If you’re a shad fisherman, reports from Delaware River Shad Fisherman’s website and various Facebook postings indicate the shad run in the upper Delaware River remains productive. In fact, in the lower Delaware, some stripers are also being caught.
Kate Dewaney fished the Zane Grey area from shore between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. and managed to hook 36 and landed 31 plus two doubles on double dart rigs with a quarter once on top and one thirty-second on bottom with three foot of line between them.
Kurt Miller reported last week that he hooked seven, landed five and released five. And he caught them between noon to 4:30 p.m.
Steve Meserve, professional shad fisherman who nets fish in the Delaware, reported last Friday that he managed to net 20 bucks and six roe, 10 catfish, six quillback, four striped bass and one herring.
If you’ve haven’t fished for a while, May 28 (and July 4) has been designated as a Fish for Free Day when you don’t need a Pennsylvania fishing license to fish. So, it’s an opportunity to reconnect to a lifelong sport that can also bring some tasty table fare.
Speaking of stripers, the northern Jersey shore has hot striper action. According to On the Water magazine, rivers and bays are producing jumbo bass that are being caught by boaters on the troll with live eels and bunker. The beaches are yielding stripers on big plugs, clams and sand bugs. Bluefish seem to be everywhere and black bass catches are upbeat.
Rick Hebert at Tackle World in Rochelle Park, says big bass are being caught between the channels on the troll in Raritan Bay. He received reports of jumbo bass at the Shrewsbury Rock falling for live eels.
Danny Stolba, at Fish Tail Bait and Tackle in Carteret, said bass were hitting bunker chunks on the Arthur Kill by Perth Amboy.
Capt. Phil Sciortino, at the Tackle Box in Hazlet, reported the bass bite in Raritan Bay is amazing with a few 50 pounders caught. Fluke are back in the rivers and big blues are with them.
Mike Pinto, at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright, said striper action in local rivers has slowed a bit but is picking up on the beaches. Clams and chunks have been enticing most of the bass while a few are hitting artificials. Anglers are nailing big stripers offshore on metal-lipped swimmers and by trolling eels. Fluking is improving on the Naversink and Shrewsbury rivers by anglers using Gulp and bucktails.
Mike Gleason, at TAK Waterman in Long Branch, said the bass bite in the rivers and out front is still very good. A new body of jumbo stripers moved into the area and they’re hitting big metal-lipped swimmers and wooden plugs off the beach. Stripers are also eating clams and sand bugs off the beaches in Ocean Grove. One regular customer reported picking up two linesiders measuring 37 inches on clams. He added that tuna are here but still a good distance offshore.
As the Memorial Day weekend traditional kicks off the summer boating season and National Safe Boating Week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission reminds boaters to always wear a life jacket, never boat under the influence, have proper registrations or launch permits, and tell someone where you’re going and plan to return. PFBC Waterways Conservation Officers will be on patrol throughout the holiday weekend to conduct safety checks and look for signs of impairment.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) has set the migratory game bird hunting seasons for 2023-24. As such, there are a few significant changes from last season.
The initial change increases the season length for Canada geese in the Atlantic Population Zone from 30 to 45 days and increases the bag limit from one to three per day. According to PGC Wildlife Operation Division Chief Ian Gregg, “The Population of Canada geese had experienced declines as a result of a decade of below-average reproduction including a nearly complete failure in 2018. However, gosling production more recently has been relatively good and the population has increased accordingly.”
The other significant change increases the mallard duck bag limit from two, to include no more than one hen, to four, which can include no more than two hens. Again, Gregg goes on to say “After a few years of the reduced bag limits, the mallard population increased slightly and a new population model was implemented.”
In addition to these changes, calendar shifts resulted in small changes to the Resident Population Canada Goose season. The Resident Population Canada Goose season saw a week shift from October into January.
The last change was to Atlantic Brant seasons, which saw a reduction in bag limit from two to one, and a reduction in season length to 30 days because of population declines. However, Gregg points out that few brant are harvested in Pennsylvania as most of them are on Lake Erie.
