- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2004

If you’re new to the Middle Atlantic States and enjoy marine fishing, you could do a lot worse than pick Virginia as your preferred saltwater species hunting grounds.

As another season is about to begin in Virginia, Claude Bain, the director of the free and informal Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament that’s open to anyone all year, reminds us that in the 46 years the tournament has been held, 2003 was the second best on record.

Despite abnormal weather patterns — remember the monsoon-like rains? — an impressive 7,201 trophy-size fish were caught and turned in for a citation in dozens of marinas and tackle shops along Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Bain says the 2003 offshore fishing season never really got going, but in spite of heavy rain and wind Chesapeake Bay anglers scored nicely in late spring and early summer on red and black drum, as well as exotic-looking spadefish.

Award citations were handed out at a record pace until September, when Hurricane Isabel unleashed its power on the Virginia coast. The fisheries didn’t recover for weeks after the storm.

Black drum accounted for the largest number of citations among the 34 eligible species; 945 exceeded 50 pounds. Spadefish were the second highest entry with 288 keepers and 634 releases, making 922 “spades” that weighed 9 pounds or more.

The surprise came with flounder. Although many anglers believed the flounder season to be worse than in years past, a 32 percent increase in citations from 2002 was noted, with 755 awards handed out for the flat, delicious fish that had to weigh a minimum of 7 pounds.

Among the more unusual catches were 37 pompanos that weighed at least 11/2 pounds. Twenty prized tarpon were caught and released, plus 165 sheepshead. Poor showings were made by the white marlin. Only 103 were caught, released and entered under a special awards category.

Four state records were set, including a 357-pound bluefin tuna, which then was bested by a 393-pounder and again by a 398-pound record breaker. There also was a 2853/4-pound state record bigeye tuna.

If you want more details about Virginia’s saltwater fishing, contact Bain at mrcswt@visi.net.

Elk, deer disease free — Samples taken from hunter-killed elk and whitetail deer during Pennsylvania’s 2003 hunting seasons have all tested negative for chronic wasting disease (CWD), said the Game Commission’s executive director, Vern Ross.

CWD, a debilitating illness that has threatened elk and deer herds in many states, is so serious that every wildlife department tests and checks its ruminants whenever possible. In Pennsylvania, there are no current cases of CWD-infected deer or elk. “We are doing everything we can to ensure that it stays that way,” Ross said.

The CWD tests were conducted by the Department of Agriculture’s State Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg and the New Bolton Center, which is the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary diagnostics laboratory. Under a contract with Penn State University, the elk samples also were tested for brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis and found to be free of those diseases.

Samples were tested from more than 2,000 randomly selected deer during the two-week rifle season and from 55 elk.

EVENTS

Pigs on the Potomac — Tomorrow, 6 p.m., Silver Spring Knights of Columbus. Fund-raiser for the Greater Washington Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association/Maryland. $75 (includes CCA membership or renewal). Information: Robert Glenn, 888/758-6580; info@ccamd.org.

Ducks Unlimited chapter banquet — Tomorrow, 6 p.m. (dinner at 7:30), Fairview Park Marriott, Falls Church. Tickets $100 (includes $25 membership) a person, $175 a couple; children under 17 $35. Information: Carl Olzawski, 703/319-3825; Aaron Mulvey, 571/214-7394; info@novadu.org.

Wild Turkey Federation banquet — March6, West Park Lions Club, Manassas, Va. Contact: Linda Layser, 703/425-6665, rglayser@msn.com; embark.to/NWTF.

Baltimore fishing seminars — March 6, 9 a.m., Ridge Garden Apartments, 8509 Old Harford Rd. Four one-hour seminars on fishing the Chesapeake and Delaware bays and the Atlantic coast for striped bass. Admission $15 (free with $25 membership to CCA.) Information: info@ccamd.org.

Wilderness first aid — March6-7. Alexandria. An 18-hour class in wilderness first aid. Cost is $160. Registration, information: 703/836-8905; wfa.net.

Fishing & Outdoor Show — March13, 10a.m. to 4p.m., Izaak Walton League, Waldorf, Md. Admission: $4; school-age children free. Information: Don Gardiner, 301/645-3323; donaldggardiner@hotmail.com.

Trout Unlimited chapter fund-raiser — March13, 6p.m., dinner at 9, Tysons Westpark Hotel, Route 7. Tickets $45, registration: nvatu.org.

Ducks Unlimited casino night — March19, 6:30p.m., Fairview Park Marriott, Falls Church. Tickets $100 a person, $175 a couple. The DU State Convention Awards Banquet is March20, same place, 6p.m. Information on both events: Mike Hinton, 202/720-1764.

Maryland Bowhunters Society banquet — March 20, Snyders Willow Grove Restaurant, near BWI. Tickets $29. Directions: snyderswillowgrove.com; 410/789-1149. Contact: MBS, Larry Schwartz 443/994-1098.

Baltimore Antique Arms Show — March20-21, 9a.m., Maryland State Fairgrounds, Timonium. Admission: $5. Information: baltimoreshow.com; 301/865-6804.

Fly fishing class — March28, 1p.m., Freestate Fly Fishers, Davidsonville (Md.) Family Recreation Center. Free to club members, nonmembers $20. Information: Bob Smith, 410/544-4411; Mike Price, 410/320-0080.

Striper shore fishing contest — April3, Sandy Point State Park, near Annapolis. The Capital Longcasters sponsor this rockfish event on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. First place is guaranteed $500. All stripers must measure 18 inches or more. Registration ends March31. Entry form, information: longcasters.org.

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

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