A fast and efficient -- and worse -- way to buy your fishing license

February 28, 2005|By Dan Rodricks

DEPENDING ON your point of view - and mine tends toward the troglodytical on the matter at hand - we have arrived at another measure of either our evolution or decline as a species: In the state of Maryland, you can now purchase fishing licenses online. No need to visit the local tackle shop. No waiting in line while some codger in a plaid flannel shirt finishes his long story about a walleye in Pennsylvania.

`The sale of licenses online in no way replaces the long tradition of purchasing a license from one of our retail vendors," says C. Ronald Franks, the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. "However, we know that more and more people are making purchases online, and we are happy to provide this convenience for our customers."

Note that Franks was careful to cast that little plug for the 320 outlets, many of them small shops, that still sell fishing licenses around the state. He's obviously conscious of the fact that, for many recreational anglers, the annual trip to a tackle shop for a new license and trout stamp usually involves the purchase of replacement line and lures, or a new fishing rod or pair of waders, or perhaps a fresh jar of orange PowerBait.

Certainly the Internet provides convenience, but it also eliminates the need to visit local shops struggling to stay alive as superstores encroach on their business.

Plus, going online further diminishes the nicest part of this tradition - the catchin'-up conversations that take place every winter as spring, the shad run and opening day of trout season approach.

I can't think of a time when a trip to a fishing shop was dash in and dash out. Over the years, it has been almost impossible to rush through a purchase, and who would want to anyway? Some guys are solitary anglers; they like the peace and quiet a fishing escape provides. Others prefer the nourishing aspects of conversation - from over the counter at the tackle shop, all the way out to river or bay with your buddies. There is hardly a man alive in this busy world today who can say he gets enough of that.

"Fishin' ain't catchin'," my friend Bush Hog always used to chime when we hit the beach at Cape Hatteras or the banks of Liberty Reservoir, and he was never more correct about anything.

So, as busy as life is today, I am going to pass on the DNR offer of an online fishing license. I am going to one of the old shops, where the sometimes grouchy but always helpful owner works the counter himself, and he knows what he's talking about and even imparts a secret or two, no extra charge.

A fishy relationship

Maybe DNR is a little too cozy with one of the super-sized sporting goods stores. The agency already has a "rewards partnership" with Bass Pro Shops, offering a gift card to any angler who brings in a northern snakehead.

Now an announcement on the home page of the DNR Web site, right under the one about online licenses, says: "Plan to bring the family to the Spring Fishing Classic at Bass Pro in Arundel Mills Mall. DNR staff has planned two days of hands-on educational games and activities for children. The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center exhibit will feature live birds of prey. This is a great way for youngsters to begin or continue their interest in natural resources education." Or become Bass Pro customers for life.

I bet fly-fishing guide Joe Bruce, who closed his friendly little tackle shop in Catonsville a few years ago, wishes he'd gotten that kind of "partnership" with the state.

Security through TNT

I have a suggestion for General Growth Properties, the company that acquired Towson Town Mall in its purchase of the Rouse Co. last year: Demolish the parking garage. Dash your security issues with one efficient implosion. Controlled Demolition Co. has an office on Merryman's Mill Road. The Loiseaux boys could walk over and do it. The garage was poorly designed. It is confusing, confining and dark. It is widely hated. Please, take the plunge.

Mysterious spectacle

We had an enjoyable afternoon visit to Edelweiss Bakery & Cafe, at the sharp corner of Harford Road and Old Harford Road. (So sharp that a motor vehicle recently smashed into the building.) The lunch-size portion of sauerbraten, dumplings and red cabbage was delicious, and a crowd of pleasant men and women gathered, as they do each Thursday, to sing along with two accordion players. One of the accordion players wore eyeglasses with no lenses - I think to hold his hair in place. But I'm not sure. I didn't ask. It didn't seem like the time or place.

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