Scorchy Tawes, a Chesapeake treasure

Outdoors

February 04, 2007|By CANDUS THOMSON

Scorchy Tawes wasn't much of a hard-hitting journalist.

Thank God.

Western Shore people didn't get to see his work on WBOC-TV unless they crossed the Chesapeake Bay, and that's a pity.

Tawes, who started out broadcasting outdoors reports, expanded his role with the blessing of station managers, who knew a good thing when they saw it. He liked to say he covered the Eastern Shore from "Kiptopeake to Kent County, Bridgeville to Blackwater."

For 21 years he did a show called Scorchy's Corner, where he let regular people tell their stories - more than 2,000 all told - in their own words at their own speed. He was an unabashed booster of his native turf, which he called, "Delmarvelous."

Bill Burton, outdoors writer emeritus of the late, great Evening Sun, said Tawes' storytelling was in the same mold as Garrison Keillor's, except, of course, Scorchy was the original.

His real handle was Charles Norris Tawes, a name he passed along to one of his two sons.

Tawes served in World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, just like that other Maryland outdoors legend (and former Sun outdoors editor), Lefty Kreh. No wonder the Allies won.

An avid fisherman, he also lent his name to an annual event, the Scorchy Tawes Pro-Am Fishing Tournament, which was short of big-money prizes, but long on fun. I fished it a number of years back, didn't catch anything to speak of, but did get to meet the Crisfield legend afterward, the best prize of all.

Fishing show emcee, award-winning broadcaster, restaurateur, marina owner, photographer extraordinaire, Tawes died Monday of cardiovascular disease after 86 Delmarvelous years.

Tips from the top

Speaking of Kreh, if you've never been to one of his talks, now's your chance.

The man who wrote some of the best how-to books on fly fishing, knot tying and just about every other aspect of the sport will be the featured speaker at the fishing show sponsored by the National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited on Feb. 24.

Kreh will discuss where to find the big fish and tactics for hooking and landing them. But the best part may come when he picks up a fly rod and puts on a casting demonstration.

The show, at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, will run from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is $10; children under 16 get in for free. There's more about the show at www.ncc-tu.org or 202-966-5923.

Worse was averted

Trust me, it looks worse than it is. Although I admit at first glance the spring rockfish season looks like it's going to be pretty darn miserable.

By voting against Maryland's proposed regulations for the early part of its recreational season, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission halved the harvest for the trophy season.

The meeting in Virginia was ugly. Several commissioners expressed shock, shock, that Maryland anglers exceeded ASMFC's hard cap on the 2005 and 2006 harvest by 60,000 fish, or more than 50 percent. Representatives from New York, Delaware and Massachusetts dusted off their soapboxes and used the occasion to raise their holier-than-thou voices and play to their constituents at Maryland's expense.

The Massachusetts representative actually declared that if Maryland's recreational proposal was approved, his commercial watermen deserved some sort of deal. Now that's science-based reasoning.

Of course, their constituents weren't there, but I'm sure each of the amateur thespians and moral compasses (especially you, Mr. Delaware) will make the transcript available back home. Nice acting, boys.

Faced with a hostile crowd, Maryland fisheries chief Howard King performed a miracle, keeping his cool and scrambling to stitch together an alternative proposal the ASMFC overwhelmingly approved. Frankly, he deserves all the raises the top Department of Natural Resources officials gave themselves last year. Here's why:

King got the ASMFC to excuse most of Maryland's overages instead of requiring a payback - a certain death knell for this season - and made sure there will be no penalty this year if recreational anglers are too productive.

He also persuaded the commissioners to drop the word "quota" - the hard cap they clutched like a small child with a security blanket - in favor of "target," which allows some wiggle room.

Finally, he got the ASMFC to agree that the 30,000-fish target would be just a one-year deal until biologists can conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of the East Coast rockfish population.

Now, King has to figure out how to comply with the halving of the harvest. No doubt the brunt of the cut will be shouldered by charter boat captains, who can ill afford a crimp in the four-week portion of the season in which many of them make 50 percent of their income.

Over the next few weeks, fishing clubs, conservation groups, guides and charter boat captains will be presented with options to reduce the harvest. Bumping up the 33-inch minimum size is almost a certainty. A limit on the number of rods on each boat might be imposed. Even a permit system is not out of the question, King says.

Whatever it is, we all have to grin and bear it. There is no other choice. Just remember, it could have been worse.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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