- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I was astonished last summer when a group of fishermen, the Concerned Bass Anglers of Virginia, stocked the tidal Chickahominy River with 100,000 fingerling bass. The reason was simple enough. The “Chick,” as its known to the bassin’ crowd, has been a real stinker of late as far as largemouth bass catches are concerned.

However, John Odenkirk, the top regional fisheries biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, says stocking isn’t needed because the tidal Chickahominy, James and Rappahannock rivers saw “good to excellent” reproduction and recruitment recently — particularly in 2004 and 2005.

So what’s the deal with privately funded fish stocking? Shouldn’t it be the state’s job to deal with the condition of the fisheries under its jurisdiction?

My concern with this group — surely a proactive, fund-raising bunch — is the eventual hope for a bass stamp. It would be yet another tax on top of the license money the state gets now. As long as Odenkirk says the reproduction of the bass is good, even excellent, I see no reason for such a stamp.

But one reader/e-mailer recently pointed out that the Concerned Bass Anglers of Virginia, who want to look into having a special stamp, primarily are bass tournament fishermen — hence a bass stamp could provide the funds to keep contestants’ fish catches pretty much assured. Wonder how they would feel about special fees being imposed on competition groups? I think that would be a great idea.

Let’s establish a formula of charges. Whenever someone wants to conduct a bass tournament, certain funds would have to be deposited, all of which would be spent on replenishing and improving the bass fishery. Fees could be staggered to keep from hurting small, local clubs but would rise suitably to hit the wallets of the mega-tournament organizers. who soon would realize public waters no longer can be depended on to give profit-making tournament groups a free ride.

My worry is that the Virginia and Maryland governments care entirely too much about accommodating tournament fishing groups. I never could understand that, unless the states believe a tournament might enrich local motels, fast-food joints and gas stations.

Incidentally, the CBAV would like a voluntary 14-inch minimum size limit on bass until June1. Why not make it a unilateral 15-inch minimum throughout the year? As a recreational angler, I wouldn’t care whether the states imposed such minimums, but all too many tournament organizers are afraid there would be events in which more than half of the contestants would give the sign of the skunk when they returned to “weigh-in” headquarters.

If the CBAV is truly concerned, it should want no fishing tournaments during the hot months of the year, when bass mortality is bound to climb. Also, it should want no tournaments when bass are on their spawning beds. That would show true concern.

Fishing bill passes Senate — The U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last week reported out legislation that re-authorizes the nation’s most important marine fisheries law. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2005 included several provisions promoted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Marine Conservation Working Group, which includes all major fishing organizations in the United States.

The committee’s action sets the stage for Senate passage of a bill that will have a significant impact on marine fisheries conservation and recreational saltwater fishing.

“The Magnuson-Stevens Act … is a strong bill that will go a long way to improving marine fisheries management,” said Bob Hayes of the Coastal Conservation Association. Hayes, who is co-chairman of the conservation working group, added, “The inclusion of key sportfishing provisions is a testament to what can be accomplished when sportsmen-conservationists come together to make their voice heard on conservation issues.”

What does it mean? The proper allocation of fisheries will be addressed, and the desires of recreational saltwater anglers will not be overlooked.

Check out trcp.org/ch_marineconservation.aspx to see additional legislative details.

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

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