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Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

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Hummers: the nectar guzzling kind

Flower gardens, sugar water feeders bring out these tiny aerial acrobats

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A week ago I had the distinct and rare pleasure to just sit down on my front porch for an hour and do absolutely nothing. I even went as far as to leave my writing pad and laptop in the house. All I took with me was my glass of sweet tea.

While relaxing I was treated to an acrobatic show of territorial disputes between as many as six ruby-throated hummingbirds in the period of an hour. I was amazed at their agility and tenaciousness, as well as the violence they incorporated to keep others away from the sugar water we put out in our feeder for them. I decided to do a little research and do a short write up on them for this week’s column. 

Read more: Hummers: the nectar guzzling kind

Virginia quota hunt applications now available

altPeriodically, I receive press releases from VDGIF and I always skim through them and glean out the info that applies to us locally. Here are a few timely tidbits that hunters should take note of this week.
July 1 was the opening day for hunters to apply for any of the quota hunts that VDGIF runs across the state. Some of the hunts are for birds, rabbit, quail, bear, deer and feral hogs. A few of the hunts are new and some of the existing hunts have new (and earlier) deadlines. Readers can go towww.HuntFichVA.com to get more details.
The new Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp is now available online. Last year more than 22,600 such stamps were sold generating over $200,000 for waterfowl habitat improvement projects.

Read more: Virginia quota hunt applications now available

Have you really given the blues a fair shake?

 

I cannot fathom how many times I have heard anglers make derogatory comments about the taste of bluefish. Perhaps you are about to turn the page now as you have already decided that bluefish are a waste of your time. I challenge you to at least read on and consider what I have to say.
Years ago bluefish were king in the bay and in the lower Potomac. I have heard tell of bluefish up to 15 pounds and even tales of 20 pounders chomping off the bodies of small fish being reeled in. While I have seen only a few 10-plus pound bluefish I have tasted some of those larger blues. I will admit right away that any large fish tends to taste poor, and it tends to be tough.
However, when bluefish were more abundant in our local rivers and they were sought after for sport, food was a secondary consideration. I believe this is when they began to get a bad name for the table. One thing a real fish eater learns fast is that any fish that is permitted to die and remain warm or get hot tastes terrible. This is particularly true of and oily fish such as bluefish. In the heyday of blues, many anglers would toss them in a bucket or bin without a lot of ice and ride around fishing for a while. This killed the taste of the fish right away.

Read more: Have you really given the blues a fair shake?

River Herring moratorium coming

If you have not heard by now, there is a river herring moratorium coming. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has passed the moratorium for the entire east coast starting January 2012. Every state will have to comply with it as well unless they can show scientific data to prove that their management plan allows for sustaining the population. We have until 2010 to produce this plan. However, it will not happen, due to lack of data and lack of money. Background
River herring and alewife populations were in good shape in the 70’s and 80’s but have dropped 90% in the last two decades, according to the data collected by the federal government. Local anglers who used to dip and catch herring in the rivers have noted the sharp decline as well. As a young kid I recall the herring filling pickup trucks and falling out as guys drove off to hours of scaling, gutting and salting. Now, if you see a guy with a bucketful, you are careful to note what he is casting to catch them and you pray you get a bucket of them yourself. Four states on the east coast have already closed their fisheries. Three New England states and North Carolina put a stop to harvest. Like rockfish, the river herring are anadromous fish, spending most of their life in the open ocean before hitting tidal rivers to spawn.

Upcoming Action
Since Virginia (VMRC) does not have the money to get the data together nor the time we are pretty much out of luck in opposing the ban. The cost for the collection is estimated by Jack Travelstead of VMRC (Fisheries Chief) to cost a quarter million a year. The ASMFC stated they needed four to six years of recreational herring catch data before they would even consider allowing Virginia to lift the ban.

The money would have to come from the General Assembly and we all know the chances of that happening.  Interestingly there is no known significant commercial harvest of the river herring in our waters. However, there is a serious bycatch problem off shore in federal waters. Federal waters are defined as waters three miles or more off the coast.

In a news release I found the following statement from ASMFC: “Preliminary analyses indicate that, in some years, the total bycatch of river herring by the Atlantic herring fleet alone could be equal to the total landings from the entire in-river directed fishery on the East Coast. Based on the Board’s request, the Commission will send a letter to the Secretary of Commerce supporting efforts underway by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils to effectively monitor bycatch of river herring in small mesh fisheries, and encouraging additional resources to support the cooperative efforts to better manage anadromous fisheries.

Additionally, the Commission will request that the Secretary of Commerce take emergency action with regard to implementing the bycatch monitoring measures recently under discussion with New England Council.

The Plan will be available by mid-June and can be obtained via the Commission’s website at www.asmfc.org under Breaking News or by contacting the Commission at (202) 289-6400. For more information, please contact Kate Taylor, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at (202) 289-6400 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By Mark Fike

 

CBBT offers good saltwater angling

If the economy has you in a crunch and you want to find a place to do some saltwater fishing that won’t empty your wallet you might want to consider fishing on or around the CBBT otherwise known as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. This 20 mile long span of four lane roads cross the bay as Rt. 13 to the Eastern Shore. The alternating trestles or islands, bridge the tunnels that are a little over a mile long each. The islands are just over five acres in size in addition to Fisherman’s Island, which is a National Wildlife Refuge. The water depth along this structure ranges from 25-100 feet offering anglers a variety of saltwater excursions. Specific species that are commonly caught and sought after include bluefish, rockfish, spot, spadefish, red drum, croaker, spot, cobia, trigger fish, tautog, and sea bass.

