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Gene Mueller: It’s time to stop hook-and-line licenses

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2008

If there's one antique fishing law that ought to be relegated to the trash can it's Maryland's long-standing practice of allowing a commercial fisherman to go out with rods and reels, drop peeler crab baits over a tightly bunched school of striped bass and be permitted to keep 800 pounds of rockfish every week.

It's an asinine deal that hare-brained legislators in Annapolis continue to go along with - as if the year was 1808, not 2008.

A few years ago, a couple of friends and I fished for our two - you read it right, two - legal 18-inch-and-longer rockfish not far from Point Lookout in St. Mary's County. We watched a local fellow near us catch one striper after another and flip each one into a large wooden box on his boat. When we struck up a conversation with the man, he said he used peeler crabs on a stout rod-and-reel combination and that he owned a commercial hook-and-line license.

"I actually don't need these rockfish," he said. "I'm retired and have a good income, but I'll fix up everybody I know with fish. People think the world of me."

Well, everybody but us thought the world of him, and we told the man just that.

The three of us shook our heads in disbelief not only because of what the man said but because we also know a charter sport fishing captain who has such a commercial hook-and-line license. He does a fair amount of booking, so he actually doesn't need the money from the hook-and-line catches, but greed is a terrible thing. He tries to catch what the law says he can.

So the secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, pursuant to Code of Maryland Regulation 08.02.15.12(H), last week announced that the commercial striped bass hook-and-line fishery again will be open Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays one hour before sunrise until one hour before sunset. The season runs until near sunset Nov. 27.

Trapping OK'd in Minnesota - The U.S. Sportsman's Alliance, a pro-hunting organization headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, was pleased with a Minnesota court decision that OKs the continued trapping of furbearers in a state where trapping is far more important than it is in, say, heavily urban surroundings of Middle Atlantic states.

The Animal Protection Institute, an animal rights group, brought a lawsuit that said trapping of any species in Northeast Minnesota should be stopped to prevent incidental trapping of Canada lynx, which is federally protected. Chief U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis simply ordered the state's Department of Natural Resources to come up with a management plan that would eliminate the incidental taking of the lynx. With that apparently accomplished, Judge Davis affirmed the state's lynx protection proposal and said trapping could continue. The USSA said the anti-hunting, anti-trapping group simply wanted to ban all fur trapping.

Sinkers called "Stonze"? - How come this hasn't been thought of before? A British tackle company, Pallatrax, has answered the question of using lead fishing sinkers, which some claim to be harmful to the environment, and heavy steel sinkers that can do harm to your wallet. During the recent ICAST fishing tackle trade show, a subsidiary, Pallatrax USA, introduced "Stonze" fishing sinkers that are made of natural stone in various sizes and colors. They will be available in a variety of weights, with swivels or in inline styles, suitable for anything from carp and catfish to heavy saltwater species. "Stonze" will be mass-marketed beginning next month. For more information, go to www.pallatraxusa.com.

cLook 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.