The PGC asks hunters to report banded ducks, geese, doves and woodcock and to do so online at www.reportband.gov. Hunters will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species of migratory birds were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of migratory birds and in setting hunting regulations. Last year, more than 6,000 migratory game birds, including more than 5,000 waterfowl were banded in Pennsylvania.
The PGC in cooperation with other wildlife management agencies monitor migratory bird populations. Reporting banded game birds also allows the opportunity to learn about the bird they harvested says the PGC.
Locally, the duck, coot and merganser hunting seasons in the North Zone will run Oct. 7-21 and Nov. 14-Jan. 6. In the South Zone, the season will run Oct. 7-24 and Nov. 21-Jan. 20.
The bag limits here are 6 daily of any species, except for the following restrictions: daily limit may not include more than 4 mallards including no more than 2 hen mallards, 2 black ducks, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 pintail, 4 sea ducks including no more than 3 eiders and no more than 1 female eider, 3 long-tailed ducks, and 3 scooters.
For Resident Population Goose Zone, all of Pennsylvania except for the Atlantic Population zone, Sept. 1-25 (8 goose daily limit); and Oct. 28 – Nov. Nov. 24, Dec. 11 – Jan. 20, and Feb. 24 (5 goose daily bag limit in latter 3 segments).
For the Atlantic Population Zone that has a long list of boundaries, the seasons are Sept. 1-25 (8 goose daily limit); and Nov. 18-24 and Dec. 7- Jan. 20 (3 goose daily limit).
Light Geese (Snow geese and Ross geese) in the Atlantic Population Zone and regular season will run Oct. 2 – Jan. 27 with 25 daily limit and no possession limit. For the Conservation Order, it’s Jan. 29 – April 26 with a 25 daily limit, no possession limit.
For the Resident Population Zone, the season runs Oct. 24 – Feb. 24 with 25 daily limit, no possession limit. For the Conservation Order. Feb. 26 – April 26 with a 25 daily limit and a no possession limit.
As for dove season, the annual traditional small game season opener, the season will run Sept. 1 – Nov. 24 and from Dec. 19 – Jan. 6.
LEHIGH RIVER TROUT TOURNAMENT
The Lehigh River Stocking Association (LRSA) is hosting a Lehigh River Trout Fishing Tournament from May 20 to June 26, 2023 in a limited section of the Lehigh. LRSA will stock a truck load of big trout many of which will be tagged for prizes at the end of the tournament. The official site is at Riverview Park, East Penn Township boat ramp. For details check www.lrsa.org or call 610-730-9359.
PGC makes minor changes in seasons and announces antlerless deer license allocations
At their recent meeting, the Board of Game Commissions gave final approval to the 2023-24 hunting/trapping seasons, bag limits, certain season modifications, expanded opportunities for mentored hunters and antlerless deer licenses allocations. They are as follows.
*Black bear hunting in WMUs 1B, 2C, 4A and 4D were removed from the extended firearms season because of declining nuisance complaints in these units.
*For elk, the archery season will be a week later than in 2022-23 to provide added time between the license drawing and beginning of the season.
*Small game season received an expansion of opportunity for put-and-take hunting of captive-reared bobwhite quail in most of Pennsylvania, through an earlier season opening date, later season closing and removal of the daily bag limit. Crow season dates and additional Thursdays as hunting days, were approved to shift hunting opportunity from the peak breeding season to the fall and winter months.
*The 2024 youth and regular spring turkey seasons will open five days later than in 2023 due to normal calendar fluctuation and PGCs turkey management plan.
*The Saturday start of the firearms deer hunting season will continue on a Saturday. The move from a traditional Monday opener has, says the PGC, saw a license sale increase by hunters ages 18-34 and female hunters due to this opening change.
*PGCs board approved a measure that makes all mentored hunters and mentored adults, eligible to participate in the October special firearms season for antlerless deer and bears.
*Approved were the allocation of 1,095,000 antlerless deer hunting licenses, which is up from 948,000 allocated in 2022-23. The statewide allocations by Wildlife Management Units are as follows with last year’s allocations appearing in parenthesis. Of special note is that WMU 2H was eliminated and placed within WMU 2G.
