With about 29,000 acres, Fishing Bay WMA is the the state's largest wildlife management area and largest parcel of publicly owned tidal wetlands in Maryland. Large expanses of tidal marshes dominate eighty percent of this WMA, located adjacent to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. in southeastern Dorchester County. The property is dotted with small islands of lowland loblolly pines and mixed hardwoods.
Both the native white-tailed deer and the Asian sika deer can be found grazing on wetland plants. Muskrats and the exotic South American nutria compete for habitat. Nutria is a large rodent whose voracious appetite for marsh plants threatens this fragile ecosystem. Bald eagles, osprey, bobwhite quail, waterfowl and shorebirds, including the secretive black rail, are abundant.
Listen for the bugling and whistling of the sika deer stags from September through December. Mallards and black ducks are abundant on the inland ponds, while the best bet for bagging diving ducks, like scaup, is on the bays and river shoreline. Canada geese can be found on the marsh and in the open water. Fur trapping is offered by yearly lease. Saltwater fishing and crabbing are excellent.
Prescribed fires are used during the winter months on both marsh and woodlands to improve plant and wildlife diversity. Be aware of these activities before entering the area during January to April.
From the Bay Bridge, take U.S. Route 50 east to Cambridge. Follow Bucktown Road south to Bestpitch Ferry Road. Proceed south crossing the Transquaking River to the Fishing Bay entrance. Other sections of the area can be reached by Griffith's Neck Road, Maple Dam Road and Elliot Island Road. Public boat launching facilities at Bestpitch, Elliot Island and Shorter's Wharf are convenient to Fishing Bay. For additional information, contact the LeCompte Wildlife Office at (410) 376-3236.
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Kayak photo by Tom Darden
This area is a part of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources public land system and is managed by the Wildlife and Heritage Service. The primary mission of the WMA system is to conserve and enhance wildlife populations and their respective habitats as well as to provide public recreational use of the State’s wildlife resources.
Eighty-five percent of the funding for Maryland's state wildlife programs comes from hunting license fees and a federal excise tax on sport hunting devices and ammunition. The federal aid funds are derived from the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (or Pittman-Robertson) Fund, which sportsmen and women have been contributing to since 1937. Each state receives a share of the funds, which is administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; these funds are used for wildlife conservation and hunter education programs, including the management of the WMA system.
Other sources of funds for land acquisition include Program Open Space Funding for Maryland's State and local parks and conservation areas, provided through The Department of Natural Resources' Program Open Space. Established in 1969, Program Open Space symbolizes Maryland's long-term commitment to conserving natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities.
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