- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

For nearly 20 years Chesapeake Bay fishermen have complained about occasionally catching rockfish that displayed ugly skin lesions and red sores.

At first, sport anglers blamed commercial fishermen for the sorry condition of affected striped bass, claiming the sores were caused by the fish being trapped in nets before finding freedom. Meanwhile, some watermen blamed recreational anglers, saying that’s what happens when a fish is handled extensively by humans and then released in hopes of being caught another day.

No one knows the real causes of what scientists call mycobacteriosis, a bacterial disease that occurs among striped bass. As a result, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) will conduct a cooperative tagging study to better understand the disease in the Chesapeake Bay’s rockfish.

Fortunately, the two states say stock assessments and analysis have not shown a decline in the striper population and, in fact, show high reproduction. This tagging study is designed to determine whether and how the disease progresses over time, the DNR said. Diseased and healthy fish will be collected, then assessed for current health condition, implanted with bright-green anchor tags and turned back into the waters of the Chesapeake.

“Coordination between [the] DNR and VIMS will ensure that fish recaptured in the Chesapeake Bay are collected and analyzed in a timely manner, regardless of where they are caught,” said Howard King, director of the DNR’s Fisheries Service. “Results of this study will increase our understanding of the potential impacts of mycobacteriosis on the striped bass population.”

Rockfish will be netted and tagged from spring through autumn until 2009. Both agencies will use the green tags marked with either “VIMS” or “MD DNR” that include a toll free number, 866-845-3379, to report a marked fish. A reward is offered for the return of tagged whole fish to biologists so they can be examined, so any caught fish should be put on ice or refrigerated (not frozen) until the number on the tag is called.

He didn’t look like a turkey — Maryland’s Natural Resources Police said a turkey hunting accident occurred April 26 in Charles County on a private property off Mitchell Road. The NRP said Daniel Albert Bushey, 64, of Indian Head shot Robert John Quinn Jr., 61, of Mechanicsville while the two were hunting wild turkeys on the Hanson Hill Farm. According to the NRP, the two were 20 yards apart when Bushey mistook Quinn for a turkey. Quinn was struck in the shoulder and back by shotgun pellets. He was transported to Civista Hospital in La Plata and later transferred to Washington Hospital. Bushey was charged with negligent hunting.

Stop with the circle hooks — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service has temporarily suspended a rule that requires Atlantic billfish tournament anglers to use circle hooks. Circle hooks have proved to be beneficial to fish that are released alive because they generally do not become lodged deep inside a fish’s mouth. The suspension will continue through Dec. 31. NOAA said the decision came after tournament fishermen complained, saying they needed more time to learn how to use the circle hooks. Circle hooks again will be mandatory in January 2008.

National Geographic map software — National Geographic has added 10 new regions to its Weekend Explorer 3D outdoor recreation mapping software series, including coverage of 14,600 square miles in the D.C. and Baltimore areas (including the Chesapeake Bay, Northern Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, Deep Creek Lake, Massanutten Mountain, George Washington National Forest). Compatible with a PC or Mac, Weekend Explorer 3D provides detailed regional topographic maps. For more information, visit www.maps.nationalgeographic.com.

Once more on the fishing derby — A “Kids Fishing Derby” will be held June 2 (rain date June 3) at Motts Run Reservoir. The derby is sponsored by Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation Department and the Weekend Bassers of Fredericksburg. Adults are encouraged to bring their boats but cannot fish themselves. They may assist with rigging hooks and other tackle. Awards and prizes will be given to all age groups. For details, call Mike Forsht, 571/213-9122, or Dickie Musselman, 540/785-8087.

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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