- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

May I suggest we simply use a little common sense about the current wave of hysteria brought about by some Chesapeake Bay rockfish found to contain ugly skin lesions?

A story in another newspaper really shook up the Maryland Department of Natural Resources but not because the reporter discovered something new. No, striped bass with skin lesions and sores have been seen in the Chesapeake Bay for several years. So this was no revelation but insinuations that beg to be talked about.

For starters, the fish that suffer from what is known as mycobacteriosis are not nearly as common as some would have you believe. And the cause of mycobacteria continues to be argued.

On Tuesday, the Maryland departments of Natural Resources, Environment, Health and Mental Hygiene and Agriculture released a joint statement about the bacteria affecting stripers in the Chesapeake, hoping to correct information reported in The Washington Post. The statement said the bay’s rockfish are safe to eat when thoroughly cooked. It also said not to eat uncooked rockfish or any fish that show open, red lesions on the body or those with signs of hemorrhage or dark patches in the fillets.

You’re not going to contract a disease if you touch a sick fish long, but you should follow normal practices of hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water and do it frequently.

The state says that mycobacteriosis has not seriously impacted striped bass populations in the Chesapeake Bay and does not presented a public health concern. But the scientists, including some from the federal government, are studying occurrences of mycobacteriosis and will sound an alarm if necessary.

However, the causes of this fish illness are as varied as the number of people with opinions on the subject: water quality problems, poor nutrition, low oxygen levels in certain parts of the Chesapeake, a rockfish overload in the bay (yes, too many stripers) or fish that were stressed in nets and then released. The list goes on and on, and I have a feeling that all of the given reasons play a part.

If you want more information check out www.dnr.state.md.us/dnrnews/infocus/striped_bass_health.asp.

Meanwhile, I jigged for catch-and-release stripers in the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power station area of the bay two days ago with charter captain “Walleye” Pete Dahlberg (703/395-9955) and many rockfish were hooked. None of them showed any signs of illness. All were beautiful fish without a mark on them. By the way, despite the wind, the cliffs shielded us nicely.

A whopping yellow perch — The Maryland DNR’s Keith Lockwood says Phillip Deere of Delta, Pa., fished in a pond in Harford County on Saturday using a nightcrawler on a small jig. When the line moved and he set the hook, it turned out to be a yellow perch — a whopper that was the fourth largest caught in the United States. At 3 pounds, 5 ounces, Deere’s perch easily beat the 2-pound, 63/4-ounce Maryland freshwater record caught in Deep Creek Lake in 1983.

Talking about yellow perch, Mark Millich fished the Occoquan River on the Virginia side of the Potomac last weekend.

“The water temperatures fluctuated between 47 and 48 degrees,” he wrote. “We started catching some perch on both minnows and Silver Buddies. We kept just enough to make a nice meal. Most of the perch we caught still had eggs.”

Other perch news came from the Patuxent River in Waysons Corner, Md., and depending on who did the talking, the fishing was great or poor. The same goes for Allen’s Fresh and the Mattawoman in Charles County, where strands of perch roe have been seen in the upper shallows. That means the females have done their job. The sun will do the rest.

Lake Anna action good — At Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, Va., the bass have been biting from the nuclear power plant to the upper lake, including the backs of creeks. Some of the bass have been in less than three feet of water, jumping on various jerkbaits, medium-depth crankbaits or slow-rolled spinnerbaits.

Finally, the horrible wind — We haven’t been able to do any decent bass fishing over the past several days because of the horrible winds, but fish can be caught up and down the tidal parts of the Potomac if it ever stops blowing.

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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