- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is enlisting the help of fishing and boating writers across the nation to pass along word of its campaign to make the public aware of invasive aquatic species that can seriously damage or rearrange our natural environment.
A national "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!" campaign addresses various aspects of the growing aquatic nuisance species issue, says the F&WS.; The campaign's primary intent is to target recreational users of U.S. waters to raise awareness. Everybody knows that Americans love to spend time on the water. Fishing and boating command the attention of monstrously huge numbers of participants. For example, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, anglers spend more than the combined number of people involved in recreational tennis, rock climbing and golf.
Add also our highly mobile society, our traveling habits and the possibility of a boater/angler launching a craft in water that might be infested with foreign vegetation, maybe even seaborne creatures from other lands. For instance, the Potomac River is loaded with alien vegetation known as hydrilla and Eurasian milfoil. In the case of the Potomac's fishermen, such submersed aquatic vegetation has helped create an incredibly productiive bass fishery, but has also made for many unhappy shoreline home owners. The fact that the alien vegetation now is also found in unwanted abundance at neighborhood lakes like the WSSC's Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs and Lake Anna near Fredericksburg, as well as others, is probably the result of Potomac River boaters leaving the river, not cleaning their boat hulls, then re-launching in other waters. Bang! Seeds are planted and the weeds grow.
Besides the water weeds, who hasn't heard of the zebra mussel and other creatures that were washed from the bilges of foreign ships into American waters and now are costing taxpayers millions of dollars in eradication programs.
The F&WS; says when you leave the water, remove any visible mud, plants, fish or animals before transporting the craft.
Also, pour out any water from bilges and livewells before leaving the boat ramp or marina.
Clean and dry anything that comes into contact with water. That means boat hulls, trailers, clothing, even pets.
Of course, never release plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they came from there.
Detailed information about the campaign is available on the Web: protectourwaters.net.

BASS initiates new championship The international Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS), headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., has announced that anglers competing in Bassmaster Open events during the 2003 season will have the opportunity to fish in a new division and to qualify for a new event.
BASS says it will conduct four Open series, including one in the western United States, and for the first time ever, an Open championship will be contested by top anglers from each of the divisions.
The Open Championship will match the top 20 boaters and non-boaters from each of the four divisions. There will be no entry fees for the championship. A site has not yet been determined.
Northern division events will take place on the Potomac River (July17-19) out of Smallwood State Park in Charles County, and also on Lake Erie (Sept.11-13) in Buffalo, N.Y., and Oneida Lake (Oct.2-4) near Syracuse, N.Y. BASS has visited the Potomac River 13 times but has never visited lakes Erie or Oneida.
Central division tournaments will be held on the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway (Aug.21-23) in Columbus, Miss., Lake Sam Rayburn (Oct.9-11) near Jasper, Texas, and on the Ouachita River (Nov.13-15) in Monroe/West Monroe, La. While Sam Rayburn will play host for its record 27th event, the other two fisheries will be welcoming BASS for the first time.
The Southern Opens include familiar favorites, such as Lake Wheeler (Sept.25-27) in Decatur, Ala., Lake Okeechobee (Oct.16-18) in Okeechobee City, Fla., and Lake Eufaula (Nov.6-8) in Eufaula, Ala.
The Western Open Trail begins on the Columbia River (Sept.18-20) in Kennewick, Wash., followed by Clear Lake (Oct.23-25) in Clear Lake, Calif., and Lake Havasu (Nov.20-22) in Havasu City, Ariz.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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