- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2006

“Tell the boss you’re going fishing,” says Bill Curry, the president of the Maryland division of the Coastal Conservation Association, in the hope Maryland fishermen will converge on Annapolis today.

Curry wants the Department of Natural Resources to drop its proposal to start the commercial netting of yellow perch in the Choptank and Nanticoke rivers. To that end, Curry urges sport anglers to contact their representatives in the legislature and ask them to intervene.

When that is done, the CCA hopes the sport fishermen will assemble at a public hearing in the DNR headquarters at the Tawes State Office Building at 7 p.m.

As concerns the plan to harvest yellow perch commercially, Ken Lewis, the CCA MD Government Affairs Committee chairman, said “The DNR is shortchanging the state with their 19th century management philosophy.”

For years on the eastern and western side of the Chesapeake, the bay’s feeder rivers and creeks have seen steady declines of resident and visiting spawning yellow perch. Things got so bad that the state’s Magothy, Nanticoke, Patapsco, Severn, South and West rivers were closed to yellow perch fishing altogether.

Suddenly, however, the DNR said its biologists discovered large numbers of yellow perch in the Nanticoke and Choptank rivers and that its heretofore closed commercial fishery in those waters could be reopened.

Upon hearing this, Maryland sport anglers went ballistic. They felt a deal had been struck with the fish netters. They also knew no help could be expected from the DNR’s overall boss, Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who has shown an unusual affinity for the netters who actually contribute little to the state’s economy. Why there is such an official fondness for people who would put the last fish on earth on ice is anybody’s guess.

What is known, however, is that if Maryland recreational anglers and their families band together, they can boot out a governor and any number of legislators who have shown little interest in the plight of the recreational segment.

It’s almost as if recreational fishing doesn’t matter in Annapolis. Yet check out the numbers provided by another conservation/angler group, Stripers Forever.

That group has the latest version of a Southwick Study that shows the state’s recreational fishery provides 7,037 full-time jobs. Conversely, commercial fishing is good for only 1,129.

Recreational fishing is responsible for $339 million in retail sales. Compare that to just $1million for the commercial fishery.

The Stripers Forever group is correct when it says the value of a commercial fishery is dependent on killing large numbers of fish, whereas the recreational fishery — through catch-and-release methods and stringent creel limits — can sustain a fishery even when times are tough.

So please listen to Robert Glenn, the executive director of the CCA MD, when he says, “It’s important to attend [tonight’s] DNR public hearing, but the last thing a DNR official wants is a phone call from a member of the general assembly who has heard from unhappy constituents.”

There will be CCA MD volunteers at a special hospitality tent in the parking lot of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium beginning at noon. You will be encouraged to seek out your elected representative. Free shuttles from the lot to the downtown offices of the lawmakers will be provided. There also will be music and refreshments to pass the time before walking over to the DNR meeting.

To read the latest CCA action alert, go to www.ccamd.org. To check out the Southwick Study, go to www.stripersforever.org/home.

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

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