- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Are water courtesy and good manners things of the past?

A letter from a reader who had an unpleasant confrontation while fishing in the Patuxent River about a week ago reminds me of an occurrence on the Potomac River when a commercial fisherman threatened a bassboater, a large man who doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

The man approached a tidal fishing area near Greenway Flats, south of Marshall Hall, when a waterman in a dirty Carolina Skiff approached and told him to stay out because he had nets there. “I don’t see your markers,” said the bass angler who knew net locations had to be plainly marked. The commercial man pulled a gun from under his console and said, “Is this enough of a marker?”

The bass hunter reached into his jacket pocket and came out with a revolver, aimed it at the netter, and told him, “You have two choices: leave or shoot. If you shoot, I’m taking you with me.”

The waterman left.

Have we gone completely insane? Gunplay on a fishing river?

Meanwhile, our reader Kyle Martin was with his father, fishing from a boat, hoping to find a few yellow perch up around Wayson’s Corner in an area that frequently sees bank and pier fishermen under the Hills Bridge (Route 4), on the Prince George’s/Anne Arundel line.

Martin wrote, “My father and I were fishing when we were basically assaulted by shore fishermen. They were fishing with bottom rigs for perch [and I guess] they thought it was funny to see how close they could cast their rigs to us without actually hitting my father’s $25,000 bass boat.

“When we finally said something to them after the second [sinker rig] came within feet of the boat, they wanted us to come over [to the shore] and say it. I said, ‘Could you please watch how close you are getting to us?’ and one guy’s response was, ‘I bet you won’t say that to my face.’”

Martin wisely chose to end the argument and depart. “My father raised me to be respectful to others that we share the water with,” he wrote, remembering how he, too, has fished from shorelines of lakes and rivers.

However, Martin’s experience prompted him to wonder if bank fishermen hate people in boats because they don’t have one.

I sure hope not.

Martin, by far, was the better man when he refused to be drawn into a possible fight. “I let the boat drift downstream,” he recalled, “and got away from ‘beered-up’ guys.”

What would you have done? Call the cops? They couldn’t have done a whole lot since all the shoreline anglers needed to do is deny the charges. The cops couldn’t prove otherwise unless they actually saw it.

Martin did the right thing. The trouble is, what would I have done, considering the temper I inherited from my impatient ancestors? I hope it would have been the same course of action Martin chose.

Slight decline in waterfowl — Maryland has finished its annual 2004 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey and 781,300 waterfowl were counted. It represents a small decline from the 798,000 seen in 2003. Diminished use of federal aircraft because of budget cutbacks reduced the survey coverage. In fact, had the state been able to count the birds in all sectors of Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, perhaps the overall count would have been the same or better than last year.

Total dabbling ducks in the survey were estimated at 94,300, an increase from the 68,400 seen in 2003. Mallards increased, as did black ducks, Americana widgeon and even pintails.

However, canvasback duck numbers were lower this winter — 30,800 versus 40,000 in 2003. Ruddy ducks were down, but scaup increased by 40,000 over the 66,600 counted last year.

Canada geese this year numbered 355,200 despite reduced survey coverage.

A question of gun rights — Reader Dean Lee, who sees our newspaper on The Times’ Web page down in Savannah, Ga., sent an e-mail questioning the District’s recent conundrum dealing with the right to own a gun. As you know, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Republican-Utah, introduced language that would have removed D.C.’s decades-old gun prohibition because it goes against the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Lee asked, “What part of ‘… the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’ do they not understand in D.C.?”

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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