- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2006

The Zebco fishing tackle company has begun an industry-wide program it calls Operation F.I.S.H. (Fishermen In Support of Hurricane relief) that it hopes will help restore sportfishing species affected by various hurricanes wreaking havoc along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas in 2005.

Operation F.I.S.H. is an idea that could help raise huge sums of money if other sportfishing companies get in on the effort.

Critical rebuilding years lie ahead for coastal fisheries that were battered by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, and Zebco has taken its program to the FishAmerica Foundation, the conservation and research arm of the American Sportfishing Association. The ASA, which has lots of skill dealing with grass-roots fisheries projects, has agreed to administer the Operation F.I.S.H program.

Zebco says it has commissioned the design of a special Operation F.I.S.H. ball cap to be used as the primary fundraising item. The navy-colored caps are embroidered with a custom logo that incorporates the Operation F.I.S.H. name and the hurricane symbol but no Zebco logos. The hats will be sold for donations by anglers and interested individuals who want to assist this Gulf Coast rebuilding cause.

The Game Headwear company has agreed to provide the hats at cost, and Mailing Services Inc. of Richmond will assist with getting the hats out. FishAmerica will collect the donations and manage the selection of Gulf Coast projects and how the money should be spent.

To kick off sales, Zebco already has purchased and donated the first 1,000 hats.

“Fishing guides, retailers and angler friends were reporting the devastation even before the worst of Katrina had hit,” said Bob Bagby, Zebco’s vice president of marketing. “Then came Rita and Wilma. The impact was as personal to us as it was business, and we wanted to do something to help.”

Operation F.I.S.H. hats are available for a minimum donation of $20 each. Check the Web at www.fishamerica.org if you want to order online. Companies interested in purchasing and donating hats should contact the FishAmerica Foundation at [email protected] or phone 703/519-9691.

Perch meeting site moved — If you’re planning to attend the final public hearing tonight at 7 concerning the commercial netting of yellow perch in the Choptank and Nanticoke rivers, be advised that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has moved the original Eastern Shore site from the County Commissioners Office to Sailwinds Park, 200 Byrn St. in Cambridge.

Help is needed to defeat a controversial plan to allow the netting of yellow perch in these rivers because the perch population everywhere else in the state has dropped. Sport anglers are needed tonight in Cambridge even if they never fish for the species. The Coastal Conservation Association’s Maryland division says this is only the beginning of a marathon run to end the DNR’s institutional bias against recreational fishermen.

Remember, the state’s politicians are watching. Sport fishermen need to send them and the DNR a message that they won’t take it any longer.

Saltwater license in Delaware? — The national Recreational Fishing Alliance passes along a message about the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) moving to establish a saltwater fishing license for anyone who fishes in Delaware’s marine waters. The RFA said this license actually would be valid for both fresh- and saltwater fishing. If the governor signs a bill to create such a license, nonresidents can expect to pay $15 to $20 a year.

The RFA hopes that if the license becomes reality, the money received through it will be used to build fishing piers and boat ramps.

Yeah, right! Ask Maryland how all of its saltwater license funds are spent. Certainly not enough is for new piers and ramps.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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