*WMU 1A, 46,000 (43,000); WMU 1B, 37,000 (34,000); WMU 2A, 46,000 (39,000); WMU 2B, 53,000 (49,000); WMU 2C, 88,000 (67,000); WMU 2D, 86,000 (74,000); 2E, 52,000 (42,000); 2F, 49,000 (37,000); 2G, 35,000 (31,000); 3A, 21,000 (19,000); 3B, 32,000 (33,000); 3C, 40,000 (37,000); 3D, 41,000 (41,000); 4A, 61,000 (50,000); WMU 4B, 46,000 (34,000); 4C, 32,000 (31,000); 4D, 77,000 (55,000); 4E, 54,000 (42,000); 5A, 40,000 (31,000); WMU 5B, 60,000 (60,000); WMU 5C, 70,000 (70,000); 5D, 29,000 (29,000). Only one WMU (3B) had a reduction in allocation while the others saw increases.
As for the elk seasons, 144 elk licenses (65 antlered, 79 antlerless) were allocated across the three 2023-24 seasons. For the one-week general season that will run Oct. 30-Nov. 4, 30 antlered and 42 antlerless tags have been allocated. For the archery season, that’s only open in select Elk Hunt Zones, it will run Sept. 16-30, with 18 antlered and 8 antlerless tags available. In addition, there are 17 antlered and 29 antlerless licenses available for the Dec 30-Jan. 6 late season.
There will be yelps, cackles and purrs emanating from Pennsylvania’s woodlands Saturday, May 30, when the much anticipated and popular spring turkey hunting season opens in most wildlife management units of the state.
Actually, the season began this past Saturday for junior and youth mentored hunters and continues beginning this weekend.
According to Mary Jo Casalena, PGC turkey biologist, the prospects look good based on the last summer’s turkey reproduction statewide. Casalena reported that along with summer sightings, it revealed 3.1 poults (young turkeys) per hen on average. That was the highest in recent years she offered.
“With all those 2-year old gobblers available, there’s great reason for optimism for the 2023 spring gobble season. There are other gobblers out there as well including wily, mature 3-year old birds and older that are perhaps tougher to fool. And with poult production in 2022 just as good as the year before, jakes or 1-year old gobblers abound,” she explained.
Casalena goes on to say that with 172,000 people, on average hunting spring turkeys every year, some will bag a bird while others won’t. Successful hunters are the ones who do a lot of scouting pre-season. She contends that nosier birds tend to be more callable to the gun.
“If you don’t see or hear many turkeys where you’re scouting, try a different area. Where you heard birds last year isn’t necessarily where you’ll hear or find them this year. And halfway through the season, or toward the end, return to areas you heard turkeys before the season. Chances are some are still there and if you stay all morning or all day, a gobbler could some in quietly,” she offers.
As a reminder, hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise and end at noon for the first two weeks of the season that runs until May 13. From May 13 through May 30, hunting hours are from one half-hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.
Other reminders are that wearing fluorescent orange is not a requirement but is recommended while moving through the woods. And for hunters using a blind, they must be made with manmade materials of sufficient density to block movement within the blind from an observer outside the blind. Blinds must completely enclose the hunter on all four sides and from above. It’s unlawful to hunt turkeys from blinds made of natural materials such as logs, tree branches and piled rocks. Blinds that represent the fanned tail of a gobbler, do not hide all hunter movement and are unsafe and therefore unlawful to use in Pennsylvania.
If successful in bagging a gobbler, don’t forget to report it via the PCCs website (www.pgc.pa.gov) on the Report a Harvest link, by calling 800-838-4431, or by mailing it in. These reports, said Casalena, are important to managing turkeys as they allow the PGC to estimate harvest and population trends.
And one more thing. Ticks, lots of ticks this season because of a relatively mild winter. Turkey hunters need to spray-up with a good tick repellent. If you’re lucky to bag a bird, guaranteed the bird will probably be loaded with them. With the new tick being publicized, a repellent is a necessity from hat to boots.
