- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Over the years, many of us come away with the notion that all is not right in Florida. Remember the hanging ballot chads during the last presidential election and the state’s apparent inability to count votes?

Now, Florida has amended a state senate bill that would include the creation of a special automobile license plate, and guess who would reap the profits from the sale of such a plate? The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) — one of the most virulent anti-hunting, anti-fishing groups in the land.

Please do not confuse the HSUS with your neighborhood Humane Society chapters that care for and help find families for dogs and cats. The HSUS doesn’t have room for heretofore unwanted pets. No, all it wants is money so it can fight recreational hunting and, increasingly, also fishing. It’s a shame the two names often are grouped together when they really aren’t related.

The alarm about Florida’s latest wackiness was sounded by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, a national sportsmen advocacy organization. It is asking Florida hunters and anglers help to stop legislation that would provide funding to the HSUS.

During the rush before the legislature’s adjournment on May1, Senate Bill 2020 was amended to include an “Animal Friend” special license plate. The profits derived from the special plate were to go to the HSUS. The bill was amended and passed by the House and Senate within a five day period, between April26 and April30, but never allowed sportsmen’s organizations to provide information to legislators about the HSUS.

Rob Sexton, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance’s vice president for government affairs, said, “Through license fees and taxes on firearms, ammunition and fishing tackle, [Florida] hunters and anglers invest nearly $50 million annually in conservation programs in the state. The legislature must not have known that they were providing taxpayer funds to an organization that wants to destroy the wildlife management system that has resulted in thriving wildlife and abundant recreational opportunities.”

Slow smallmouth bass fishing? — The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says smallmouth bass fishing in the state’s upland rivers — the Shenandoah, James and Rappahannock, for example — might be a little slower than normal this year. VDGIF biologist Scott Smith said this is a natural occurrence and related more to climate than anything else. Fisheries biologists have been monitoring smallmouth bass populations for some time now and one of the things they learned was the numbers of fish tend to fluctuate from year to year, depending upon how many young fish were produced the previous year. It appears that in many of Virginia’s rivers, the amount of water during the spawning season affects how many young bass are produced that year. As normal flows occur in May and June, there will be plenty of smallies, but if the water is too high or too low, fewer bass are produced.

Based on VDGIF records, there hasn’t been a normal flow year for several years now. Depending upon the particular river, the last good spawning year for smallmouth bass was 1997 or 1998. What all of this means to the angler is there aren’t a lot of young fish in the rivers, but still plenty enough to keep you occupied. It’s just that not as good as during some years in the past.

The smallmouth bass that hatched in 1997 and 1998 should be 12 to 17 inches long this year, or even a little bigger. The fish from 1993 should be approaching 20 inches. So, while you may not catch 50 smallmouth a day, you still have a better than average chance of catching a pretty nice fish or two, says the VDGIF.

Rockville shooters tops — Here’s an item I had misplaced, but it’s not too late to salute a group of young shooters from Montgomery County.

Miles Greenbaum, of the Rockville chapter of the Izaak Walton League, sent us word the chapter’s juniors (ages 8 to 15) once again swept the Maryland State Indoor BB-Gun Championship shoot in Germantown last month. Top honors went to Ryan Harris (first place with a score of 372) and his sister, Robin (second, scoring 367), with third place going to Luke Kordell (357). Coaches Frank Markus and Ed Compton will be taking a group of the juniors to the International BB-Gun Championships in Bowling Green, Ky., in July.

Congratulations and good luck to them all.

EVENTS

Free Annapolis boat show — Tomorrow through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Annapolis Harbor, 309 Third Street. Multihull Magazine and the Chesapeake Catamaran Center present America’s largest catamaran show. New and used cruising “cats” from 30 to 60 feet, plus seminars, prizes, food and demonstrations. On-site financing. Information: 800/228-2010 or [email protected]

Sporting Clays Classic — May 21-22, Pintail Point, Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Benefits the National Kidney Foundation. May 21, 5 to 8 p.m., sponsors party at Pintail Point’s Manor House. May 22, 10 a.m., registration, beginners clinic and shooting lessons, followed by lunch and entertainment. Competitive shooting starts at 1:30 p.m. with 100 targets, 17 stations (shells provided). Prizes include trophies, snow goose, quail and pheasant hunts. Four-shooter team, $1,000; individual entry, $250. Registration: Claudia Hartmann, 202/244-7900, ext. 18; hartmannkidneywdc.org

Freestate Fly Fishers spring outing — May 22, Trappe Pond State Park, Laurel, Del. Caravan assembles 7 a.m. at MacDonald’s on Route 50 east, before Bay Bridge. Information: Don Fitzhugh at [email protected] or 301/261-5799.

Surf fishing school — Sept. 9-12, Oct. 21-24, Outer Banks in Nags Head, N.C. Each session is scheduled to coincide with productive fishing periods. Pro guides Joe Malat and Mac Currin are instructors. Cost: $250. Contact Malat, 252/441-4767; [email protected] Motel reservations, 800/334-3302.

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

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