No millions, but contest winners happy with $2,500 catch


July 24, 2005|By CANDUS THOMSON

Unfortunately, the lady took a powder.

Instead of winning $1 million or $50,000 or even $10,000, all four anglers opened envelopes awarding them $1,250 in Boater's World gift certificates, with the retailer doubling the prize to $2,500.

"That's a lot of fishing lures," said a grinning Dailey, a Baltimore County firefighter.

During the six-week tournament, 102 anglers caught 103 fish (Joel Hayden of Hooper's Island caught two and won a fishing trip on a charter boat.) Thirty-seven fish were striped bass, 56 were largemouth bass, nine were croaker and one - Nurmi's fish - was a white perch.

Dailey wasn't alone in his enthusiasm. Nurmi, an Annapolis resident, said he was going to use his winnings to fix up his boat before next season. Taylor, of Seaford, Del., clutched his oversized check tightly. And Porohnavi, of Selbyville, Del., gushed, "I've never won anything before. I'm thrilled."

But, perhaps the luckiest and happiest character was a guy who didn't even make the cut for the final four.

John Crespin caught his tagged 15-inch largemouth bass on June 7 while fishing with his wife, Gail, just weeks after returning from duty in Iraq. In addition to returning in one piece from the war, Crespin also survived tours of duty in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

The now-retired Marine gunnery sergeant was "throwing crankbaits and tearing them up," on Mattawoman Creek in Charles County, when he hooked the fish with the neon-green tag attached to its belly.

"I live in Woodbridge, Va. I knew nothing of the tournament. I thought the tag said $1,000 fishing tournament," he said, shaking his head.

He put the fish in his boat's livewell and took it back to a dock across the Potomac River in Northern Virginia. Everyone told him to throw the fish back because the tag was from an old tournament.

Luckily, he read the strip of plastic again and then flipped it over and called the number on the other side. A Department of Natural Resources biologist verified the catch and entered him in the drawing.

When Crespin, 41, didn't get chosen as a finalist at the drawing at Sandy Point State Park on Wednesday, he and his wife went fishing that afternoon back at the same spot - and they caught another tagged fish.

"This time, we knew what it was," he said. "It was too late, but that's OK."

The Crespins showed up at City Dock yesterday to show their support for the finalists and the tournament

"My name wasn't drawn, but I'm still a winner," said Crespin, noting that he has more time to go fishing with his wife now that he's back home for good.

Telling message

A fisherman and an environmental activist, Dick Russell has spent more than two decades sticking up for the striped bass.

With his new book, Striper Wars: An American Fish Story, he turns his actions into fighting words. And with the showdown looming next month over the future of the menhaden - and by extension the health of the Chesapeake - his sober history is arriving at the right time.

Just 15 years after a fishing moratorium brought the striper back from near-extinction, Morone saxatilis is under attack again from pollution, disease and the commercial overfishing of its favorite food, the menhaden.

Russell notes in his book that in 1990 - the year the moratorium ended - the mean weight of a 12-year-old rockfish was 33 pounds. Six years later, a fish of the same year-class weighed 25 pounds.

These days, anglers talk of skinny fish and ones with sores.

"We've gotten complacent," Russell said in a telephone interview. "People who weren't fishing 20 years ago have no idea how close we came to not having this fish. The moratorium was a success story for how to use the political system.

"But it's never really over because now there's this new situation going on with bacterial disease and malnourishment," he said.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will vote on Aug. 17 whether to impose a five-year cap on the commercial harvesting of menhaden to give scientists time to study the alarming decline in population.

"I'm afraid a cap isn't going to be enough," said Russell. "Maybe we'll have to go through a moratorium as we did with the striped bass. The one thing we cannot afford to do is to do nothing at all."

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation will host a slide show and talk by Russell at 7 p.m. Thursday at the foundation's Merrill Center, 6 Herndon Ave., Annapolis. Space is limited, so RSVP to Lillian Buie at

Hunting for safety

It's almost time to chuck the 2004-05 hunting license and buy the 2005-06 model, which means it's also time to start thinking about the pre-field work needed to keep life and limb safe.

The Baltimore County Game and Fish Protective Association is offering the state-required Hunter Safety Course next month.

Registration is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Aug. 5. Two-hour classes will begin at 7 p.m. on Aug 10, 11, 17 and 18, with the test on Aug. 20.

The club is at 3419 Northwind Road, just off Harford Road north of the Beltway.

For details, call Dan Maciolek at 410-557-7140.

Bass Pro Shop at Arundel Mills also is having a class in August (register by calling 410-689-2500), as is my good friend Buz Meyer at his private Anne Arundel County nature preserve MeyerStation (301-642-4033).

Look for other classes on the Department of Natural Resources Web site under the hunting category.

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