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No Major Changes Inland

Away from the coast, hunting and fishing going as planned

By: Jay Kumar, OutdoorChannel.com

Hurricane Sandy did the most damage on the coastal areas of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut because of high water, otherwise known as the "storm surge." Higher-than-normal full moon tides along with the surge meant huge waves, marinas and boats destroyed, and an enormous amount of water damage.

All of that has killed the fall striped bass and blackfish seasons on the coast, but inland, things aren't as bad. Though it's more than a week after Sandy hit and many people still don't have power – and also may be dealing with house damage – a fortunate few are out hunting and fishing.

"Once you get off the coast, hunting and freshwater fishing is pretty much unaffected other than power and access issues," said Jim Sciacia, spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. "But a lot of power has been restored, and inland access probably is not a problem."

Hunting seasons are "all going according to plan," he said. "Pheasant season is opening up this weekend and none of our [pheasant] stocking plans are significantly changed. The only concern we have is whether hunters can get in the parking areas because of downed trees and wires. But the research we've done so far seems to indicate that things will go as planned."

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation wasn't able to comment on any specifics except noting that New York City and Long Island hunters can apply for leftover deer management permits by phone since they'll have trouble finding hunting license agents (stores) that are open.

Lake and river access doesn't appear to be a problem in most areas, but that doesn't mean everything is normal. Though Sandy didn't dump nearly as much rain as expected, the storm did cause some rivers and lakes to flood.

It also caused others to fall: Some waters in New York and New Jersey were drawn down in advance of Sandy, which did and still does affect fishing. New York's Mohawk River, for example, was dropped three to five feet below navigation levels, which caused at least one bass tournament to be canceled.

"They closed the locks indefinitely, and also lowered the water level to where it was actually dangerous to run anything but small outboards," said Tom Tresnell, marketing director for the New York B.A.S.S. Federation Nation. "Basically you have a lot of canceled tournaments up in the New York area."

His bass club also canceled a post-Sandy tournament on Connecticut's Candlewood Lake because of gas station safety concerns.

"We decided to cancel because basically we didn't think it would be good to get in line [with boats] at the gas pumps – we were worried about our personal safety," he said.

He was referring to the fact that the long lines for gas have brought out the worst in some people.

Gates at Maryland's Conowingo Dam on the lower Susquehanna River were opened post-Sandy to release water, prompting more concern about the upper Chesapeake Bay's fragile grass. This habitat in the upper Chesapeake is super important for largemouth and smallmouth bass, striped bass, ducks, geese and other game species.

New Jersey bass pro Pete Gluszek said he's "most worried about" the upper Chessie.

"It received a lot of rain and there definitely was a big tidal surge," he said. "The last thing I want to see down there is the grass ripped out like was 30 years ago by another hurricane. It took 20 years for the grass to come back."

So far it seems he and others with that concern don't need to be worried. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported that the upper Chesapeake is only suffering from poor water quality due to the dam release and runoff from the storm. But it's keeping an eye on the upper bay to be sure.

On the plus side, Maryland hadn't had much rain though the summer and fall, and this influx of water (Maryland and Virginia got more Sandy rain than New Jersey and New York) could mean good things for fall waterfowl hunting and next year's fishing.

One further note: Because of Sandy, Virginia extended the deadline for the construction of stationary blinds for waterfowl hunting (east of I-95 only) to Nov. 15.

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