- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It had to happen. After public outcries about impropriety and reckless spending of funds, the board chairman of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, Dan Hoffler, has resigned.

Hoffler, who was appointed by Gov. Mark R. Warner in 2002, is a Virginia Beach real estate developer who, along with several other game department officials, is embroiled in accusations of mismanagement and the improper spending of department funds.

It all began when he and three VDGIF higher-ups went on an African safari in September 2004. Although Hoffler eventually paid for the junket to South Africa and Zimbabwe, charges were made that a game department credit card was used to outfit the safari with clothing and gear. Hoffler paid $40,000 to cover the cost of the trip in an attempt to silence critics, but hunters and anglers in the state wouldn’t let the episode rest because of persistent accusations that other game and inland fisheries managers have long abused the VDGIF funds that are provided by the taxes derived from the sale of certain sporting goods and the fees charged for hunting, fishing and boating licenses.

A Virginian-Pilot review of department spending records showed that officials regularly traveled to conventions, bought expensive sporting goods and routinely exceeded limits on their state-issued charge cards. The Norfolk newspaper said that from January 2003 to February 2004, VDGIF leaders traveled to six conventions, including trips to Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., adding that in most cases the same four VDGIF officials made the trips: Hoffler, executive director William L. Woodfin Jr., Col. Terry C. Bradbery and Maj. Michael G. Caison.

Fly fishing in Virginia — The Virginia Fly Fishing Festival will be April 16-17 on the banks of the South River in Waynesboro. This annual festival is the largest fly fishing event in the state and draws anglers and vendors from across Virginia and a number of other states.

Special guests this year include fly angler Bob Clouser (of Clouser Minnow fame), plus many others. Fly tiers will demonstrate the latest techniques for both fresh and saltwater patterns. Tommy Lawhorne, vice president of the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and a guide on the South River, will be giving practical tips on how to succeed with finicky trout.

New this year is a casting pool with free casting instruction for children 12 and under. Also, limited adult instruction on how to effectively cast big flies will be handled by Clouser each morning, but it will cost $75. Bring your own rod and reel if you plan to spend time with Clouser.

Raffles will be held throughout the festival, with half of the profits to go toward South River conservation programs. Admission is $8; free for those 16 and under. Check the festival Web site, vaflyfishingfestival.org, for details.

Learn to talk turkey — Bass Pro Shops in the Arundel Mills shopping center in Hanover, Md., will have a “Turkey Weekend,” Friday through Sunday. Novices and veteran turkey hunters stand to learn a few new tricks from a flock of professionals assembled at the store all weekend.

Saturday is the big day. At 11 a.m.,Tracy Groves, using both diaphragm and friction calls, along with Kevin Smithon, using a box call, will teach you how to “run” a turkey call. Avery Pro Mark Hoke will conduct a half-hour mini-clinic on Saturday at 1 p.m. on locating and calling tom turkeys. Activities never stop in between certain clinics. The store even has arranged to have some live wild turkeys in the hunting section to test a caller’s ability.

Information: [email protected]

Conservation/fishing camp planned — Three state councils of Trout Unlimited — Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia — and the National Capital Chapter of TU want applications from high school students who wish to learn about cold-water conservation and trout fishing. The TUers are planning to have a week-long summer camp at Graves Mountain Lodge in the Blue Ridge, June 26 through July 1. It will cost $375, but some scholarships are available. Applications and more information can be found at tucamp.org.

The TU Conservation and Fishing Camp will introduce teenagers to effective conservation and catch and release angling. The camp, located on the Rose River, just outside of Shenandoah National Park, will be headed by veteran guide, instructor and ecologist Paul Kearney, the fishing manager at L.L. Bean in Tysons Corner. Campers will be able to fish the Rose and Rapidan rivers and the stocked waters at Graves Mountain Lodge.

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

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