- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bill Hilton, who lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va., but spends more time than most chasing after the James River’s blue catfish downstream of Richmond, says CPR is the way to help this sometimes abused fish species.

No, he’s not talking about pounding the fish’s belly or blowing life-giving oxygen into its oversized mouth. Hilton says if you want to preserve the James River as a trophy blue catfish river, then catch, photograph and release.

“Most all of the guides and local catfish fishermen [already] practice CPR,” said Hilton, who hopes that his CPR acronym will catch on and further help to protect these large catfish, which typically weigh 30 to 60 pounds as adults. Virginia recently passed a regulation that limits anglers to one 32-inch or longer blue catfish a day.

In recent years, the James — and to some extent the Rappahannock River and Kerr Reservoir — has seen a population explosion of this “bearded” character. Blue catfish possess tremendous strength and aren’t all that picky as far as food items are concerned, thus instantly making them a target species for fishermen who enjoy a real battle with a fish that can be hooked even while standing on shore.

Sadly, too many of the big blue catfish were hooked and kept. Several years ago, a sports shop owner in Fredericksburg showed me a trash dumpster not far from his store that contained six huge blue catfish.

“They only wanted recognition for the catches from us, then dumped the fish,” he said.

It was a sad state of affairs that now might come to an end.

As Bill Hilton says: practice CPR.

Fishing Hall of Fame adds five — The 2006 class for the International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame has been announced: John W. Anderson II, Charles Alma Baker, Bill Dance, Hidenori Onishi and Milton C. Shedd. They will be inducted in October, joining past inductees like Ernest Hemingway, Zane Grey, Curt Gowdy, Ted Williams and Lee Wulff.

Local anglers immediately recognize at least one of the names: Dance, who is credited with catching the first bass in Ray Scott’s 1967 All-American Bass Tournament (the forerunner to today’s Bassmaster Tournament Trail).

Dance also became one of the first full-time bass pros, won eight BASS tournaments between 1968 and 1970 and is the recipient of three BASS “angler of the year” titles. His successful TV show, “Bill Dance Outdoors,” has been on the air since 1968. He lives in Collierville, Tenn., near Memphis.

Anderson, of Palm Beach, Fla., is an internationally known big-game fisherman who was a five-year member of the U.S. Tuna Cup team. He also has been an IGFA Trustee since 1976.

Baker, a businessman and pioneer big-game angler in New Zealand, persuaded Grey to visit his country in 1926. The subsequently published account of this trip, “Tales of the Angler’s Eldorado New Zealand,” described the wonderful fishing available in the country. Baker worked with the Hardy brothers to design the first two-speed reel. He died in 1941.

Onishi was one of the founders of the Japan Game Fish Association in 1979 and the JGFA chairman until his death in 1998. He was a well-known proponent of billfish conservation, and he helped inaugurate JGFA’s successful tag-and-release program in 1985.

Shedd was a leading oceanographer, conservationist and one of the first anglers to participate in tagging studies. He pioneered live-bait casting for marlin, co-founded Sea World, helped create the UCLA Marine Science Center and in the early 1970s started the white seabass hatchery program. Before he died in 2002, Shedd lived in Newport Beach, Cal.

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

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