- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Did you see the Wall Street Journal story by Kevin Helliker that was all about a hunting/fishing retail store that attracts millions of shoppers a year?
It came as no surprise to those of us who have blown our budgets buying rods, reels, lures, muzzleloader rifles, arrows, bows and camouflage clothing from Cabela's Inc., the Sidney, Neb.-based mail order and retail company that for me, at least is the woodsman's equivalent of Disney World.
Helliker wrote that Cabela's operates only eight stores, but all of them are blockbusters. He said the outlet in Michigan is that state's largest tourist attraction, drawing 6million people a year 35 percent as many visiting shoppers as all of New York City had in 2000. In Minnesota, Cabela's is the second-largest tourist attraction, trailing only the Mall of America.
It is a fact that before Cabela's opened its Sidney store in 1991, the quiet agricultural center was an economic ghost town, hardly the stuff that huge success stories are made of. Nowadays, this prairie settlement of 6,000 is like a magnet for more than 1million shoppers every year.
Sidney is at least 150 miles from the nearest big city, Denver. Its residents no longer wait for unemployment checks. No, now there are actually 200 more jobs available than the town has residents. Some of the help, says Helliker, has to come in from the outside to staff restaurants, hotels and other businesses all because the Cabela's store is there with its high ceilings, stuffed game animals and fish, endless racks of quality clothing, fishing tackle, hunting equipment, even snow shoes and climbing gear.
Unlike Wal-Mart. which tends to drive smaller shops out of business, Cabela's popularity creates new ones. Way to go, Cabela's.
A local retailer that somewhat resembles Cabela's is the beautiful Bass Pro Shops. Although its nearest store in Anne Arundel County isn't as large, the whole chain is a success story. It started in Springfield, Mo., and it, too, specializes in quality fishing and hunting gear.
Gill netters irk rockfish angler Reader John Jensen asks, "Have you fished at the Morgantown Power Plant (Potomac River, Charles County) within the past week? In previous years, a gill net was tied to the fence that hangs in the water on the upriver side of the discharge. Now the net is about 40 yards closer to the discharge. It's hard enough pulling in a nice rockfish with bass tackle, let alone pulling it out of the massive net it just swam into. Before last week the [power plants discharge] current was pumping really strong, and the net was in its usual place. Now the plant has cut back on the amount of current flowing out, probably one fifth of the normal amount, and the net has moved incredibly close. Same goes for the net on the downriver side, but it's not as bad."
Does anybody know how close the commercial fishermen are allowed to put those nets to the discharge? Our guess is that if the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) is involved and it probably is it wouldn't mind if they draped a net over the cars in the Aqualand marina parking lot, next to the power plant discharge. The PRFC is incredibly pro-netting. However, if the PRFC follows the Maryland regulations and the nets are in the drift net category, through the month of December such a net must not be set before 3a.m. and can't be in the water after 10p.m.
Oh, great. Now the fish have at least five hours in which to swim about unimpeded. Imagine that a whole five hours.
group wants Franks to head DNR When the Coastal Conservation Association/Maryland (CCA/MD) met with Gov.-elect Robert Ehrlich, the group was encouraged to give input to his transition team. With that in mind, the CCA/MD wants Ron Franks to become Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. The CCA members say Franks' scientific background, managerial skills, leadership in the community, legislative experience as a former state delegate and commitment to Ehrlich's goals and direction are just a few of his qualifications.
Franks is a member of the Kent Narrows chapter of CCA/MD and the owner of Winchester Creek Outfitters hardly the type of fellow, we think, who would jump through hoops for the commercial fishing industry. But that's where the rub lies. The incoming governor most likely will push business over recreation and/or fish conservation. We'll see.
Meanwhile, if you have a choice for someone you feel will make a good DNR Secretary, write Lt. Gov-elect Michael Steele, Co-Chairman, Governor-elect Transition Team, Jeffrey Building, 16 Francis St., Annapolis, Md. 21401.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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