- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2004

If the Maryland Legislature goes along with two bills that would make the state’s 214-person Natural Resources Police (NRP) field force part of the State Police, it might be the best thing that’s ever happened to fish and game law enforcement.

It is no secret that the current lord over the NRP, the Department of Natural Resources, has certain high-dollar staffers who soft-pedal law enforcement in deference to commercial fishermen but don’t mind crackdowns on little guys who stand along the shore, casting a line in hopes of catching a fish. If that fish happens to be one-eighth of an inch too short, it can result in a fine. All this while commercial netters keep a bunch of illegal fish under the rubric of bycatch and bykill, which means a certain amount of your catch can be too short or dead even if it would cost recreational anglers dearly were they to do the same.

The apparent inequity in law enforcement can be blamed partially on not having enough NRP officers to patrol and check all the stakeholders, and recently hired NRP members who wouldn’t know a wood duck from a largemouth bass.

Heck, I met a youthful NRP cop who didn’t know that a Chesapeake Bay fishing license, Virginia tidal license or Potomac River Fisheries Commission license would be equally acceptable in the state’s tidal waters.

Be that as it may, the majority of the NRP force firmly understands the recreational fishing and hunting sector’s concerns, and these officers want us to know that without the occasional interference run by DNR officials they could enforce our laws far more equitably.

It is also believed that a merger with the State Police would save taxpayer dollars, as well as enhance efficiency in law enforcement. As it stands now, only the NRP and the State Police have statewide police powers.

The NRP cops I’ve talked to claim that 90 percent of the force is in favor of the merger, and they would appreciate the public’s support. On Tuesday, the legislature’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee will consider Senate Bill 811. If you’re in favor of the NRP/State Police merger, let your state senator know.

If you’re against it — well, my guess is that the lads in uniform hope you’ve forgotten some overzealous NRP recruit who moved in on you while you were fishing as if he’d just recognized Ted Bundy, the serial killer.

After all, what we want from the NRP is a fair deal. If a waterman breaks the law, nail him. And if a recreational angler or hunter ignores the law, do likewise.

Don’t make recreational fishermen insist on meeting with the superintendent of the NRP to complain about one of his people, as we once did when Col. John Rhoads headed the NRP. It was all about a new member of his force who did his best to imitate Mayberry’s Barney Fife and along the way ticked off dozens of Potomac River anglers.

Longer hours at Little Seneca — Tom Pinckney, the Montgomery County muskie hunter, says the county’s planning board and parks management has agreed to change its present sundown closing time for the popular Little Seneca Lake (off Route 117, near Boyds, 301/972-9396). Effective April1, anglers can fish a little longer. Official daily closing time after that will be one hour past official sunset. That’s quite an improvement over sundown closings. The longer fishing time is ideal to catch species that like low light rather than bright skies and sun.

Be mindful that the extended fishing time is on a trial basis, so when you visit Little Seneca Lake, be sure you’re off the water as directed. Future relations with the people who make the rules are at stake.

On a related subject, if you’re at your computer today, check out Pinckney’s Web site, toothycritters.com, because you’ll see something you wouldn’t expect from a body of water that sits within close proximity to hundreds of thousands of residents.

St. Mary’s County boating course — The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will conduct a boating course at the Guy Brothers Marine store in Clements, Md., (Route 234), March16, 18, 23 and 25, 6 to 8p.m. A test is March30. The course costs $20 for study material. Call Francis Guy, 301/475-9774 for information.

EVENTS

• Fishing & Outdoor Show — Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Izaak Walton League, Waldorf, Md. Information: Don Gardiner, 301/645-3323; [email protected]

Trout Unlimited chapter fund-raiser — Saturday, 6 p.m., dinner at 9, Tysons Westpark Hotel. Registration: nvatu.org.

• St. Mary’s (Md.) County boating course — March 16, 18, 23, 25, 6 to 8 p.m., Guy Brothers Marine, Clements on Route 234. Coast Guard Auxiliary course, $20 for material. Test given March 30. Information: Francis Guy, 301/475-9774.

• Ducks Unlimited casino night — March 19, 6:30 p.m., Fairview Park Marriott, Falls Church. The DU State Convention Awards Banquet is March 20, same place, 6 p.m. Information: Mike Hinton, 202/720-1764.

• National Capital Angling Show — March 20, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Landon School, Bethesda, sponsored by the National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Exhibits, vendors, fly tying clinics, rod and gear swap, auctions, raffles, license sales. Information: ncc-tu.org or 202/966-5923.

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

• Baltimore Antique Arms Show — March 20 to 21, 9 a.m., Maryland State Fairgrounds, Timonium. Information: baltimoreshow.com; 301/865-6804.

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

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