- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Here are Christmas hopes and wishes I pray all our Outdoors column readers share:

I wish for the waters of the Chesapeake Bay again to teem with sea trout, menhaden, flounder, yellow perch and all the other fish species that haven’t been doing well of late. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner deserves a special round of applause for wanting to help the Chesapeake Bay with a massive commitment of money to upgrade waste treatment plants in his state and fund other water improvement projects.

I hope the leaders of Maryland and Virginia will begin to realize that recreational anglers in their states contribute far, far more money to local and federal tax coffers than the commercial fishing segment ever did or ever will. Why is it that both states seem to ignore the real economic importance of sport fishing yet kowtow to a small group of fish netters that is outnumbered 1,000-1 by recreational anglers but removes far more of our natural resources?

I wish that a number of animal rights organizations will be exposed for being little more than greedy money grubbers who annually take in millions of dollars yet do absolutely nothing to help animals. They do, however, care a great deal for their own kind who run the various money-collection clubs. Handsome salaries are paid to their presidents and directors, and an unknowing public supports all this with donation checks. Hoo, boy!

(Don’t include on this list the small, independent county and city humane societies that are staffed with dedicated people and volunteers who help find homes for abandoned cats and dogs and who keep a watchful eye on those who would mistreat animals. These groups are not related to the wealthy Humane Society of the United States, which is interested primarily in stopping the hunting of wild game but most likely doesn’t really care whether Fido has a warm bed to sleep in.)

I hope the price of gasoline will decline more. The operation of a recreational boat or self-contained camper unit is becoming so costly we have to think of curtailing certain trips and outings. I know I’m being joined by many others who face similar tough choices.

I hope my longtime fishing and hunting partner, Dean Lee, who now lives in Savannah, Ga., wears his life vest every time he goes out into the saltwater creeks and bays down there in a 10-foot aluminum boat. What is he thinking, and why isn’t he listening to his wife?

I wish my favorite football team, the Redskins, all the best in the years to come. However, my favorite coach, Joe Gibbs, seems to wear a look on his face that says, “What am I doing in Washington? I wish I was back in North Carolina in my waterfront home on Lake Norman.” Am I just imagining this or do you feel the same?

Finally, I wish all of our trout anglers an 8-pound rainbow; our bass fishermen, a 10-pound largemouth; our rockfish trollers, a 50-pound striper; our deer hunters, a 16-point typical buck that weighs 250 pounds; our hikers, unimpeded trails from coast to coast; and for all the rest of us, a Merry Christmas.

• 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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