You total your car by driving it off a cliff. The insurance company cuts you a check and you buy a replacement.
Do you drive toward the abyss and tempt the fates?
We might not, but the folks who manage Maryland's fish sure seem partial to playing at the edge of deep holes.
How else do you explain the willingness of the Department of Natural Resources to pander to commercial fishermen and allow them to scoop from two Eastern Shore rivers yellow perch, a fish we used to know well but rarely see now.
The agency held two meetings in late November to go over the yellow perch population numbers. At no time did biologists say they were planning to open a commercial fishery in the Choptank or Nanticoke rivers nor did they outline potential options for such an activity.
But recreational anglers, suspecting the worst, made their opposition abundantly clear. As a matter of fact, the Coastal Conservation Association demanded that DNR make it illegal for watermen to sell yellow perch, saying commercial activity is incompatible with restoration efforts.
For the past eight years, volunteers from CCA, the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association and civic groups have led those efforts. They wade in icy goo to count egg sacks, take water samples, clear stream blockages and stock fingerlings.
In other words, they've been helping DNR replace a damaged natural resource.
You think a helping of gratitude and caution might be in order, but noooo.
Fast forward to just before the holiday season. All of the sudden the public hearing elf quietly whispers news of a plan to open a commercial season March 27. (And, by the way, as of last night, I couldn't find the hearing notice on the DNR Web site. Pssst, the dates are Jan. 25 and Feb. 8, pass it along. )
A commercial season in a newly restored fishery. Talk about a case of, "I have the keys to dad's car. Let's drive it to the quarry."
Anglers are angry.
"It's like they put a ticking time bomb on the table and now the public has to stop it," complains Sherman Baynard, chairman of CCA's Fisheries Committee. "They're just moving forward with a regulation that takes effect in 90 days."
It is true that DNR's assessment of the yellow perch stock in the Choptank and Nanticoke is rosy. It is true that the agency absolutely has the authority to open those rivers to watermen, lobbyists or the "Can You Hear Me Now" guy.
But the whole thing stinks.
Time was that families celebrated spring by standing shoulder to shoulder along creeks catching yellow perch by the bucket for dinner. Kids learned to work a rod and reel as they hauled in the pretty fish with the bold stripes.
Been out fishing at the traditional spring spawning runs in recent years? Besides a couple of plastic shopping bags, a Bud can or two and a used condom, did you catch anything? Me neither.
The fact is that the Choptank and Nanticoke aside, yellow perch habitat seems to be on the decline. Development and runoff have spoiled some of the delicate ribbons of water that once served as perch nurseries.
But instead of protecting what's left with every fiber of its being, DNR is dusting off the big, fat welcome mat for watermen, who sell their yellow perch catches to fish markets in the Midwest and Canada.
"The DNR just doesn't get it," said Baynard, who has been involved in defending recreational opportunities for decades. "It's time they start managing the fisheries for recreational anglers and to protect the resource instead of managing for commercial interests."
The state restricts recreational anglers to five fish a day. It's hard to believe all of the anglers in the state put together could remove the number of fish a commercial net will.
The math didn't escape the MSSA, either.
In a letter to fisheries director Howard King, the MSSA wrote that "allowing any commercial harvest could quickly undermine the gains made to increase yellow perch stocks. Specifically, the efficiency of commercial nets could quickly and drastically reduce the future brood stock of the Nanticoke and Choptank Rivers, which could help increase yellow perch populations in other tributaries."
MSSA spokesman Chris Dollar called the proposed commercial fishery, "a head scratcher."
"The yellow perch have enough challenges to face without adding nets," he said. "DNR should be cautious and prudent and put the fish first. Is this what's best for the fish? I'm not convinced it is."
And Dollar doesn't put too much stock in DNR's stock assessment.
"I'd be cautious of this number's gain. The stock is up 400 percent? Up 400 percent from basically nothing is better, but it's nothing to brag about," he said.
At the very least, the recreational fishing groups want anglers to attend one of two public hearings. The Western Shore hearing is at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25, at DNR headquarters, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis. For those of you on the Eastern Shore, there's a hearing at 7 p.m. on Feb. 8, at the County Commissioner's Office, 501 Court Lane, Cambridge.
But CCA and MSSA want anglers to come to Annapolis a little early on the 25th to meet their state lawmakers and let them know what's important to them.
"We're using yellow perch as a focal point for an education campaign. We see no value in fish laying on the dock to be sold," said Baynard. "We want abundant fish, and an occasional large fish and DNR doesn't manage for that."