City kids get a line on lure of fishing

June 04, 2006|By CANDUS THOMSON

Darrell Ford grew up near what is now Pasadena's Lake Waterford Park. His father taught his brother to fish. His brother taught Darrell.

Ford hiked the woods, learned to swim in the Magothy River and when he grew up became a state Natural Resources Police officer.

But a lot of kids - especially those who live in cities - don't have those opportunities. Mentors are few, access to the water is limited and developers are filling in the green places.

So yesterday, Ford and about 15 of his fellow officers and their families and friends showed their love of the outdoors to another generation: a group of 70 or so kids from Baltimore's Police Athletic League.

With help from a large number of sponsors, the Black Officers Association gave the kids a chance to catch a sunfish, shoot a bow and arrow, fire a shotgun and have lunch under the trees.

This is the first year for "Kids and Cops," said BOA President Raymond Griggs, a game enforcement officer stationed in Prince George's County.

"We do this kind of program in other parts of the state, but it didn't reach the urban kids," he said. "Inner-city kids probably need this more than anyone else. We just thought it would be nice to reach out."

Next year - sponsors willing - the BOA hopes to have an outing at Fort Smallwood Park at the mouth of the Patapsco River.

The kids were treated to a cookout by volunteers from the Glen Burnie Outback Steakhouse, and got rods and reels and tackle boxes to take home.

"Everything here was donated," Ford said. "We went door to door and sent out letters."

Big raindrops fell as officers and civilians hauled fishing gear from their vehicles to the path that rings Lake Waterford and set up targets at nearby Glenbrook Rifle Association.

When you're a Natural Resources Police officer, working in the nastiest of weather is a given, said Cpl. Cameron Brown with a smile. The little bit of moisture that splashed his glasses and made rings on the water's surface drew hardly a glance skyward.

At 9 a.m., the kids tumbled out of vans and were divided into teams, each with a different color T-shirt. Before heading to the lake and the range, they got to poke around a Natural Resources Police patrol boat and sit atop the personal watercraft the officers use to monitor boat traffic.

"Hopefully this might help in recruiting," Griggs said. "A kid might see this and think it's a cool job."

Kids who had never held a fishing rod before were given a casting lesson. Then they moved on to the real thing, complete with worms that provoked shrieks and shudders from girls - and boys.

"I've got wormophobia," said Keonna Hughes, 10, who wasn't crazy about touching fish, either.

Most kids quickly mastered the push-button reels. Those who didn't kept nearby anglers and instructors ducking.

"This young man's caught the biggest thing so far," teased Reserve Officer Paul Gring, who worked to free a worm and bobber from a tree branch. "It's a great white oak. Put up a heck of a fight, too."

Snapping turtles and tiny brown ducklings swimming around the lake's edge provided entertainment for the non-anglers.

But there weren't too many who didn't at least give fishing a try.

Tiffany Robinson, 14, started the day with a case of wormophobia. But she had the first catch of the day - a feisty sunfish.

Arkeene Redditt-Abrams, 16, practiced the jigging technique he saw on a TV fishing show and landed his first fish. Rysheka Barber, 12, soon followed with a similar catch.

After watching the fun, Keonna, who didn't catch a fish, insisted to Cpl. David Wong that she wanted to hold one.

Her first attempt ended with a loud scream. But the second time, the trembling girl not only held the sunfish, but she also returned it to the water.

"Did you see that?" she said proudly. "I did it."

The officers smiled at her accomplishment.

"To me this is very important," Griggs said. "If you stay in the city, that's all you'll ever know. It's limiting."

Black bears thrive

The long-awaited study of Maryland's black bear population shows the critters are doing quite nicely despite the encroachment of humans in their territory and the rising number of fatal encounters with vehicles.

In 2000, the state had about 27.3 bears per 100 square miles in the westernmost part of the state. Last year, that density increased to 39 bears per 100 square miles.

"That's a density almost three times higher than surrounding states," said Paul Peditto, head of the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service.

Garrett and Allegany counties have about 550 adult and yearling bears, an increase of 44 percent in five years. Another 100 bears live east of Allegany County.

In May and June last year, biologists rigged barbed wire around molasses-soaked tree stumps to collect bear hair samples. The strands of hair were analyzed for genetic content to provide identification of individual animals.

"What we've learned is that the population is growing at almost exactly the rate we anticipated," Peditto said.

In addition, bears have been fitted with GPS collars and other telemetry to give biologists a better understanding of territory and range.

"It's not cheap. It's not easy," Peditto said. "But for this species, it's necessary."

Bears had been hunted to near extinction by 1953, when the state imposed a moratorium. In 2004, despite protests from anti-hunting forces, the ban was lifted, and hunters killed 20 animals. Last year, they shot 40.

This season, DNR has targeted 35 to 55 bears and added eastern Allegany to the hunting zone. It will issue 220 hunting permits, an increase of 20. The hunt will run Oct. 23-28, and resume Dec. 4-9 if the quota has not been reached.

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