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Outdoors notebook: Habitat key to finding ducks

| Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, 10:33 p.m.

If you want to find wood ducks, go north and look for beavers.

Duck season is here — it runs through Saturday in the state's south zone and through Nov. 30 in the north zone — and as always, beautiful wood ducks will be a favorite target of hunters.

The birds are certainly doing well. Despite five years of having a three-bird-per-day limit, populations “remain healthy,” said Kevin Jacobs, waterfowl biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Pennsylvania's northwest counties are about the best places to find the birds. Roughly 14.5 percent of wood ducks taken across the state last year came from Crawford County. No other county came close to that.

Mercer County accounted for 7 percent of the woodies taken by hunters, Lawrence County 3 percent and Butler County 2.

Wherever you hunt wood ducks, seek out newly flooded beaver dams, Jacobs said. Beaver dams less than 5 years old offer the best spots for wood duck habitat, he added.

Lake Wilhelm

Anglers have been complaining over the past few years about how hard it is to catch fish from Lake Wilhelm in M.K. Goddard State Park in Mercer County.

Blame it on the alewives. Fish and Boat Commission and park officials said populations of the minnow-like fish have exploded, reducing panfish numbers and making it hard to tempt gamefish into biting.

At a recent meeting, though, commission officials said they've tried to address the problem by stocking the lake with fingerling walleyes and largemouth bass this year to introduce more predators. The park is studying how and where it might reduce the nutrients that are flowing into the lake and supporting the shad.

Newcomers

More people tried fishing for the first time last year than ever before.

Research done for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation found that 4.5 million people cast their first lines in 2012. That was part of a trend that saw more people fishing overall. According to the survey, 47 million Americans fished last year, up from 46.2 million in 2011.

New records

A 12-year-old boy recently caught the Maryland record largemouth bass while fishing a farm pond. It weighed 11 pounds, 6 ounces.

A Virginia man caught the world record snakehead in that state. It weighed 17 pounds, 6 ounces, topping the previous record, which came from Japan, the species' native range.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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