Fishing, public service mesh Friday

OUTDOORS

July 25, 2004|By CANDUS THOMSON

Two summers ago, when northern snakeheads set up housekeeping in Crofton, I suggested holding a tournament to thin out the herd rather than turning that scummy little pond into a scene from Apocalypse Now.

Flip ahead to summer 2004. More than a dozen snakeheads have been hooked in the Potomac River (no doubt because it's a shorter commute to D.C.) and someone finally has made my dopey idea a reality. Can a UPN TV show be far behind?

Hard to believe, but Friday's the day for the 2004 Snakehead Roundup from 8:30 to 11 a.m. out of two marinas: Belle Haven and Columbia Island.

There's no entry fee, lures will be supplied and a jon boat will be raffled off.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to educate the public about the problems of invasive species," says Mari Lou Livingwood, spokeswoman for the event. "We decided to have some fun with it."

So where to go for snakehead action? On the Virginia side of the Potomac, snakeheads have been caught in Little Hunting Creek just above Mount Vernon, Kane's Creek near Occoquan, Dogue Creek canal and Pohick Bay, where you can launch from the regional park.

The best bet is Little Hunting Creek, where the largest snakehead - 2 feet, 6 pounds - was caught.

Virginia fisheries biologists are guessing that at least one snakehead will be pulled in during the roundup.

The Maryland side of the river has been less prolific.

Earlier this month, Ken Penrod, a Laurel-based guide, landed an 18-inch snakehead at the mouth of Pomonkey Creek in Charles County.

Penrod was in shallow water throwing a crankbait when he hooked up.

"It put up a good fight and jumped just like a smallmouth," says Penrod, adding that snakeheads are slimy like catfish and have a defined set of teeth.

He suggests roundup competitors use the same tactics they would with bass.

"They position themselves just like a bass and you can use the same bait, the same minnows," he says. "They're a real predator. They'll position themselves in front of small tidal ditches on the outgoing tide."

The roundup is being sponsored by the Marina Operators Association of America and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

While both marinas are acting as launch sites, the festivities will take place at Columbia Island Marina, which is adjacent to the 14th Street Bridge on the Virginia side.

If you need more details, call Livingwood at 202-721-1630. To sign up, go to www.moaa.com. Deadline for entries is Tuesday.

And if you can't make it to the tournament, but want to win something, remember that Bass Pro Shop at Arundel Mills is offering rewards. A snakehead under 12 inches is worth $10; fish 13 to 24 inches, $25. Snakeheads over 24 inches are worth $50.

The angler who caught the two-foot fish collected $50.

Anglers who don't want to drive that far north in Anne Arundel County can turn in a snakehead to DNR and earn a "Snakehead Wrangler" cap.

Changes on blinds

Waterfowl hunters, it's time for your annual blind date.

The state is getting the ball rolling on licensing blind sites, and there are a couple of new wrinkles you need to know before the signup sessions begin on Aug. 3 and 4.

Last year wasn't a picnic and things got off to a late start. But thanks to all the hours of front-end work by DNR's Mark Hoffman and his crew, this year's rules are straightforward and the shoreline maps as clear as a Hubble telescope picture.

But note: This year's procedure has new wrinkles.

First, applicants must have a hunting license from either last year or this year, as well as a Maryland driver's license or other official photo ID. No exceptions.

Second, to eliminate the abuses of previous years, lottery numbers will not be transferable.

"Guys would be walking around with 20 numbers in their hands," Hoffman says. "The guy who's holding the number is the guy who's going to have to come up and choose."

Third, when a lottery number is called, the hunter will have 10 minutes to select a blind site.

Hoffman says lottery applicants should arrive between 7:30 and 8 a.m. at one of 14 regional licensing centers. The numbers will be called beginning at 8:30 a.m. and registration will end at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 3 and noon on Aug. 4.

After Aug. 4, applicants can sign up during regular business hours at one of five service centers. The details are available at www.dnr.maryland.gov.

Tasty break

Finally, gang, if you're coming back from the Eastern Shore after a day's fishing or crabbing and you don't want to face the Bay Bridge crossing on an empty stomach, I've found that Island Beef and BBQ at Exit 39B is a good place to stop and regroup.

It's got the usual beef, turkey and ham and a pretty good North Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich. What sets it apart are the fixings - particularly the sauces - that you can heap, slather or dab on the meat.

Haven't tried the wings or ribs yet, but, hey, the fishing season's only half over.

The little shop is in the same plaza as the Safeway market.

A hot dog, fries and drink for the kiddos will only set you back $3.50 a head - a small price to pay to get back to the Western Shore in relative tranquillity.

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