- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said budget cuts are pending throughout state government offices, but many anglers and hunters, including the Maryland division of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA MD), are urging him not to cut any part of the Natural Resources Police budget.

“We clearly recognize that the governor is in a difficult position having to act on recommendations he has been given to meet the pending budget shortfall,” said Sherman Baynard, chairman of the CCA MD fisheries committee. “We encourage the governor, however, not to impose cuts that could have a long-term negative impact on state revenue and weaken recreational outdoor opportunities for our citizens.”

Among the cuts that might be coming is the elimination of a Natural Resources Police helicopter and 23 vacant positions. The proper enforcement of hunting and fishing laws in Maryland, as elsewhere, is crucial to the continuing enjoyment of recreational activities that involve marine and freshwater fish, as well as wild game.

The CCA MD is particularly concerned with law enforcement issues regarding the harvesting of the Chesapeake Bay‘s blue crabs and the removal of the state’s yellow perch by commercial and recreational interests in the coming months. Regulations are worthless, the CCA MD said, if there can’t be sufficient enforcement.

Baynard reminds government officials making cuts that recreational angling in the Chesapeake Bay alone brings more than $1 billion to the state.

Local may have world record fish - It all depends on how the International Gamefish Association handles the applications and whether the applicants are going after line-class or all-tackle world records, but Michael C. Holley of Clinton has a shot at a world mark with a 17-pound, 5-ounce barrelfish he caught aboard the Rudee Angler out of Virginia Beach a week ago. The world record for the deep-water species is 17 1/4 pounds.

Then comes Andre Franklin of Baltimore, who also fished aboard a Virginia Beach headboat. Franklin caught a barrelfish that was only one ounce shy of 21 pounds. These fish are hooked with deep, baited bottom rigs in Virginia’s offshore waters. Special thanks go to IGFA official Julie Ball for pointing these out.

Hunt national wildlife refuges - If you’re among the thousands of hunters who have no place to go for a chance at wild game, let’s offer a hearty round of applause to the federal government for fixing the problem. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wants you to enjoy terrific hunting opportunities at dozens of federal properties, and it has just gotten easier with “Your Guide to Hunting at National Wildlife Refuges.” It’s the first comprehensive compilation of all the hunting programs within the refuge system.

Go to www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting, and you will be overwhelmed with more than 300 hunting possibilities that are available in every state except Hawaii. Yes, Virginia and Maryland hunters have refuges they can hunt on.

The guide is organized by state, the species that can be hunted and regulations that must be observed. Emphasis is also placed on visitors who enjoy recreational activities that do not involve hunting. In every case, the hunting areas are safely apart from hiking trails and other visitor areas.

People who come to wildlife refuges should learn that certain game species must be kept to manageable levels, not to mention the fact hunters have played a vital role in the acquisition of refuge wetlands through purchases of federal Duck Stamps, which bring in millions of dollars annually.

Farewell to a colleague - Keith Walters of Bozman, Md., a photographer, writer and outdoor columnist for the Easton Star Democrat, died at Memorial Hospital in Easton on Oct. 8, 2008. He was 77. Walters wrote a number of books about his beloved Chesapeake Bay and spent decades hoping to convince state biologists that his favorite fish, the striped bass, was not nearly in as good a shape as they said it was.

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. Also check out Gene Mueller’s Inside Outside blog on washingtontimes.com/sports.

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