- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

After a column Oct. 16 in which I wrote that a seemingly never-ending string of professional bass fishing tournaments on the Potomac River did nothing for the health of the bass but instead only lined the pockets of greedy out-of-town contest operators, readers’ e-mails began to arrive.

My decision not to help these outfits any more by publicizing their big-money events was pushed by a concern for the Potomac’s sizable largemouth bass population. It has been a magnet for well-heeled tournament operators who flock to the Potomac even on the hottest days of summer, allowing bass to be kept in small livewell tanks with water temperatures that have exceeded 90 degrees. Additionally, once these bass are released, there’s ongoing concerns about delayed mortality and the permanent relocation of many fish from their home waters to new areas of the river.

Letter writer Tom Michaelian said, “Seldom does a column motivate me to write, but your comments in Sunday’s edition regarding bass tournaments and the detriment to sport fishing hit a nerve. I’m in 100 percent agreement with your position. As is all too common these days, the money and greed associated with ‘professional’ sports creates an environment that in the end damages the sport itself.

“Such is the case with bass fishing. My son and I had the opportunity to fish parts of the Potomac this summer and several times were told that this area has been ‘overfished’ as we failed repeatedly to catch many fish. [One] impact of professional bass fishing is on the attitudes of the generation coming up. With the glorification of catching ‘giant’ bass on television and in magazines, if my 13-year-old pulls up only a 1-pounder, he’s disappointed [especially if it doesn’t happen on the first or second cast like it does on TV]. The appreciation for nature and the outdoors is usually replaced by his impatient desire to only catch the big ones. Keep up the good fight.”

Jim Chen wrote, “I applaud the position you took with respect to coverage of bass fishing tournaments conducted on the Potomac River. As an avid bass fisherman, [I have] no desire to hear about the latest ‘bad boy’ exploits by some over-sponsored ‘pro’ or about how 200 boats are launched out of Smallwood State Park or Leesylvania. I am sick to death with the competitiveness, arrogance and rudeness displayed by some of these so-called fishermen. I have personally been insulted, yelled at and simply pushed out of the way [during] tournaments [because they] believe they have the right to whatever stretch of the Potomac they desire simply because of their participation in a tournament. I fish because of the joy of being in a beautiful natural setting only minutes from our nation’s capital.”

Chen hopes the day will come when we can all get back to what fishing is supposed to be about — unfettered, pressureless time in the beautiful settings that the tidal Potomac River offers.

An e-mailer named Bob wrote, “The gentleman [who] was critical of you not covering tournaments likes to sell himself high. He does have a way of including every bait, rod, reel, boat manufacturer and other entities in [his] fishing reports. Anyway, great article. I’m glad to see someone finally stand up and remind folks what fishing is supposed to be about. I wonder how long the general public will allow our public facilities, such as Leesylvania, to be used by these ‘businesses,’ disenfranchising the normal fisherman/boater from using what is public property.”

A fireman named Glenn wrote, “I enjoyed your article. Keep up the great work.”

Larry Lackey wrote, “Just read [the column] and could not agree more. The tournament [purses] have gotten out of control. I also have a negative position concerning fishing for spawning bass.”

The outdoors writer for the Maryland Independent newspaper, James Drake, wrote, “Well done. I couldn’t have agreed with you more.”

Former Virginia tournament fisherman Bill Dorgeloh said, “[You] have hit the nail on the head. Too many tournaments, period. I remember the Potomac when it wasn’t a good fishery, then became a great fishery and now is changing for the worse.”

Dorgeloh said he has seen as many as 57 tournament boats inside an Aquia Creek cove. The bass that were confined in those boats had to be ferried up and down the river, 35 miles or more, to weigh stations. Dorgeloh feels once those bass are released, they never will return.

Richard Fox, an active Northern Virginia bass angler, wrote, “Great article. I guess if [tournament fishermen] want to know who’s the best, they can fish for bragging rights instead of cash. As we get older we [learn to] appreciate nature as it was meant to be.”

We didn’t receive even one e-mail that favored professional Potomac bass tournaments.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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