- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I don’t understand why tidal Potomac River fishing of every type is in need of a special commission to set rules and regulations. The river is owned by the state of Maryland, which does a fine job managing the other waters within its border.

Why is there a need for the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC), and why is the commission headquartered in Colonial Beach, Va.?

I know part of the why. It dates back to the days of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. When Ike was running things, oystermen and commercial netters from both states occasionally fought over who would tong for oysters in the best river spots or who would set a net here and there. It got nasty enough for gunshots to be exchanged. When JFK was elected, the time had come to stop the Oyster Wars, as they were called.

Peace was established through the formation of a bi-state commission — the PRFC — that would allocate catch limits, establish laws and regulations and enter into recreational fishing laws and issue its own fishing licenses. Over time it became obvious the PRFC cared more for the commercial sector than anything else. How do I know? I’ve talked to Maryland and Virginia watermen and asked them how they would feel if the PRFC were abolished and the river were returned to its rightful owner — Maryland.

“No way,” one of the white-booted fish netters said. “If Maryland ran the river, we wouldn’t be as well off. The PRFC looks out for us.”

Who didn’t know that!

Meanwhile, take a look at the current levels of commercial fish catches and how they have declined. Still, you can bet there will be just as many nets strung out as ever.

The 2004 commercial rockfish catch was 772,333 pounds, while the 2005 commercial catch dropped to 530,924 pounds. Check the croker fishery, which for many recreational anglers was almost nonexistent last year. In 2004, the netters caught 1,631,596 pounds; in 2005 it dropped to 481,882 pounds.

In 2004, 131,605 pounds of tasty Norfolk spot were caught, but by end of 2005 the catch had dropped to 95,350 pounds.

Reductions in catches also are noted for summer flounder, and alewife (river herring) had fallen from 19,739 pounds to 8,507 pounds. Drops in catches showed up among the yellow perch, from nearly 4,000 pounds in 2004 to just less than 2,000 pounds in 2005.

Catch increases, which surely will not last, were made for bluefish, white perch and Spanish mackerel. There’s also a new fishery under way for blue catfish. None was recorded in 2004, but 21,884 pounds of blue “cats” were valued dockside at no more than $4,377.

Since nobody is shooting live ammo because one tonger got more oysters than another, it’s time to abolish the PRFC and hand the river’s management back to Maryland where it belongs. After all, there aren’t any oysters left to fight over.

Workshop for fishing beginners — The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries offers a workshop designed for beginning anglers April 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at C.F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area in Fauquier County. Classes will cover casting, knot tying, rigging lures and bait, fishing techniques and fish biology. There will be an opportunity to fish at the WMA’s pond, where bass, bluegills and catfish can be hooked.

Lunch, rods, reels, tackle and bait will be provided. You must be at least 8 years old. Participants 15 and younger must be accompanied by an adult, and those older than 16 must have a valid Virginia freshwater fishing license. The cost is $20. Hurry and register by April 5 because space is limited.

For more information or to register, call Chris Dunnavant at 804/367-6778; e-mail [email protected]

EVENTS

• Bowhunters Society banquet — Saturday, 1 to 6 p.m. The Maryland Bowhunters Society invites the public to its annual banquet/bull roast at Michael’s, just outside the Baltimore Beltway in Glen Burnie. There will be raffles, live and silent auctions, seminars and a free archery range for kids. Go to www.marylandbowhunterssociety.org or call Ron Kunz (410/643-6966) to register and get directions.

• Baltimore Antique Arms Show — Saturday-Sunday, opens 9 a.m. each day at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. Visit exhibitors from across the United States, Canada and Europe with 950 tables of antique arms, swords and militaria for display and sale. Admission: $5. Information: www.baltimoreshow.com or 301/865-6804.

[[Bullet]Trout Unlimited fishing show — March 25, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Landon School in Bethesda. Featured guest is Gary Borger, but there also will be other experts speaking about every type of fly-fishing. More information and directions: www.ncc-tu.com.

Fishing fair — April 1-2, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Solomons, Md., firehouse. More than 65 display tables of fishing tackle and electronics, new and used boats, food and drink. Admission: $2. Information: www.mssasmc.com.

m Wilderness first aid — April 1-2, in Alexandria, 18-hour class in Wilderness first aid. The course includes classroom study and hands-on practice for a two-year certification. The cost is $160. Registration on a first-come basis. Information: 703/836-8905 or wfa.net.

m Bay Country Boat Show — April 8-9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Dept. in St. Mary’s County. This show has typical Southern Maryland flavor: lots of fishing boats and vendors who will sell everything from nautical wood carvings to Southern Maryland stuffed ham, fried oysters and other foods. Admission is $3. Exhibitors who want outside space, call Russ Millar, 301/373-5468; for indoor exhibit space call Tom Kemp, 301/373-3071. General information: [email protected]

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

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