Pa latest deer harvest numbers are in and reflect a 12 percent increase over the 2021-22 season
The 2022-23 estimated deer harvest numbers are in and they reflect a 12 percent increase over the 2021-22 seasons.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, there was an estimated total of 422,960 deer harvested. This was an increase over the 2021-22 season when 376,810 deer were taken. The estimated count broke down as 164,190 antlered and 258,770 antlerless deer.
The PGC points out that the buck harvest was only two percent higher than the most recent three-year average, and they are seeing more older bucks being available for harvest. Along with that, the agency reports that for five years running, about one of four Pennsylvania hunters tagged a buck, with two of every three bucks harvested being 2.5 years old or older.
Interestingly, of the antlerless deer taken, 67 percent were adult females while 17 percent were button bucks, and 16 percent were doe fawns. Hunters filled roughly one of every four antlerless deer licenses last season.
As a further breakdown of the total harvest, the regular firearms season accounted for the largest part of the 2022-23 tally as hunters took 251,520 deer with 87,190 being bucks and 164,340 being antlerless deer. Bowhunters, with either bows or crossbows, tallied 145,640 deer of which 75,770 were bucks and 69,870 were antlerless deer. The estimated muzzleloader take was 25,790 deer of which 1,230 were bucks and 24,560 were antlerless.
As for local Wildlife Management Units, the totals were as follows with bucks noted as “A” and antlerless as “AL” and with last year’s totals listed in parenthesis: 3D: 5,550A (4,700), 7,400 AL (6,300); 4C: 6,900 A (5,700), 8,200 AL (6,400); 5C: 7,200 A (6,600), 16,700 AL (14,700); 5D: 2,500 A (2,600), 6,700 AL (6,300).
Of all the states WMUs, 2D registered the highest totals of 14,000 A (11,500) and 23,000 AL (19,900) for the firearms season.
For archery and muzzleloader season totals, they are as follows: 3D, archery, 2,260 A, (1980), 2,030 AL (1,500); muzzleloader, 40 A (20), 770 AL (500); 4C: archery, 3,450 A (2,870), 2,170 AL (1,750; 5C: archery, 5,020 A (4,730), 8,040 AL (6,890); 5D: archery, 2,080 A (2,800), 4,760 AL (4,390), muzzleloader, 20 A (120), 140 AL (210).
In addition to inseason trout stockings, volunteers with Lehigh Fish-Game, Pioneer Fish-Game and Trout Creek Fish-Game associations stocked over 60 golden rainbow trout in the Little Lehigh and other area streams. The trout were compliments of Cabala’s in Hamburg.
Shad are also being caught in the Delaware River from Lambertville upriver. Steve Meserve, who does commercial shad netting in the Delaware, has reported catching 87 roe and 121 bucks as of March 27, and has returned 182 shad to give him a total of 390 or 12.58 shad per haul so far this season. And that was done in 31 hauls over 26 days.
We’ll keep you posted on further Delaware River shad updates.
In an effort to promote fishing and boating in the Keystone state, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission is offering grants up to $25,000 to organizations that can establish education programs to teach fishing and boating skills.
These organizations can include sportsmen’s associations and others that aim to connect Pennsylvanians with the activities and benefits offered within Commonwealth waterways.
Last year, the PFBC awarded $201,837 in R3 grants to support 13 education projects in nine counties. The grants will reimburse qualifying organizations up to $25,000 for eligible expenses for the period July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. The grants require a minimum of 25 percent match of total project costs with the deadline for submission of the R3 grants applications ending April 14.
More information about the program, including the application, can be found on the PFBC R3 Grant Program page of the PFBC website (Fishandboat.com).
FISHING LICENSE PRICE INCREASE PROPOSED FOR 2024
In other PFBC news, the PFBC Board gave preliminary approval to a proposed fee increase for various fishing licenses and permits for the 2024 license year.
Under the proposal, the price of a resident Annual Fishing License, Trout Permit, and Combination Trout/Lake Erie Permit, would increase by $2.50 each in 2024. Separate increases would be applied to other license and permit categories for non-resident, seniors and tourists. If approved, revenues from these fee increases are expected to generate an estimated $2.9 million annually for the PFBCs Fish Fund to support fishing related programs, says the PFBC.
