- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

It’s enough to give everybody a king-size nightmare. Mark Freeman, of the Mail Tribune in Medford, Ore., says if you’re a waterfowl hunter, you might soon be adding latex gloves, bottles of bleach and cooking thermometers to your regular hunting gear.

Yes, these days thoughts of an avian flu outbreak in North America are on every waterfowler’s mind.

Freeman says, “Concerns that the H5N1 avian virus, also known as Asian bird flu, might reach North America through migratory birds has waterfowl experts and health officials warning hunters that they need to protect themselves if the virus shows up here.”

Can you imagine that happening anywhere in the United States, including us in the waterfowl-rich Chesapeake Bay and its dozens of rivers, creeks, bays and coves that are dotted with hunting blinds? During the various duck and goose hunting seasons, hundreds of decoy rigs could be attracting birds, some of which might carry the virus.

Yes, this is a doomsday supposition that might never materialize, but it needs to be thought and talked about.

Thus far, the Asian bird flu has not been found on this continent. And, as Freeman accurately points out, it has not yet become a threat to people or poultry, which seem to be most affected. But Freeman has good reason to be concerned. His area’s wild waterfowl is part of the Pacific Flyway, which will have to be particularly monitored because Alaskan birds readily meet and mix with Asian birds and they then could move down into the flyway. As we already know, the virus has been most prevalent in Asia, so if there’s a show of early concern, Alaska and the Pacific Flyway will be the focus of it all.

Already there’s talk of wearing gloves when field-dressing waterfowl and washing knives in a bleach solution after finishing. If the virus is ever found here, it would also mean washing and disinfecting decoys and hip boots or waders.

Even though the early advice is that you should make sure that all your waterfowl is fully cooked before eating it, I already have decided not to be the first to eat any of it. What a bummer.

Free fishing seminar — The Coastal Conservation Association, Northern Virginia Chapter, will host its Seventh Annual Spring Fishing Super Seminar on April 12. The event will be at the Vienna Fire House located at the corner of Center Street and Cherry Street in Vienna. It starts at 6:30 p.m. and will feature Capt. Ferrell McLain of BAYFISH Sport Fishing Charters, Reedville, Va., discussing spring trolling techniques for citation stripers and also Capt. Jim Travis, Martha’s Vineyard, discussing fly & light tackle techniques for spring fishing on the East Coast. We also will have door prizes, raffles & refreshments. Open to the public, free of charge. Join the CCA that night and receive a free CCA hat. Contact Rob Allen at 703/626-2668 with questions.

Striper day at Bass Pro Shops — Bass Pro Shops, near Baltimore, will have a “Striper Saturday” this weekend. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it’s all geared to the April 15 opening of the Maryland trophy rockfish season. Experts in every field of striper fishing, from light tackle to heavy-duty trolling in the entire Chesapeake Bay and even reservoirs, will be on hand to pass along a wealth of knowledge. It’s free. Take advantage of it. Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World is located at Arundel Mills just off Route 100, Exit 10, near Hanover.

Life jackets for kids — A new Maryland law governing personal flotation devices for children is now in effect. If a child is younger than four years old or weighs less than 50 pounds, the child must wear a PFD with specific additional safety features including a strap that is secured between the child’s legs to fasten together the front and back of the PFD. It should also have an inflatable headrest or high collar to keep the child’s head above water; and a web handle to ensure the ready accessibility of the child from a boat.

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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