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Courtesy Dr. Ken Neill
Big black drum like this one caught by J.T. Hale needed to boost saltwater tournament entries
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Is Virginia's deer herd in decline? Yes said half the hunters who participated in a recent Virginia Deer Hunters Association membership survey. Only three percent said the herd is increasing while 47 percent said it has remained about the same in recent years.
When asked how the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries should manage the herd, 12 percent said efforts should be made to increase it; 53 percent said it should be held at current levels and five percent recommended decreasing the herd.
Coyote predation was cited as the No. 1 reason for the decline in deer numbers. Loss of habitat ranked second.
Fifty-nine percent of the survey participants said they saw a coyote while deer hunting this past season; 15 percent reported killing a coyote.
"Our association has been completing surveys and asking our members tough questions for more than 20 years," said Denny Quaiff, executive director of the association, which was formed in 1985. One tough question that wasn't included in the 2013 survey was the Sunday hunting issue, a subject that has sharply divided members in past surveys.
Seventy-seven percent of the participants said they practiced quality deer management; meaning they passed up small bucks in order to give them a chance to mature and grow larger antlers. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, 60 percent of the participants said they favored an antler-point restriction that would require at least one buck in the bag limit to have a minimum of four points on one side before it is a legal target. Forty percent said no to that.
Fifty-five percent said that would support a regulation that required a deer hunter to kill a doe before a second buck could be taken.
Members were opposed to hunting over bait (57 percent), but 64 percent said they were involved in planting food plots and 60 percent favored year-round supplementary feeding. Twenty-two percent opposed year-round feeding and 18 percent said it didn't matter. Feeding currently is prohibited Sept. 1 though the first Saturday in January.
Just over half the participants said doe days should remain as they are while 12 percent said they should be increased and 35 percent decreased.
Saltwater citations down significantly
Citations in the 2013 Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament are off nearly 45 percent. The current count is just over 800, significantly lower than this time last year when more than 1,430 trophy catches had been registered in the state-sponsored tournament.
Most of the decline is the result of poor striped bass fishing in January and February, a time when anglers normally can expect to encounter big numbers of big fish. This winter, many of the stripers stayed offshore in water closed to recreational fishing.
The 2013 striper citation count is 173 citations. The same time period last year it was 729. Also down significantly are blueline tilefish and bluefin tuna citations. It is going to take outstanding fishing for the 2013 tournament count to match last year's total of 6,017.
Anglers this year have enjoyed some excellent tautog fishing, mostly around wrecks off Virginia Beach.
One of the most recent entries in the contest is an 8-pound, 4-ounce flounder landed in Green Channel at Wachapreague by Charles Crouse of York, Pa. The fish placed first in two flounder contests in Wachapreague. Thus far, flounder fishing has been on the slow side, often the result of cold and windy conditions.
The next major targets for citation seekers will be red and black drum, which slowly are pushing into spring haunts along the Eastern Shore barrier islands and the lower Chesapeake Bay. These hefty fish should offer peak action later this month.
The demand for sea clams for black drum bait is expected to be so high that one tackle shop, Chris' Bait and Tackle in Capeville, is telling customers to reserve bait ahead of time, especially around the May 17-19 Lower Chesapeake Bay Black Drum Classic.
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