- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Shortly after noon on Monday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will set off explosives to breach the Embrey Dam on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg.

It’s all for the love of a migratory fish species, the shad. For better than 20 years, federal, state and local officials have worked with concerned citizens groups to plan the reopening of the Rappahannock River to anadromous fish species. If Embrey Dam is removed, the migrants, including the hickory and American shad, herring and white perch, that come in from the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to seek suitable spawning shallows, will have an opportunity to do just that. They’ll swim upstream to complete their reproductive cycles a good distance from Fredericksburg. In fact, the removal will allow the migrants to reach more than 100 miles of critical river spawning habitat for the first time since 1853.

The removal of the blockage will be a tremendous aid in restoring these species to the Rappahannock and the Chesapeake Bay into which the river flows.

The removal also will open new areas to recreational paddlers and anglers along the falls of the Rappahannock when completed.

Until now, recreational anglers who enjoyed hooking (and releasing) the shad, using very light rods and reels, their lines tied to tiny shad darts, were confined to fishing the waters in the immediate vicinity of the bridge on Route 1 that crosses this historic waterway. Immense Civil War battles took place here and if the story of George Washington throwing a coin across a river is true, it was not the Potomac as some say, but more likely the Rappahannock where it happened. As a youth, our first president lived in that area.

On Monday, U.S. Senator John Warner, Republican-Virginia, who was instrumental in securing federal funding for the project, and what most likely will be a large crowd of spectators, will witness the breach of the dam.

Army and Air Force Reserve demolition teams will use 650 pounds of explosives (detonated in increments) to break open the 22-foot high, 770-foot-long reinforced concrete dam.

The first stage of the removal, the 100-foot wide breach, will permit the pool of water behind the dam to be safely drained. Eventually, as the river flows through the dam unimpeded, it will see migratory fish traveling upstream to spawn. It should already happen this spring. In time, the entire dam will be removed.

Shooting champ goes to Junior Olympics — Teenager Jessica Compton, of the Rockville chapter of the Izaak Walton League, recently won the women’s Maryland State Junior Olympic Air Pistol Championship at the U.S. Naval Academy. Jessica had a score of 353/400, landing her a spot on the Maryland team that will head to the Junior Olympics in Colorado Springs later this year.

My hat is off to you, Jessica!

Fly fishing weekend at Bass Pro Shops — “Welcome Beginners” is the theme of the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World’s fly fishing weekend, Feb.28-29. The store in the Arundel Mills mall in Hanover, Md. (off I-97) provides an opportunity to learn fly fishing techniques from some of the best-known fly anglers in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Demonstrations include fly tying, knot tying and fly casting. Featured speakers include Jay Sheppard, whose seminars “Getting Started in Fly Fishing” include equipment selection, leader construction, accessories, insect identification and choosing the proper flies.

Where to fish is covered by angler/author Guy Turenne, who’ll reveal the characteristics of Maryland’s popular fly streams, matching the hatches and determining whether those streams contain wild or stocked trout.

For saltwater anglers, Skip Gloms will address fly fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. He’ll talk about Bay hot spots, best times of year, fly selection and targeting the Bay’s different species, while Bass Pro Shops in-house expert Larry Mourn will help interested fishermen in the White River Fly Shop inside the store.

Information: Allan Ellis 410/689-2500, extension 5217; [email protected]

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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