- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2008

With 2008 nearly gone and the new year about to begin, good and bad memories are easily recalled while a measure of apprehension is felt for the future.

As far as our recreational angling was concerned, the year was a complete success. I cannot remember another period in recent times when bass fishing in the nearby tidal Potomac River was better. The largemouths bit readily on a variety of artificial lures and there were days when we returned with tales of having caught and released 50 or more bass every time we slipped a boat into the water.

Good news also came by way of wonderful fishing for walleyes in the fresh waters of the Potomac, especially in the river stretch that is part of Washington County, but sadness continues about the plight of Virginia’s Shenandoah River. The waterway is the recipient of debilitating pollutants, and little is being done about it by the state.

Also on the downside was an ever-increasing number of Northern snakeheads - fish that do not belong in the tidal Potomac and a species that cannot possibly be good for the river because it will compete mightily with other predator species for whatever food is available. However, like the other 20-odd fish species that do not belong in this body of water, the unwelcome Chinese imports will find a niche in the Potomac and we’ll learn to live with the toothy critters.

On a happy note, in 2008 there were large numbers of trophy-sized striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay. We also welcomed freshly arriving hordes of bluefish that a few years ago had been only occasional visitors. On the sad side, the fishing for Atlantic croakers has seen better summers, but we’re hoping that the lack of “hardheads” is part of a cyclical event and that they’ll return in much better numbers next year or thereafter. Incidentally, great numbers of well-fed resident rockfish - those in the 4- to 10-pound class - are not available. Is commercial overfishing the culprit?

Then there are the many recreational hunters and target shooters who didn’t jump with joy about news of the election of Barack Obama to the White House and his choice for vice president, Joe Biden. Both men have an abysmal record as far as sport shooters are concerned. Obama and Biden are strongly anti-gun and no matter what they say about supporting the Second Amendment - the right to keep and bear arms - the law-abiding community of hunters and target blinkers across the United States fears that the new president and vice president will work to further erode this important American right.

It’s kind of like the anti-gun government of the District, which was told by the highest court in the land that its citizens had the right to own guns. Now the District intends to make gun owners’ lives miserable with repeated mandatory registrations and forced gun instruction by whoever the city believes is qualified to do so.

In the Maryland suburbs, things are not a whole lot better. Strong anti-gun feelings permeate such liberal bastions as Montgomery, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, as well as the city of Baltimore. But old traditions die slowly. Sport hunting and shooting continues to be popular throughout southern and western Maryland, as well as the Eastern Shore.

With the exception of small Northern Virginia pockets largely made up of newcomers and people not native to Virginia, the Old Dominion continues a strong tradition of target shooting, hunting and gun owners rights. That’s a good thing.

Finally, perhaps the best thing that happened to me came after a discovery of possibly disastrous artery blockages in my heart, brought on by too many sausage gravy-soaked biscuits, fried pork chops, barbecued ribs and eating in hundreds of greasy spoons over the years. I underwent a heart bypass operation at the superb Washington Hospital Center, came through it splendidly and quickly returned to doing what I love best: writing, fishing, hunting and boating. I have lots to be thankful for.

Merry Christmas, and here’s hoping 2009 will turn out to be good for all of us.

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] Visit Mueller’s Inside Outside blog at washingtontimes.com/sports.

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