- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Bonnie Christ and Joe Viar, both of Alexandria, raked in the kudos in the early days of December during the 16th annual Mercury Outboards/ Cheeca Redbone contest in Islamorada. This Florida Keys event was a charity fishing tournament to help raise awareness and money for cystic fibrosis research.

Bonnie Christ is no stranger in the winner’s circle. Last year, she won the lady grand champion title in the same tournament. This year the Northern Virginia executive became the first woman in the 16-year history of the contest to capture the grand champion title outright among a 134-angler field.

Fishing with captain Andy Thompson of Homestead, Christ caught four bonefish on the first day of the outing and followed it with four redfish the following day to make the desired “redbone” combination. Christ and fishing partner Joe Viar, both long-time supporters of the charity tournament, won the team grand championship title with three bonefish that Viar released. Christ also released the most bonefish to earn the team award.

Considering the cold front that dropped temperatures and brought windy conditions to the Florida Bay waters on the first day of competition, Christ’s performance was considered remarkable. “It was one of those memorable days,” Christ said, “like the time I caught three permits in a day.”

No rockfish sushi, please — The resurgence of the striped bass (rockfish) over the past 15 years in the Mid-Atlantic is reason to rejoice, but how many Chesapeake Bay and tidal river anglers have noticed that some of their fish appeared to be diseased? We’re talking about rockfish that showed skin ulcers and ugly sores. I’ve caught some this year that weren’t very pretty. Others, when cut open, had odd-looking growths on internal organs. Sadly, most fishermen don’t bother to check the insides of their fish. They slice off a couple of fillets and throw the rest into the garbage can.

According to research done by the Philadelphia Aquarium, the disease is known as mycobacteriosis, also referred to as fish tuberculosis. The disease was recognized as far back as 1926 and has occurred off and on for nearly 80 years. Two years ago, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) said the diseased rockfish are affected by bacteria, something known as mycobacteria shottsii. Claims have been made that nearly half of all the Mid-Atlantic fish that have been sampled had the bacteria in them.

A recent New Jersey report said low oxygen in the water and warmer-than-normal water temperatures are to blame. Can the diseased fish affect humans? No, but be absolutely certain to fully cook your rockfish — all rockfish. Don’t take a chance. And be sure not to have rockfish sushi.

Hardly a world-record bass — A little late, we think, but Leaha Trew, of Santa Rosa, Calif., says she caught a bass in August that weighed 22 pounds, 8 ounces — four ounces more than the current world record (which has been on the books for 71 years). Trew claims to have caught the huge bass in a 76-acre lake, fought it for 10 minutes, and weighed it on a “Bogagrip” scale that is very popular among saltwater anglers. Trew says the monster bass measured 29 inches long and 25 inches in girth.

The trouble with this less-than-alert lady angler is she let the bass go. So now there’s no proof, no verification by an authorized representative from the California Game and Fish Division, as required if you want to establish a state record, which would have been the first step on the way to a world record.

Alas, dear Leaha, you also won’t realize the approximately $1million you could make with a world record bass. That’s how much the rewards and prizes would add up to for a record-breaking largemouth bass.


• Saltwater fishing lecture series — Jan. 5 and subsequent Mondays, Jan. 12 and 26; Feb. 2, 9 and 23; March 1 and 8; 7:30 to 9:30. p.m. at Maplewood-Alta Vista Rec Center, 5209 Alta Vista Road, Bethesda. $85 for Montgomery County residents, $95 for nonresidents. Subjects include trolling, chumming, bottom fishing, jigging, depth finder use, outfitting a boat, best times to fish. Pre-register with the Montgomery County Department of Recreation, 240/777-6870; mcrd.net.

• Virginia-Carolina Bass & Boat Show — Feb. 6-8, Golden Leaf Warehouse, South Hill, Va. The Hawg Trough, a tank filled with trophy bass, will be on display. Seminars are led by experts who will highlight fishing on nearby Kerr Reservoir and Lake Gaston. Information: bassandboatshow.com; 866/219-4544.

CCA/Southern Maryland Winter BBQ — Feb. 21, 6 p.m., Izaak Walton League Hall, Waldorf, Md. Food, open bar, raffles, silent and open auctions. Information: Donald Gardiner, 301/645-3323, 301/843-3719.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]washington times.com.

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