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The Baltimore Sun Candus Thomson On the Outdoors Column

August 3, 2008

By Candus Thomson, The Baltimore Sun

Aug. 3–Four thoughts about the meeting last week in Annapolis on new yellow perch fishing regulations, then I promise to let it go.

1.) Eight thousand pounds of fish. Were we really having a serious, adult conversation about 8,000pounds of fish?

That’s what watermen reported catching this spring in their truncated season. The state estimates that no more than 40 watermen take part in the harvest. Forty into 8,000 is 200 pounds. What kind of a fishery is that?

Of course, Baltimore County watermen Daniel F. Beck, Charles Norris and Harry Foote III were caught in 2005 for poaching 22,000 pounds of yellow perch off Aberdeen Proving Ground. That just goes to show you what you can do if you put your mind to it.

Still, it makes you wonder why the state doesn’t cut each of the watermen a check for $800 annually and shut down the commercial season.

2.) Nine million pounds of fish. That’s what a new yellow perch farm and processing plant in Indiana will be cranking out next year to supply Midwest restaurants. Bell Aquaculture announced its expansion plans last month, putting a further crimp in Maryland’s commercial harvest.

Yellow perch from Chesapeake Bay tributaries don’t wind up in restaurants and stores here because patrons apparently prefer striped bass — a pity because perch is good eating. So Maryland watermen ship their catches to the Midwest, where pollution has ruined yellow perch waters.

The fish farm and fillet factory will supply fresher fish without expensive transportation costs, eliminating much of the need for Maryland’s 8,000 pounds.

3.) Five fish. That’s the laughable daily creel limit for recreational anglers. Laughable because compared to what the watermen netted before this season (50,000pounds), that’s nothing but scraps. Laughable, too, because few anglers could catch their limit since the fish weren’t there. A survey conducted by the University of Maryland this year seemed to confirm that it’s taking anglers hours to catch one legal fish. If reducing the commercial take by 42,000pounds this year didn’t seem to help the equation, isn’t it obvious that conservation and commercial interests are incompatible?

4.) Tom O’Connell, the Maryland Fisheries Service director, concluded the meeting by saying, “We are trying to get it right this time.” If that’s true — and there’s no reason to doubt his sincerity — why does DNR keep hiring watermen who have been convicted of poaching to gather yellow perch population numbers? When asked why that was allowed to happen, one DNR biologist explained that the watermen “know how to catch fish quickly.”

Marlin event starts One more rare fish note: The 35th annual White Marlin Open begins tomorrow in the canyons off Ocean City. The five-day event generally attracts about 400 boats.

Last year, John Frankos of Virginia Beach took home $1.39million for the 83-pound white marlin he caught in the Norfolk Canyon, about 86 miles off the coast.

Bowing to the reality of the gas pumps, the Open’s organizers have changed the rule on starting time, allowing boats to pass the sea buoy at the Ocean City Inlet, Indian River Inlet, and Cape May Inlet at 3:30a.m. instead of 5a.m. By allowing the earlier start, boats can run at slower, more economical speeds, reducing fuel consumption by a third.

Weigh-ins are 4p.m. to 9:15p.m. at Harbour Island, 14th Street and the Bay.

Diamond still out there Speaking of rare fish, DNR released the last batch of “Diamond Jim” striped bass Thursday off Solomons. One fish is worth $25,000cash and a $5,000 diamond.

With one month remaining in the Maryland Fishing Challenge contest, no one has caught a fish with the neon green tag, but about 1,130anglers from 20 states have qualified for the grand prize drawing Sept.13 at Sandy Point State Park.

The top prizes are a 2008 Toyota pickup truck, a boat and trailer package from Bass Pro Shops and a $5,000 gift certificate for fishing gear from Bill’s Outdoor Center.

Duck hunt announced The duck hunting season in Maryland and other Atlantic Flyway states will remain at 60 days in 2008-09 under a proposal announced Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The proposed daily bag limit is six and may include no more than four mallards (two hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two hooded mergansers, one black duck, one pintail, one mottled duck, one fulvous whistling duck and four scoters.

But federal regulators recommend that the canvasback season be closed and the scaup season restricted because of low populations. Healthy wood duck populations mean Atlantic Flyway hunters would get an extra wood duck, raising the daily bag limit to three. Pintails would stay at one duck a day.

Within that federal framework, Maryland game officials will choose a 60-day duck season within the Sept.27 and Jan.25 window and a 107-day goose season between Oct.1 and March10.

Their proposed waterfowl seasons and bag limits for ducks, Atlantic Flyway Canada geese and late season resident population Canada geese will be presented at a meeting at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills at 7p.m. on Aug.18.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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