Monday, April 29, 2013

Chesapeake Charter

My plans Saturday were to meet up with friends and spend the afternoon on a fishing charter in the Chesapeake Bay.  Trophy Striped Bass season opened April 20th and by most accounts the fishing has been the slowest in many years.

Back in the 1990's when I began fishing Chesapeake stripers on my own boat a spread of 6 trolling rods could be expected to produce limit catches on most days.  Today most charter boats run 20 + rods with tandem lures (2 lures to each rod) and limit catches can be hard to come by.
Capt. Randy Dean nets a nice striper

We left Chesapeake Beach about 1pm and by 1:45 the first fish was on.  My buddy Paul boated it, a nice 36" female.

With the first fish coming so quickly our hopes for a limit catch were high but the second hit did not come until 7pm when my friend Jeff pulled in a twin to the first fish. 
As the sun set in the western sky the rods were cranked in with another fish hitting shortly before the last lure was in.

Canon 6D, EF24-105mm, ISO 25600, 1/40, F7.1
With daylight nearly gone and a half limit in the box Capt. Randy nosed the Bay Hunter back into the dock at Chesapeake Beach.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Springtime Denizens of the Wetlands

While spring is over a month old, cooler than normal temps most days have kept new growth in check.  This is very evident in the wetlands where much of the vegetation looks as if it is still late winter.  While the appearance hasn't changed much since winter; wildlife is bustling with activity as they prepare for the nesting/birthing season.
Red-winged Blackbird Male
Canon 6D, 600MM, ISO 400, f5.6,1/1000 

Wood Duck Male
Canon 6D, 600mm, ISO400, f5.6,1/160

Canon 6D, 600mm, ISO-400, f5.6,1/1600

Eastern Phoebe
Canon 6D, 600mm, ISO-500,f5.6,1/320

Eastern Phoebe
Canon 6D, 600mm, ISO-500, f5.6,1/200

Nesting Canada Goose
Canon 6D, 600mm, ISO-500, f5.6, 1/250

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Meadow Grounds Lake: The Draw-down Continues

The draw-down of the Meadow Grounds Lake continues according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission plan.  Note the dark line on the breast wall denoting normal pool level.
While the PFBC kept their plans to drain the lake secret nearly until the first stop logs were removed their secrecy and indifference to local concerns has caused rumors as to the "real reasons" for the draw-down to abound.  The stated reasons for the draining is that with the ongoing seepage, seepage that has been happening for all or nearly all of the lake's fifty year history, that the possibility of a "sunny day" dam failure exist.  Secondly, according to current Pennsylvania DEP regulations the spillway is inadequate.
The most recent development comes with the Fulton County Commissioner's release of a dam inspection report.  The county commissioners contracted with CES Engineering, LLC to inspected the Meadow Grounds dam and to issue their findings.  While the commissioners had the results of the study in hand prior to the public meeting a month ago they did not make the findings public, allowing the PFBC time to reconsider their actions.  As the PFBC is continuing with their original plan the commissioners have now released CES's findings.  To read the the dam inspection report and the findings click here.
The PFBC remedy is to drain the lake, relocate what fish they are able to capture, and destroy the remaining aquatic community that resides here.  It is very likely that heavy sedimentation will occur down stream as the lake finishes draining as well as after each rain until the lake bed becomes vegetated.

Red-spotted Newts
As I walked along the shoreline today I noticed dozens of pairs of red-spotted newts at the water's edge.  It appeared that they were engaged in mating.

A photograph from the northern access point shows just how much shorter the lake has become; the tree line marks the normal shoreline.

A few pairs of Ring-necked Ducks were hanging out along the eastern side of the lake; these were the only ducks I spotted during today's visit.
I hate to think that the PFBC is draining this lake and destroying the aquatic community needlessly.  If the lake can be saved and repaired as cheaply ($100,000 plus cost of spillway improvment ) and as simply as stated by CES (please follow the links and read the report if you haven't done so already) why does the PFBC continue with their current program (estimated at 2.3-3 million with no money to do the repairs)?
I don't know who is right but it certainly would be nice if the PFBC would explain why their way is best.  My impression from the public meeting was that the PFBC has a plan to drain the lake, and they will follow their plan, because it is their dam, and they will do what they dam(n) well please! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lesser Scaup

Flushing Male Lesser Scaup
With the spring waterfowl migration in full swing some of the species have already moved north of my area.  The Lesser Scaup photos on this post were taken on March 30th. 


Lesser Scaup are one of the earliest to arrive in my area and among the earliest to leave.  This encounter was apparently my last for the spring as I have not located any lesser scaup in subsequent outings. 

Two males and a female show their concern about my slowly approaching boat.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Another First: White-winged Scoters

With the draining of the Meadow Grounds Lake continuing now into its seventh week the water level had fallen too far for launching trailer boats.  With the Meadow Grounds now out of play Saturday morning found me launching on Raystown Lake in neighboring Huntingdon County. 
With the lake being 26 miles long with 118 miles of shoreline waterfowl and waterbirds have a lot of territory to hide out in.  While mallards and Canada's were frequently spotted throughout the day the only other species of ducks that I was able to identify were these white-winged scoters.

Scoters are considered salt-water ducks however are sometimes spotted on lakes in our region during the migrations.  While I had previously photographed a surf scoter at the Meadow Grounds a few years ago this encounter was my first with the white-winged scoter.

As the pair flys away their namesake white wing patches are prominately displayed.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Yellowlegs: Lesser or Greater?

 As the Meadow Grounds Lake recedes mud flats are being exposed.  The exposed lake bed in turn is attracting some species of bird life not normally seen when the lake is at full pool.  Such was the case last Saturday when I spotted a pair of Yellowlegs feeding near the north end.

 The first image captured the bird as it probed under the water and a moment later it had some type of bug or beetle grasp in its bill.
While I can identify the birds as yellowlegs I am unsure whether they are greater or lesser yellowlegs.

And the same goes for this group I captured running across a salt flat at Assateague Island during our October visit.  Any help with a positive ID on these birds will be much appreciated.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Lifer: Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck
While I have observed Long-tailed Ducks on the Chesapeake Bay a surprise encounter with this male sporting his winter plumage on the Meadow Grounds Lake was my very first time with one in front of the camera.

The duck was hanging out alone in about 8 feet of water.  He would allow me to approach to within about 30 yards before evading the boat by diving.  I quickly learned that the duration of each dive was approximately 30 seconds.

How fitting that as the water drains away from my favorite little mountain lake that I was able to capture another "lifer" photograph before the lake is gone.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Red-breasted Mergansers on the Meadow Grounds Lake

While the red-breasted mergansers were busy feeding on fish exposed by the reduced water lever in the Meadow Grounds Lake, they were also finding time for courtship.

While the red-breasted mergansers I normally encounter here are not overly wary of humans and will allow me to approach quite closely before flushing.

However even when flushed the RB mergansers will fly only a short distance before settling back on the water.  

A lone female RB merganser takes a break from fishing, resting on a recently exposed stump.
The Meadow Grounds Lake was first filled in 1964.  The stump, which still appears to be in very good condition, has been submerged for nearly 50 years.