- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Somebody please tell me how Charles County, Md., can have a number of boat launching ramps that can be used by anglers, crabbers and canoeing bird watchers totally free while the state of Maryland is on a “let’s stick it to them” binge, especially if you live on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay.

This year Maryland state parks that have boating facilities are going to charge more to launch a craft. If you’re a fisherman who uses the most popular launch raps in the state because the best bass fishing can be had in that area — Smallwood State Park in Charles County — you’ll pay twice as much as you did last year. In 2004 the fee will jump to $10.

Way to go, bloodsuckers. Here you have a state facility that draws visitors like a magnet, not because of your park but because of the great bass fishing in the nearby Potomac River and the park’s home creek, the Mattawoman. Smallwood’s testament to incompetence, the marina docks that the state hoped would draw a mass of boats into permanent slips, looks like a war zone. The dock walkways last summer were overgrown with weeds from nonuse, and there were enough seagull droppings on the wood planks to make you wonder who’s in charge — the birds or the taxpayer-supported park employees.

What really seems odd about this new tax — that’s what it is anyway you slice it — is the fact that facilities west of the Chesapeake will pay more as a rule than those on the Eastern Shore. For example, Point Lookout State Park’s boat launch fees will be $10 now; Somers Cove in Crisfield on the Eastern Shore will charge $7, Smallwood and Gunpowder $10, Janes Island $7. The Houck area of Cunningham Falls used to be free; now it’s $5.

And those of you who buy season passes also will shell out more money.

The reason for all that is anybody’s guess. We do know that no one polled the public about it. The fee increases did not have to be OK’d by the legislature, said a Department of Natural Resources insider. He believed the DNR’s State Forest & Parks bosses have blanket authority to “adjust the little things in life.”

Tell that to a dad or mom who lives from paycheck to paycheck and who enjoys taking a child out in a little boat. Tell people that the charge for launching the boat has jumped to $10 when it should have been free to begin with because the boaters with myriad taxes and fees have paid for these ramps many times over.

For shame, you DNR hotshots who apparently aren’t accountable to anyone.

Virginia gets menhaden bill — State Del. Terrie L. Suit (R-Chesapeake/Virginia Beach) has introduced House Bill No.446 that directs the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to prepare fishery regulations for one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most important and abused natural resources, menhaden.

Menhaden are not eaten by humans, but they are incredibly important to the Chesapeake. They’re the prime source of food for rockfish, bluefish, sea trout and other species. Last year a commercial operation based in Virginia harvested more than 261million pounds of menhaden from the Chesapeake Bay.

The Virginia Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association and the Recreational Fishing Alliance have wanted a legislative solution to address the declining menhaden stocks. Both groups support Suit and will push hard for HB 446. Recreational fishing brings more than $1.2billion to the Virginia economy and supports more than 11,000 jobs in the state. A serious reduction in the menhaden population not only hurts the stocks of important gamefish like striped bass, it forces these predators to eat other marine life such as crabs, clams, etc.

Menhaden also contribute to the quality of marine waters as they feed close to the surface, ingesting huge quantities of plankton and plant matter. This improves water quality and holds down algae growth.

Striper netters get new quota — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has announced that the January/February commercial striped bass drift net season’s daily catch limit of 500 pounds is rescinded and is replaced with a weekly catch limit of 2,500 pounds.

Striped bass must be checked in no later than 9p.m. on the day of the harvest, and all other current regulations remain in effect. The DNR secretary may, by public notice, close a season if the quota is projected to be caught by a certain date.

EVENTS

Capital Sportsmen’s Show — Jan.30 through Feb.1 at Dulles Expo Center, Chantilly, Va. Live deer displays, retrieving dogs, fishing seminars, casting pool, 3-D archery contest, Old Dominion Fly Fishing Show with fly tackle and specialty boats, conventional tackle, fishing guides and electronic equipment. Free gun locks will be given away at the show to promote home safety. Admission is $9 ($3 for children under 12; under 5 free.) Information: osegsportsmens.com.

Trout Unlimited chapter meeting — Feb.5, 7:30p.m., at Vienna (Va.) Volunteer Fire Department. Virginia fisheries biologist John Odenkirk will talk about the status of trout in the state. Information: nvatu.org.

Saltwater Sportsman seminar — Feb.7, 9a.m. to 4p.m., Annapolis High School’s Performing Arts Theater, 2700 Riva Road. A six-hour seminar that addresses where and how to catch fish, valuable tips and fishing techniques, local and national anglers, on-stage demonstrations, the latest tackle, visual teaching aids, closed circuit TV, plus door prizes. Registration: 800/448-7360.

Bass fishing flea market — Feb.7, 8a.m. to 1p.m., Hillendale Firehouse, Dale City, Va. New and used fishing tackle. Admission: $2; under 12 free.

CCA/Southern Maryland Winter BBQ — Feb.21, 6p.m., at new Izaak Walton League Hall, Waldorf, Md. Cost: $30 a person (includes an annual membership in the CCA, a $25 value). Information: Donald Gardiner, 301/645-3323 or 301/843-3719.

Fly Fishers buy, sell, swap meet — Feb.21, 9a.m. to 4p.m. at Davidsonville (Md.) Recreation Center. Fly fishing equipment can be purchased for pennies on the dollar. Information: Mike Price, 410/320-0080.

Wilderness first aid — March 6-7. Alexandria. An 18-hour class results in a two-year certification. The cost is $160. Registration, information: 703/836-8905; wfa.net.

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


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