- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

The Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland is unhappy with the Department of Natural Resources’ proposal to legalize the commercial harvesting of crabs with finfish gear. Under the proposal, an individual licensed to take both crabs and finfish for commercial purposes may take hard crabs from pound nets, fyke nets and hoop nets.

It doesn’t make the CCA, nor me, feel any better to hear that catching crabs with nets would be prohibited on designated “off” days. Either way, the proposal represents a sharp departure from previous practices.

The DNR, which appears to be on a misguided mission to provide an income for commercial fishermen in the state, says the taking of hard crabs from fish nets instead of the traditionally accepted crab pots or trotlines is expected to create a positive but undeterminable economic benefit for the watermen and for crab processors.

What are they thinking up there in Annapolis?

Here’s what bothers me: No biologist disagrees that the pressure on the Chesapeake Bay’s crabs remains super high and that supplies remain very low. So why would the DNR want to increase the removal of crabs? If anything, shouldn’t they decrease it?

For good measure, in keeping with its apparently cozy arrangement with the commercial sector, the DNR wants to remind us recreational crabbers that we aren’t wide-eyed innocents. It says, “Recreational crabbers are believed by many to take a significant number of crabs from the Bay. A recent study estimates recreational crabbers in the Bay took as much as 7 to 4million crabs in 2001 and 2002.” However, it agrees this represents a small percentage of the commercial harvest — between 5.3 and 8.5percent the past two years.

And what’s this about the DNR “believing” the recreationals did this and that? Where are the hard figures to back up such claims? I crab and I’ve never been asked how many crabs I remove from the water. It’s kind of like the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission which “believes” recreational anglers take the majority of the striped bass. Mind you, there’s no data to back them up, either. No one I know has been questioned about crabs or stripers, but somehow, they magically know what the recreational sector does.

A tarot card reader would be jealous of these government eggheads.

Rightly, the CCA/MD is upset about the whole deal, including the fact that the watermen would not have to report how many crabs they catch in various nets, or where such nets are located.

If you wish to comment on the commercial taking of crabs by pound net, hoop net and/or fyke net, or ask the DNR to withdraw this proposal, send an e-mail to cgoshorn@dnr.state.md.us and be sure to send a copy also to Assistant Secretary Mike Slattery at mslattery@dnr.state.md.us.

Comments must be received by March10. A public meeting about all this will be held March10, 7p.m., at DNR headquarters at Tawes State Office Building, C-1, on Taylor Avenue in Annapolis.

Bear hunt meeting — On another controversial subject, the Maryland DNR has a public meeting, 7 to 9p.m., March10, in western Maryland to announce plans for the proposed black bear hunt in the fall.

The proposed regulations will be presented at Beall High School on East Main Street in Frostburg. Public comments specific to the proposed bear-hunting regulations can be made there or will also be accepted via e-mail at customerservice@dnr.state.md.us, or by U.S. mail to Black Bear Project, 1728 King’s Run Road, Oakland, Md., 21550. The comment period ends April2. The regulations are available for public comment at www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/ hntgp.html.

The proposed black bear hunt is for a split season, Oct.25-30 and Dec.6-11 in Garrett County and that portion of Allegany County that lies west of Evitt’s Creek. The proposal also includes a required state hunting license and a special black bear hunting permit.

Dogs cannot be used to hunt black bears, but trained tracking dogs on a lead may be employed to find dead or wounded bear after first notifying the Natural Resources Police of an intent to track.

EVENTS

Wild Turkey Federation banquet — Saturday, West Park Lions Club, Manassas, Va. Contact: Linda Layser, 703/425-6665, rglayser@msn.com; embark.to/NWTF.

Baltimore fishing seminars — Saturday, 9a.m., Ridge Garden Apartments, 8509 Old Harford Road. Four one-hour seminars on fishing the Chesapeake and Delaware bays and the Atlantic coast for striped bass. Information: info@ccamd.org.

Wilderness first aid — Saturday and Sunday, Alexandria. An 18-hour class. Registration, information: 703/836-8905; wfa.net.

Fishing & Outdoor Show — March13, 10a.m. to 4p.m., Izaak Walton League, Waldorf, Md. Information: Don Gardiner, 301/645-3323;donaldggardiner@hotmail.com.

Trout Unlimited chapter fund-raiser — March13, 6p.m., dinner at 9, Tysons Westpark Hotel. Registration: nvatu.org.

mDucks Unlimited casino night — March19, 6:30p.m., Fairview Park Marriott, Falls Church. The DU State Convention Awards Banquet is March20, same place, 6p.m. Information on both events: Mike Hinton, 202/720-1764.

Maryland Bowhunters Society banquet — March20, Snyders Willow Grove Restaurant, near BWI. Directions: snyderswillowgrove.com; 410/789-1149. Contact: MBS, Larry Schwartz 443/994-1098.

mBaltimore Antique Arms Show — March20-21, 9a.m., Maryland State Fairgrounds, Timonium. Information: baltimoreshow.com; 301/865-6804.

Flyfishing class — March28, 1p.m., Freestate Fly Fishers, Davidsonville (Md.) Family Recreation Center. Iinformation: Bob Smith, 410/544-4411, Mike Price, 410/320-0080.

Striper shore fishing contest — April3, Sandy Point State Park, near Annapolis. First place is guaranteed $500. Registration ends March31. Entry form, information: longcasters.org.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washington times.com.

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