- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

A little more than a week ago, when Robert Glenn fished in the surf on Seabrook Island, just south of Charleston, S.C., the last thing on his mind was the possibility of hooking an exotic fish that rarely comes into very shallow beach waters. But nobody bothered to tell this 80-pound tarpon that he wasn't supposed to cruise about, looking for a snack.

Glenn, the executive director of the Maryland Coastal Conservation Association, had just finished throwing a cast-net to get a supply of 8- to 10-inch mullets. He cut fillets from some of the baitfish, hoping they would attract a redfish, also known as red drum. Then the skies opened and it began to rain.

"Not 30 minutes earlier, we stood in the driveway at my parents place debating whether or not to bring foul weather gear," recalled Glenn. "Of course, we figured a rain shower would feel good and left it at home. Well, it was a cold and driving rain. It felt like being pelted with hail."

Glenn ignored the bad weather and finished cutting up mullets.

"I baited my first surf rig," he said, "as the rain let up and I walked to the surf and cast my line out. After setting my rod in the sand spike, I walked up the beach about 30 yards [to] my surf cart to get my second rig ready. I baited the hook and as I walked to the surf to make my cast the first rod doubled over and line began to peel off the reel."

At first, Glenn believed he'd hooked a shark. He knew it wasn't some juvenile bluefish. Then the line snapped.

Glenn retied the rig, executed a mighty cast and stuck the 11½-foot surf rod into a sand spike. The rod again bent sharply, but nothing was on the business end of the line. Another cast, another brief waiting period away from the rod and bang! the long "stick" went down once more and Glenn ran back.

"About halfway there I see a fish bigger than my wife explode from the water, shaking its head back and forth like a largemouth bass," said Glenn. "I couldn't believe my eyes."

The fish erupted again on the surface and Glenn then knew he wasn't dreaming. This was a tarpon. The big, silver-scaled creature took off, 20-pound monofilament line fairly screaming from his reel.

Glenn got a firm hookset into the tarpon and was battling, walking, running, straining against a fish that is among the highest regarded species when it comes to putting up a fight. Glenn's father and a friend, Charlie West, came across a sand dune just in time to witness the battle. The tarpon ran off more than 200 yards of line, but it finally stopped about a mile up the beach. Nothing happened for a while, but eventually Glenn was able to pump and grind some line back onto the reel, only to have the tarpon take it back out. Eventually, the big fish's head was turned toward the beach and Glenn was able to bring it onto the sand where it was quickly measured (71.5 inches long with a 30.25-inch girth), friend Charlie snapping photos, and the hook was removed. The tarpon swam away, tired, but none the worse for the experience.

And how was your last fish outing?

Worried about West Nile virus Ducks Unlimited, the international hunter/conservationist organization headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., says with waterfowl hunting season just around the corner, hunters want to know about the risk of contracting West Nile virus from either handling or consuming wild game birds. All currently available information indicates that West Nile virus is primarily spread through mosquitoes. There are no reported cases of West Nile virus being contracted through the handling or consumption of wild birds. West Nile virus is new in North America and there is still much to be learned about the disease.

More than 100 species of birds have been found to carry the virus, with members of the Corvidae family (crows, blue jays, ravens) showing the greatest mortality from the virus. To date, specimens of the following game birds have been reported as testing positive for WN virus: sandhill cranes, mourning doves, mallards, wood ducks, Canada geese, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys and ringnecked pheasants.

However, based on studies conducted since the virus first appeared in North America, scientists believe wild waterfowl may be immune. While mallards, wood ducks, and Canada geese have tested positive for the virus, the infected birds were all domestic waterfowl living on park ponds, zoos and in urban settings. Furthermore, thousands of birds die each year from avian botulism, many of which are randomly tested for botulism and WN virus. To date, none of these wild waterfowl have tested positive for WN virus.

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