Tuesday, August 19, 2003

After popular bass fishing pro Gary Klein was recently fired upon by a disgruntled shoreline resident in the Louisiana Delta, it reminded me of other incidents that have occurred to boaters — including myself — while trying to hook a fish in public waters.

Klein, 45, of Weatherford, Texas, was fishing in the annual Bass Masters Classic. “I was driving my boat south in Bayou Camp Town and a man in a camp on the west side of the bayou was aiming a long gun at our boat,” Klein told the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office. “As we passed by, he shot over my boat.”

Klein said it was the first time anything like it ever happened to him and he plans to press charges if the shooter is caught. “He needs to be taken care of,” he said.

Klein said it appeared the man intentionally shot over the boat from about 70 yards away at about 11a.m. with what he thought was a shotgun.

Authorities are still looking for the culprit.

On a related note, several years ago, while sharing the boat with a Japanese bass pro during a championship fishing event on the Illinois River near Peoria, the Japanese angler entered a protected oxbow of the river and began to cast spinnerbaits toward a shoreline that was filled with water weeds — good hiding and feeding grounds for bass.

He hadn’t retrieved his lure more than twice when an irate homeowner ran down to the water’s edge and began hurling invectives at the young man. The resident shouted curses and remarks about the Japanese and atrocities they committed during World War II.

I shouted back, reminding the angry man that this youngster wasn’t old enough to have done anything to anybody since he wasn’t born until after the war, so why not stop the hatred.

“Who the [heck] are you?” he yelled. “I’m a German,” I answered in an attempt to be humorous. He mumbled an obscenity about Germans and Japanese, then left, saying he was going to get his gun. The frightened angler started the outboard motor and quickly left, but I don’t think the man had any intention of delivering on his threat.

There also are numerous reports about an irate Virginia landowner along the Potomac River who the moment he sees bass boats come near his dock begins to throw rocks at the occupants, screaming obscenities and demanding that they leave “his” water. I don’t mean he throws little rocks. No, these things are the size of footballs. During one encounter with a participant in a national bass tournament, he actually struck the angler on the shoulder. Last we heard the tournament fisherman swore out a warrant against the waterfront property owner.

Such accounts are the more serious ones. I won’t even begin to tell all the petty remarks and curses you occasionally hear when boater meets landlubber.

And you thought that fishing was all fun and games.

More crab suggestions — In a July column concerning crabs and ways to deal with commercial crabbers, a reader responded with suggestions to slow down or halt crabbing, but also help full-time watermen who’d stand to lose money. Taxpayers in the counties bordering the Chesapeake Bay, he said, should pay a little extra with the money going to a dedicated fund that would be given to the commercials.

Now comes Howard Countian Col. Glenn Altschuld Jr. who says, “Why should I have to pay more taxes to support watermen or the restaurant industry?

“Let’s forget about the crabbers’ ludicrously unenforceable work day and other time limits we’re using now. Instead let’s allow crabbers to work any and as many hours they want from 12:01a.m. Monday morning through 11:59p.m. Thursday night. Outside of those days and hours commercial crabbing would be prohibited. Anyone in possession [of crabs] is arrested, any crab pots in the water confiscated and not returned. If the crab population rebounds another day of crabbing could be added. If the population continues to decline, reduce the work week by another day. The idea is to get the pressure completely off the crabs for several days each week.”

It’s OK to bring home venison — The Safari Club International applauds Ann M. Veneman, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for announcing that the USDA will no longer prohibit the importation of hunter-harvested wild ruminant products intended for personal use and it will begin to accept applications for import permits for certain products from Canada.

That means if you go to Canada and hunt deer you can bring home the venison. It wasn’t always so, especially since we got a case of the jitters over Canada recently discovering a cow or two that suffered from mad cow disease. It apparently could affect deer, but officials now say there is no measurable risk to the public health.

• 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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