Anglers who have their own boat can find fishing good anywhere along the complex. It has been my personal experience that fishing the areas where the islands give way to either a bridge or a tunnel is a good starting point. The current is moving here and the transition zone attracts plenty of bait and therefore predators. The large amount of riprap and pilings provides an incredible amount of cover and habitat for the fish too. Be sure to take along plenty of weight to get the bait down on the bottom and an extra anchor and rope. I would also keep a close eye on the weather. Although if it storms and you get caught in the rain or lightening and cannot make it to port you can hide under the bridge, but be careful you don’t slam into the rocks or pilings!

Anglers who need a place to fish because they don’t have a boat can fish from the Sea Gull Pier on the southernmost island nearest VA Beach. This pier is a massive 625 feet long, wheelchair accessible and offers deepwater fishing rarely found elsewhere. The neat thing is that there is no fishing license required! There are cleaning stations and a good scale to weigh your catch. The $12 fee will get you access. For more information about the fishing pier or the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, call (757) 331-2960.

Fishing on or around the CBBT requires stout gear if you are serious about fishing. Sure you can go out there with a cheap spinning out fit and catch a few croaker or spot but if you hook up to a bull red, a door mat flounder or a tog you are going to find yourself outgunned quickly. The amount of rocks and other structure will allow fish to rub or cut through lines quickly if too much give is given via weak reels. Due to the fact that large specimens are commonly available given the proximity to the ocean, I would recommend a good quality rod and reel. I would also err on the stout side with a medium heavy action setup.

My father and I went out there to tinker around the third island and hoped to find a few spades or triggerfish last summer. I also knew dad wanted to drag up a few flatties. With that in mind, he tossed his live spot into the current near the beginning of a bridge span next to the island. He was using one of my better spinning set ups but in medium action. Within a few minutes we noticed something cruising along the boat that was very large. About that time the rod dove and the reel began screaming in agony and the fight was on. Dad got the fish near the boat a few times but eventually the fish wrapped a piling and snapped the 25-pound line like nothing. I saw the fish again and realized they were bull reds. What a fight we had before the fish broke off. I cannot wait to get Dad out there again. Who knows what we may find next trip.

I bring this up because late May and June are prime times to find spades, triggerfish and all the other fish too. Now is a good time to begin planning a trip. To get to the CBBT from King George it takes between two hours and a fifteen minutes to three hours depending on traffic and the time of day you go. There are motels and hotels nearby and plenty of bait shops too. Get your tackle locally and have it in order to maximize your time fishing. Send us any pics you take of fish you catch.

Mark Fike

 

Shop carefully and support local businesses when possible

On a recent trip to Fredericksburg, I learned something of value that I felt would be worth passing on to readers. Simply put: It pays to shop.
 I was shopping around for a handgun and decided to stop at a local, independently owned shop near town. I found something I was possibly interested in but was not quite sure I wanted to spend that much money quite yet.
 So, I took a drive to think about it. While driving and running other errands I passed a mass merchant that carries firearms in town and decided to stop in and see what they had. While their selection was quite a bit larger, their service was lousy and believe it or not the same exact handgun I thought about getting was over $250 more!
One would think that a larger retailer that has a chain of stores could purchase firearms cheaper than the independent dealer. Whatever the case, the little guy was far cheaper.
I decided that while I was in the “big” store I would take a look around and price ammunition. The ammunition that was available was double the price of what it was a few months ago. A box of 30-06 ammo for hunting was $40 for 20 rounds.
 I was stunned because in December I went to an independent dealer north of us on my way to bag a deer in the mountains and bit the bullet so to speak and forked over $21 for a box of rounds. I thought that was expensive. A call back to them for this article shows that at least one dealer in our area is trying to make some money on the scarcity of ammunition at our expense.
I also called a mass retailer south of us and found that their prices although higher than some were well below what I found locally.
The bottom line is that you need to call around for availability and price. Don’t get ripped off with inflated prices! It is too bad we don’t have a small independent gun dealer or outdoor shop nearby. With the economy like it is I doubt anyone would want to venture out and do that right now. If we had one though, I bet they would do some business!
Side Note:
I am not sure how many of you are aware but ammunition of practically all types are scarce and look to remain scarce for the foreseeable future. When I say scarce I mean that most handgun ammunition cannot be reliably found anywhere locally or nationally.
Many rifle calibers are also scarce. I even went to the websites of well-known ammunition suppliers and one had a note on their site stating that it could be four to six MONTHS before ammo was available! It seems that either some folks are very concerned about the future or they are not so sure the current administration will leave firearms and ammunition alone.
Supplies for making ammunition don’t appear to be much of a problem.  Whatever the reason you might want to take stock of what you own now and what you might need in the near future.

Mark Fike

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