to sunken wood in these deeper areas or any kind of structure.
Crappie are schooling up near deep structure. Marina piers, bridge piers, and fallen treetops are good places to look for them. Live minnows or small crappie jigs under a slip bobber are the best way to target them.
On the Atlantic Coast, kingfish are still providing action for anglers fishing with pieces of bloodworms on bottom rigs. Bluefish are being caught on finger mullet or cut bait, and striped bass are also being caught on cut bait. Most of the stripers are sub-legal in length but still fun to catch.
At the inlet, tautog are beginning to show up and provide some action for those fishing sand fleas or pieces of green crab. Outside the inlet, fishing for sea bass at the wreck and reef sites has been very good, with multiple limit catches reported on many boats. A few flounder and triggerfish help round out the catches.
Offshore at the canyons, anglers have been limiting out on small dolphinfish near the lobster pot buoys. White marlin are being caught and released and there is a healthy mix of wahoo, yellowfin tuna, longfin albacore, and larger mahi-mahi being caught.
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Duck blind know-it-all
In mid-April, Beech tree leaves are a tasty salad green.