- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2007

For the third year, the Department of Natural Resources has kicked off the Maryland Fishing Challenge, which features a search for Diamond Jim, a specially tagged rockfish that could earn a lucky angler $25,000.

What seems a bit over the edge is DNR Secretary John R. Griffin saying, “This exciting tournament is designed to showcase Maryland”s unparalleled recreational fishing opportunities.”

Unparalleled fishing opportunities? Don’t look south, Mr. Griffin, because every state in that direction has better fishing, starting with Virginia and ending in Florida. So what’s with the unparalleled? Griffin got a little too enthusiastic, didn’t he?

The Maryland Fishing Challenge runs through Sept. 3 (Labor Day). Rather than tagging hundreds of fresh- and saltwater fish like last year, this time an angler only has to latch on to a citation-qualifying fish to be eligible to win one of the official sponsor grand prizes. Some 400 anglers are expected to hook such qualifying fish in this year’s contest, and the grand prize winners will be selected randomly at a closing ceremony in September at Sandy Point State Park.

The Boater’s World chain has returned as a major sponsor, offering the reward for the capture of Diamond Jim as well as $500 gift certificates for anglers who catch Diamond Jim imposters. Also returning as sponsors are Central Atlantic Toyota and Bass Pro Shops, each of whom will donate the grand prizes, a 2007 Toyota Tundra 4x4 pickup truck and a 591 Nitro boat with a 115 HP Mercury outboard and a trailer. Bill”s Outdoor Center in Oakland will provide prizes for angler recognition, and Smyth Jewelers will give a diamond worth $5,000 to the lucky angler who hooks Diamond Jim.

All rules and tournament information can be viewed at www.dnr.maryland.gov/fishingchallenge.

Teen lands whopper rockfish — John S. D’Adamo Jr. has a right to be proud of his 14-year-old daughter, Katie. More than a week ago, the two went surf-fishing on Assateague Island, Md.

“Most of what looked like good places to fish were already occupied,” D’Adamo said. “I eventually came upon a place that had some subtle structure and what looked like deeper water. [Katie] helped me setting up six big rods [baited with fresh menhaden] in sand spikes. The water was stained and was a little over 60 degrees.”

D’Adamo noticed one of the rods shaking a bit, figuring it to be a dogfish. He asked Katie to pull the 12½-foot-long Hatteras Heaver surf rod from its holder and bring in whatever it was. Suddenly Katie yelled out, and dad saw the rod had doubled over sharply, with Katie hanging on, properly pumping and reeling the way her father taught her.

The fish took nearly all the 16-pound-test (50-pound shock leader) line from the 6500 Ambassadeur reel, but the teenager won the battle eventually. It was a striped bass — a 43-pounder that measured 49 inches long with a girth of 26½ inches.

Way to go, Katie!

First stamp sale at Bass Pro Shops— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bass Pro Shops and the U.S. Postal Service will hold a first day of sale event for the 2007-08 Federal Duck Stamp and the 2007 Junior Duck Stamp at 10 a.m. on Friday at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Arundel Mills Mall.

c 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.