Rough waters, smooth tournament

OUTDOORS

April 17, 2005

It was hard to believe yesterday afternoon under sunny skies in Eastport that just a few miles away was the chaos of the Chesapeake Bay under a small-craft advisory.

As a band played, folks mingled around the Boatyard Bar and Grill, waiting for the trophy fish to arrive at Dick Franyo's tournament to be sized up. Given the 20-knot winds and three-foot chop, every fish was a hard-fought contest as anglers decided whether to grab for a hand hold or continue reeling in a potential winner.

"It's like going to hell and being told to take a shower first," said Jonathan McKnight, who gave up the fight against the elements after an hour-long struggle on a 21-foot center-console boat.

The weather problems were compounded by muddy runoff coughed into the Susquehanna River and carried down the bay to obscure traditional fishing hot spots. Anglers had to make runs of more than an hour below the Bay Bridge to find less chewy patches of water.

But that did nothing to detract from Franyo's tournament.

"We went from 20-some boats to high-30s to 78 last year to 152 this year, and I turned down 10 entries because they were too late. That's 152 boats, most with four anglers aboard," Franyo said. "It's a social thing. It makes it more of a rite of spring."

The winner was Rob Folstein of Crofton, who, in his first-ever tournament, caught a 41 3/8 -inch rockfish just south of Calvert Cliffs, in addition to some bumps and bruises.

"We got beaten up pretty good on the way down," Folstein acknowledged as he nursed a drink afterward.

The winner and his teammates, Rob King and Steve Uhthoff, owner of Bohica, had fished the area last week and landed 10 fish, the largest 44 inches and close to 50 pounds.

"We went back to the same spot and they were still there," Folstein said.

An outline of Folstein's winning fish will be painted on the rafters of the bar along with the angler's name.

Not counting this year's receipts, the tournament has raised $25,000 for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association and the Annapolis Police Department's youth fishing camp.

Broll will be missed

Quietly, Natural Resources Police Lt. Col. Tammy Broll retired on April 1.

Such a shame she wasn't able to go out as superintendent of the law enforcement agency she joined as a cadet on July 25, 1979, and gave nearly 26 years of outstanding service.

Such a shame that she was forced to spend the months before her retirement working in a different office after new superintendent Col. Mark Chaney unceremoniously forced her out to install Nick Paros, the nephew of Peter Angelos.

Such a shame that the Ehrlich administration couldn't overcome its bias to give her the top job permanently after two of its earlier male appointees flamed out, and she had to fill in.

Such a shame because as a "cop's cop" who worked her way up, she had the respect of her officers, recreational anglers and commercial fishermen.

Such a shame because with Broll at the helm, there's no question that the jackbooted "raid" by Natural Resources Police of two Anne Arundel County homes with pet deer would have been handled more civilly. Instead, the ham-handed, "we don't tip off the bad guys" approach probably will end with the department apologizing to the families (and if it doesn't, it should be forced to).

Broll insisted on a quiet exit: no fuss, no parties. She deserved all that and more.

Time was short

A couple of hunters have grumbled to me about the relatively short comment period for the revised deer regulations for Garrett and Allegany counties, also called Region A.

Two things conspired to reduce the comment period.

Wildlife managers had just days after the legislature adjourned Monday to incorporate into the hunting regulation booklet changes approved by state lawmakers and get it to the printer to be ready for the opening of squirrel season on Sept. 3 and deer bow season on Sept. 15.

Additionally, they had to make adjustments to the bag limits based on data collected from the last season. Unfortunately, it can be weeks after the end of deer season before the paperwork from deer check stations reaches state biologists.

Doug Hotton, the state's white-tailed guru (the deer's, not his), said that when they put all the stats together, the red flags went up:

The antlered deer kill in Garrett and Allegany decreased an average of 24 percent in each of the past two years. In addition, the antlerless deer kill dropped, 35 percent in Allegany and 9 percent in Garrett last season. When the doe kill reaches 40 percent, the population declines, Hotton said.

"We were trying to get the population to drop and we thought it would be gradual. Hunters got it done real quick," he said. "The changes will reduce the harvest by 10 percent."

There's nothing wildlife managers can do to speed up the legislative process, but starting this fall they will be using a quicker way to tally the deer kill that also will be a convenience for hunters.

Instead of having to take the carcass to a check station, hunters will be able to use "Telecheck" and call in their kill.

"By getting the numbers quicker, we'll have more time to evaluate the trends, propose changes and give our stakeholders more time to respond," said Paul Peditto, head of DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service.

The agency is taking comments through Tuesday on the changes proposed for this fall. You can view them and comment on the agency Web site, www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife, or by phone, 410-260-8540, or by fax, 410-260-8596.

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