It's never too late to catch rockfish

OUTDOORS

December 21, 2003|By CANDUS THOMSON

A December striper tournament? Heavens, yes. To paraphrase that great outdoorsman Bluto, "Fishing isn't over until we say it's over."

Certainly that's a sentiment held near and dear by the hardy anglers who inhabit the tidalfish.com Web site, many of whom wouldn't consider staying inside as long as the Chesapeake Bay remains in liquid form.

After being kept in port the first weekend of December by a fierce storm, the online community that trades tips and barbs on the Web site regrouped last weekend for the Fourth Annual Tidal Fish Striper Tournament.

The guys motored down to the Virginia portion of the bay to crank in some really big fish.

Not only did the anglers battle elements that threatened to turn them into Mrs. Paul's frozen fish sticks, but they also had to craft excuses to wiggle out of pre-holiday chores. What troupers!

First place and $120 went to Randy Goss, with a hoss of 48 pounds, 2 ounces. Billy Seymour took second and $84, with a catch of 43 pounds, 8 ounces. In third place with a striper of 39 pounds, 2 ounces was Jim Paulino, who won $36. The $120 Calcutta was won by Seymour.

When the prize pot is large, it's easy to attract a big field, no matter what the weather. But when the entire kitty is $360 and the weather makes it feel like a day of ice fishing, you're talking real passion.

The best part was that the tournament raised money for the Wish-A-Fish Foundation, which offers free fishing trips to seriously ill and handicapped children and their families.

"A special thanks to all who pulled together after we had to postpone it," said tidalfish.com's Brandon White.

Deer numbers up

The same winter weather that battered anglers played havoc with the two-week modern firearms deer season. Yet hunters managed to take slightly more deer this year.

If it wasn't snow, it was wind or fog that kept hunters out of their tree stands. On the first day, winds contributed to an 18 percent drop from a year ago, to 12,634 deer.

Opening day was followed by the first day of Sunday hunting since Colonial times. Sabbath shooters killed 2,899 deer in 12 counties to bring the total to 15,533.

But the winds and precipitation returned to chase hunters inside. The people who operate check stations said they couldn't remember a year when they had so many idle periods.

Despite the poor conditions, hunters took an estimated 42,166 deer compared to 41,469 during the firearms period last year, a 1.7 percent increase, the Department of Natural Resources said Friday.

Maryland's herd has been constant for the past several years, at a total of 225,000 deer. This year the preseason estimate increased to 230,000 - a number that caught my eye.

Are the deer multiplying that much faster than hunters can control them?

No, said Paul Peditto, head of the Wildlife and Heritage Service. The adjustment resulted from adoption of a more accurate model for determining the population.

Peditto is confident that the current muzzleloader season and the final bonus firearms season Jan. 9 and 10 in Regions C and D will push the annual total past the 100,000 mark for the first time in state history.

Take that, Old Man Winter.

Classroom fishing

As a longtime Capital Beltway sufferer, it isn't often that I urge folks to join me on the asphalt jungle.

However, the Montgomery County Recreation Department is once again offering its eight-week Chesapeake Bay fishing lecture series.

The talks will be given by some of Maryland's best charter captains and guides: Richie Gaines, Tom Hughes, "Walleye" Pete Dahlberg and George Prenant. I signed up for the series a couple of years back and filled several notebooks with useful stuff.

The lectures are every Monday, beginning Jan. 5 and ending March 8, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The recreation department says class size will be limited to 49. More could be accommodated if the county chooses, given that the Maplewood-Alta Vista Recreation Center hall in Bethesda holds nearly 100.

The cost is $95 for non-Montgomery residents and $85 for county residents. To register or get on the waiting list, call 240-777-6870.

Closed season on wine

I'd love to tell you that Ducks Unlimited is selling wines from its "Conservation Cellars" to outdoors lovers who enjoy good wine and a good deed.

It would be wonderful to wax poetic about the beautiful waterfowl watercolors on the designer labels (the first one of a small flight of pintails is called "Elegance in Flight") and gush in great detail about how the Ravenswood zinfandel is a perfect match for a venison roast.

And it would be nice to pass along the news that a portion of the sales goes to DU's conservation programs that restore and protect breeding grounds and wetlands habitat.

But it would be wrong.

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