Fins, feathers spring to mind again

OUTDOORS

April 11, 2004|By CANDUS THOMSON

Gobblers or stripers?

The seasons for Maryland's spring surf-and-turf combo get cranked up over the next week, and not a moment too soon. Things have been just a little too tense around Casa Thomson, if you know what I mean.

When Isabel shut down the electricity to the old Frigidaire for four days last fall, we had to toss out a lot of frozen striper filets. That made for mighty slim pickings over the winter, when the grill was willing but the icebox was not.

On Saturday, we'll start reeling in the first stripers of the trophy season, an opening day when there are so many boats out on the bay that you'd swear you could walk from deck to deck without getting your feet wet.

The minimum is 28 inches, one fish per day. Please use offset circle hooks to help throw-backs live to be big fish.

Trophy season in the main stem of the bay ends May 15. From then through Dec. 15, the daily limits are two fish between 18 and 28 inches or one measuring 18 to 28 inches and one larger than 28 inches.

Saturday is also Youth Hunt Day for spring turkeys.

To take part in the youth day, you have to be under the age of 16 and accompanied by an unarmed, licensed hunter 21 or older. The bag limit is one bearded bird, which counts toward the season limit of two, if the hunter didn't kill a bird during the fall portion of the 2003-04 season.

The season for grown-ups begins April 19 and will run through May 24, with the same bag limit as for youngsters.

Last spring, hunters shot 3,120 birds, just seven behind the record year in 2002. Junior hunters were responsible for 120 of the total.

Department of Natural Resources biologists say that while good hunting opportunities abound in the western counties, the Eastern Shore is coming on strong due, in part, to a well-organized restoration program led by state chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Last year's statistics prove that to be true. The five counties with the highest totals were: Garrett (431), Allegany (332), Washington (325), Dorchester (325) and Worcester (304).

Check out the maps of DNR Wildlife Management Areas on the agency Web site for public hunting grounds.

Here's one more stat from last year: 46 percent of the total number of birds were killed in the first week of the season. But even in the fifth and final week (which was added last year), hunters still managed to bag 263 birds.

Another opening-day event - the third-annual Boatyard Bar and Grill Rockfish Tournament - may help you to forget any "T-word" nightmarish memories of NCAA office pools gone awry or images of Lady Huskies and Lord Huskies snipping away at basketball nets.

Thursday is the deadline to enter. Registration forms are available at the Eastport restaurant and at Angler's Sports Center on U.S. 50, just before the Bay Bridge.

The restaurant, a neighborhood establishment at the corner of Severn Avenue and 4th Street, has dockage at the Annapolis City Marina across the street.

Owner Dick Franyo says the weigh-in starts at 3 p.m., which will be followed by the "Rites of Spring" party with a reggae band and rum drinks.

The coolest part about the tournament is that Franyo hires an artist to paint a true-to-size outline of the winning fish and the winner's name up on the rafters. Prize money comes and goes, but the fish on the ceiling is permanent.

There is one other cool thing worth mentioning about this tournament: It is a benefit for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association and the Annapolis Police Department's Youth Fishing Camp.

So, even if someone from Connecticut takes this tournament, too, the winner is still Maryland.

That time again

What do Maryland black bears and three members of the congressional delegation have in common? Both, apparently, hibernate in dark caves.

How else do you explain the letter sent last week to Gov. Bob Ehrlich and DNR Secretary Ron Franks from Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin and Elijah Cummings opposing the bear hunt scheduled for this fall.

How many years have the discussions, debates and hearings been going on? How many times has DNR asked for input?

We're talking double digits on both accounts.

And now, after all those public discussions, as the 11th hour approaches, someone woke the congressmen from their slumbers. Rather than seeing their shadows and going back to sleep for another six weeks (wait, that's a different critter), the men from Washington rumbled into action.

The letter appears on the stationery of Van Hollen, who represents Montgomery County, home of the Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals. None of the three represents Allegany or Garrett counties, where the hunting will take place.

Can you say election year posturing? I thought you could.

Nice gesture

It seemed odd when the state last year discontinued giving hunters who purchased a $9 migratory duck stamp the actual stamp.

The artwork is of high quality and is very often, as we pointed out last week, done by a Maryland resident.

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