With the opening of trout fishing season only two weeks away, and the Mentored Youth Trout Day next Saturday (March 25), now’s the time to get fishing gear in shape, particularly if you need new fishing line.
The most time-consuming job for tackle shops is to put new fishing line on reels. This detracts from the shop owners time who has to wait on other customers. Of course, you can put fresh line on yourself, but a shops’ line winder does a more even job. So, since it’s not a very busy time right now at local shops, don’t procrastinate and get it done now.
You may also need to buy a license and trout stamp and that too takes a bit of time. And if your hip boots or chest waders may have sprung a leak, patch kits are available for a DIY patch job.
Next week we’ll have more information on the trout opener and we’ll keep you posted on any trout stocking updates.
It hasn’t been a good season for ice fishing as warm weather didn’t allow local lakes and ponds to safely freeze. Even in the Pocono’s the season there was short where a few lakes had fishable hard water that didn’t last long.
Then there’s snow goose season. Seems the geese didn’t stay as long as the normally do in in our area as they evidently departed for their northern breeding grounds. Better luck next year.
Until trout season opens, striped bass season has turned on at the Jersey shore
Since the ice fishing season here in the Southeast never materialized, anglers can only look forward to the April 1 opening of trout season. If you can’t wait until then to wet a line, and would like to catch some big fish, the striper season opened in New Jersey shore points and reports from there sound like the bite is on.
On the Water Magazine issued these recent fishing reports from the Jersey shore:
*Capt. Phil Sciortino from The Tackle Box in Hazlet said bloodworms are catching most of the stripers in the back bay of Raritan Bay and in the Raritan and Hackensack rivers. South Amboy and Cliffwood beaches have also been good spots for anglers throwing worm balls soaked in Fin-Essence. Capt. Phil added that there is a load of bunker in the bay and it’s just a matter of time until more stripers join them.
*Mike Pinto at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright said kayakers, fishing in the Shrewsbury and Naversink rivers, are doing good on stripers using small plugs and plastics. Pinto explained that there’s a ton of bunker around and when the stripers find them, fishing will only get better.
*Matt Haeger at The Reel Seat in Brielle reported most striped bass action was in the local bay near the bridges on plugs and plastics. He surmises that there’s probably fish in the Manasquan River as well, but he hasn’t received any reports. Small X-Raps were working at night as were small shads on jig heads.
*Dennis Palmatier, at the Hook House in Toms River, said it was a good, not fabulous, striper opening as the Bay bridges have been productive as has the bay behind Island Beach State Park. The bass, he surmised, are pretty spread out throughout the bay. Toms River has been giving up fish as well, but recent windy conditions have made it tough to fish. Small X-Raps like the SXR-10, Kettle Creek shads and bloodworms have been hooking bass. Kayak anglers have been doing pretty good around the bridges. He added that winter flounder are off to a slow start, but he did hear of a few being caught at the Mantoloking Bridge.
*Pete Kupper at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle in Normand Beach, said bass have been caught in the back bay and Toms River. He heard Huddy Park was a hot spot for stripers. Kupper has received of some winter flounder being picked up at the Mantoloking Bridge and added birds have been diving pretty hard out front, but on what, he wasn’t sure.
*Ray Kerco at Grump’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park reported that striper fishing has been all right, but no blitzes as yet. Bloodworms seem to be working best in the back bay and Toms River with small shads picking fish as well. His shops Spring has Sprung Event and Seminar Series is featuring local surfcasting legend Shell E. Caris.
*Liam at Creekside Outfitters in Waretown said there are bass and perch being caught mostly on bloodworms in the rivers and creeks. At night, best spots are around Graveling Point where stripers are favoring SP Minnows and Kettle Creek shads.
If you don’t mind the drive to Jersey shore points, good eating striped bass could be on the menu.
Jerry Zimmerman Memorial Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation hosts their 25th banquet
Here’s a call-out to all turkey hunters that it may not too late to get your tickets to attend the 50th Anniversary of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Jerry Zimmerman’s Memorial Chapter 25th Annual Hunting Superfund banquet set for Friday, March 3 at the Homewood Suites Inn located at 3350 Center Valley Parkway in Center Valley.
