Maryland angler hooks into green in Florida

ON THE OUTDOORS

Outdoors

February 03, 2002|By CANDUS THOMSON

Flipping around the TV last Saturday, I caught the final weigh-in of the four-day Wal-Mart FLW Tour's season opener.

Yeah, I know I trashed bass shows a while back, but this was different. The announcer said the magic word: "Maryland."

Sure enough, the winner of the event on Florida's Lake Okeechobee was J.T. Kenney of Frostburg, who took home $110,000.

"I never really knew I had the tournament won," Kenney says. "I always thought that if I was catching fish, everyone else was, too."

He says he was flipping a Blue Shadow Gambler crawdad with a five-sixteenths-ounce weight into the dirty water around the grasses and bulrushes. The FLW tour rookie found his sweet spot two days before competition began.

Kenney was in sixth place after the first two days, but had a monster day on Friday (five fish, 21 pounds, 10 ounces) as everyone else struggled and led the field of 10 professional anglers going into the final day.

His Saturday total of five fish (21 pounds, 13 ounces) kept him ahead of Jimmi Leuthner, Jay Yelas, Gary Klein and Joe Don Setina.

"I lost a big fish early and it haunted me all day. I kept thinking I was going to lose it by a little bit. A very little bit," he says.

His co-angler, Greg Lineberry of Galax, Va., took home $15,000 for his first-place finish in his division.

Kenney, 27, spends his winters on Lake Okeechobee as a bass guide. He says he'll use his winnings to pay his tournament entry fees this year. (For more about Kenney, go online to www.flwoutdoors.com)

First fish

Everybody's got to start somewhere, and that usually doesn't involve a weigh-in and big pay day. But it can mean a nice certificate if the angler's first catch is in Maryland.

Two years ago last July, 2-year-old Robert Tucker caught his first fish, a yellow perch, in upstate New York.

His teacher and aunt, Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist Angel Bolinger, decided to see if there was an incentive for first-time anglers to keep alive their interest in fishing.

After scrounging around on the Internet and looking at what other states did, Bolinger launched the "My First Fish" program.

The program has really caught on. Bolinger issued 137 citations that first year and 240 in 2001.

"It welcomes a new generation of anglers into the fishing community," she says. "It's important to keep an angler's interest once they get started."

Applicants fill out a form at a Maryland Sport Fishing Tournament Citation Center or download one from the DNR Web site (a list of the centers and the form can be found at www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries). If there's a digital or 35 mm photo of the angler and his or her catch, that can be submitted, too.

Fishy numbers

Each time a restriction is imposed on fishermen - recreational or commercial - someone always blames it on "bad science" or "cooked numbers."

Well, on Feb. 15 in Ocean City, state fisheries biologists and their federal regulatory counterparts will explain how they come up with the numbers.

The people of science will discuss the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics survey, which is used to help establish the harvest for flounder.

This is an especially timely meeting in that it appears recreational flounder fishermen will again this year have to plan their vacations around a season closure.

The state has recommended to regulators a management plan that calls for an eight-fish daily limit, with a 17-inch minimum. Flounder fishing would be closed from July 25 through Aug. 11.

The 18-day down period is needed so that Maryland can attempt to hit the target harvest set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The state was about 30 percent over its target last year. Although ASMFC raised the harvest limit, Maryland still must lower its take by 5.3 percent.

The meeting with the fish counters is from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Ocean City Convention Center.

This and that

State biologists are proposing that the catch-and-release rockfish season on the Susquehanna Flats run March 15-May 3. It is recommending a spring trophy season in the Chesapeake Bay mainstem for April 20-May 15. The minimum size would be 28 inches, with a one-fish daily creel limit.

Tim Lambert, president of the Maryland Sportsman's Association, has been named to a four-year term on the Wildlife Advisory Commission by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Lambert, a Cecil County resident, replaces outgoing chairman Spaulding Goetze Sr. The group will meet in mid-February to choose a chairman.

DNR has an on-line way to track bills that relate to hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities, in addition to land management issues. Just tap into www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/regulations/legislativeupdate

Women's work

And, in an attempt to leave you laughing, here's a joke courtesy of Chuck Lewis, president of the Central Maryland chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation:

One day, three men were hiking and unexpectedly came upon a raging river. They had no idea how to get to the other side.

The first man prayed: "Please, God, give me the strength to cross this river." Poof! God gave him big arms and strong legs, and he was able to swim across the river in about two hours, after almost drowning a couple of times.

Seeing this, the second man prayed: "Please, God, give me the strength and the tools to cross this river." Poof! God gave him a rowboat and he was able to row across the river in about an hour, after almost capsizing the boat a couple of times.

The third man had seen how this worked out for the other two, so he also prayed: "Please, God, give me the strength and the tools and the intelligence to cross this river."

Poof! God turned him into a woman. She looked at the map, hiked a bit upstream, then walked across the bridge.

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