- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

If you don’t believe it’s all about money, check out the FLW Outdoors organization that underwrites bass, walleye, redfish and kingfish tournaments. It now has come up with a new idea the fishing world could do without: striped bass tournaments.

Two of them are scheduled for our region. One will be in Cambridge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore on Nov. 4. A championship event will be at Virginia Beach on Dec. 7-9.

This is the same outfit that brags about its high success rate in live-release bass tournaments in the tidal Potomac River even when the water temperature in the contestants’ boat livewells reaches 90 degrees. How many bass do you believe will have died a day or two after suffering the extreme stress of being confined in hot water for six to eight hours? For those who believe FLW’s 98-percent survival rate claims, listen up.

What do you think will happen when the quickest-to-die species in the Chesapeake Bay is the object of the money grubbers’ affection? Rockfish never do well in the tight confinement of a livewell box. Stress a striper and it’s a goner no matter how hard the aerator pumps water.

All the same, the FLW says its $1 million striped bass tournament circuit kicks off June 3. It will feature seven $125,000 qualifying tournaments on Saturdays, plus a $150,000 championship. Teams ranging in size from two to four anglers will compete for a top award of $20,000 in each qualifier and as much as $50,000 based on boat and engine bonuses from sponsors. The top 25 teams from each qualifier advance to a three-day championship, where they will compete for a share of $150,000, including a top award of $50,000.

In the striper qualifying tournaments, each team is allowed to weigh in two fish ranging from 28 to 34 inches (unless local regulations dictate otherwise). How many will face delayed mortality when released after anglers play the culling game. The FLW says the fish must be kept in new keep-alive boxes developed by FLW Outdoors that will be available for purchase or rented during registration.

FLW says the boxes will allow all FLW striper tournaments to be catch-and-release events “thus helping to protect the nation’s striped bass population and ensure a vibrant fishery for generations to come. Teams will be charged a two-pound penalty for any fish that is not weighed in alive.”

Good luck with that. Having fished for striped bass in the Chesapeake for nearly 50 years, I have yet to see even one striper survive an all-day fishing trip in a livewell, even a big one.

It’s all about money, nothing else.

License costs to rise — A finance committee of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommends a regulation amendment that would increase hunting, trapping and fishing license fees by $5. The increase would not apply to licenses for anyone younger than 16. The proposed increase would go into effect July 1. Virginia points out that this would be the first increase since 1988.

The Board of Game and Inland Fisheries unanimously agreed that an increase will be needed to address a projected deficit situation by fiscal year 2007. Increased revenue would pay for repairs to dams, as well as renovations at the Coursey Springs Fish Cultural Station, which supplies 40 percent of the state’s stocked trout. Money is also needed for maintenance of buildings and heating/air condition upgrades.

A public comment period is open until June 1. Go to the department’s Web site at www.dgif.virginia.gov for e-mail and postal addresses to let your voice be heard. The Board is scheduled to take final action at its June 20 meeting in Richmond.

Another menhaden boat added — The news has traveled up and down the Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia’s commercial fishing fleet will grow by one vessel as a new menhaden season gets under way for the reduction fishing industry. The Omega Protein Company will add yet another netting boat to its 10-boat Chesapeake fleet.

Ready for a laugh? The Omega Company says adding an 11th vessel does not mean the company will catch more fish. Oh? It wasn’t intended to provide sightseeing cruises, was it?

Conservation and sport fishing groups have warned for years that Omega’s multimillion metric-ton removals of the oily baitfish are seriously depleting the Chesapeake of perhaps the most important link in the bay’s food chain.

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

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