Your participation to this plated dinner and raffle enables the chapter to do valuable habitat work in the state, contribute to land acquisition, give disabled hunters an opportunity to hunt through the “Wheelin Sportsman’s” program plus offer the award-winning Jakes Youth Field Days and Women in the Outdoors events.
The annual banquet will once again have a raffle and live auction for wildlife prints, sculptures, home furnishings, jewelry and collectables. A separate gun raffle will feature four guns consisting of one handgun, a rifle, a shotgun and one home defense firearm.
The raffle’s first prize will be a Benelli Super Black Eagle III 12 gauge, 28-inch Barrel-Max 5 Camo or $1,000 in cash.
Second prize: is a Kimber Micro 9mm or $500 in cash
Third prize: a Savage Axis XP .30.06 with scope
Fourth prize: a Mossberg Maverick 88 20-gauge
Fifth prize: a Traditions Muzzleloader Redi-Pak.
There will be added events in addition to these that promise to be a fun and delightful dinner night.
To order tickets go to http://events.nwtf.org/38032110-2023 or call banquet chairman Bruce Dietrich at 610-298-2424 or Scott Richards at 610-393-9761.
The dinner begins with a social hour at 5 p.m. with dinner being served at 7 p.m. The auction kicks off at 8 p.m.
You may have noticed a few road-killed opossum’s on area roadways of late. In fact, there are two deceased ones on Mauch Chunk Road between Grumpy’s Restaurant and the former Gravely shop in South Whitehall Township. The one reason for these sightings is that opossums are on the move because it’s breeding season that runs from late February and March in Pennsylvania. This, plus they’ll also feed on other road-killed animals and may get hit while feasting.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, opossums are basically nocturnal but will forage for food during the day. And since they walk slowly at 0.7 mph and their running speed is 4 mph, their slow shuffle gait makes them a roadway victim.
In case you didn’t know, opossums are the oldest living mammal and the only marsupial on our continent. They are well developed compared to other mammals and continue their growth and development in a pouch on their mother’s abdomen. They didn’t appear in North America until the Pleistocene Epoch, less than a million years ago.
Opossums’ sense of smell and touch are well developed but their hearing is not especially keen and their eyesight is weak. They don’t hibernate, but shelter in hollow logs, woodchuck holes, rock crevices, tree cavities, abandoned squirrel leaf nests, beneath porches and old buildings. They seldom spend two successive nights in the same den and are typically found in farmland, woodlots, brushy woods and in dry or wet terrain. Opossums also inhabit suburbs and edges of towns where food and cover are available, and they can climb trees.
As for breeding season, opossums are solitary. Females, and unweaned offspring, stay together and the sexes only come in contact during breeding. After breeding, the female drives off the male and the male plays no part in raising young.
Females can breed when they’re a year old and may bear a second litter, breeding again from mid-May to early July.
Opossum young grow rapidly in their mothers’ pouch and by eight weeks their eyes open and they let go of the mammaries for the first time. They begin leaving the pouch for short periods, riding atop her back while gripping her fur with their claws.
A few years back I found two dead baby opossums in my back yard. I can only guess that maybe one of the three known feral cats in our area got them, or they died from a disease and the mother abandoned them in my lawn.
Opossum’s main diet consists of terrestrials, aquatic insects, lizards, snakes, toads, the young of small animals, bird eggs, young birds, berries, wild grapes, acorns mushrooms and cultivated plants.
If threatened, and an opossum cannot climb to escape, they’ll feign death, commonly called, “playing possum” by lying motionless, eyes and mouth open, its forefeet clenched, and its breathing becomes shallow plus they emit a musky odor. They do this because some predators ignore dead prey, but they’ll also growl, hiss or click its teeth when annoyed by smaller predators or people.
When food is plentiful, an opossum may range only a few hundred yards in cultivated areas where fencerows, rocky field corners and fields have been cleared for crops. But they can range up to two miles to find food.
So, in this breeding season, be alert when driving, especially at night, because opossums don’t have the speed to get out of a vehicles way that’s moving 55 mph.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.