Angry star can't hold candle to fish


May 13, 2007

What a dilemma. Write a column or go fishing in the hopes "a cataclysmic explosion" of the not-so-distant star Eta Carinae, coupled with the ensuing "runaway thermonuclear reaction," would distract my editors and get me off the hook.

Don't get me wrong; gazing at the Milky Way is a great way to pass an evening. But when scientists warned last week that an unstable supernova only 7,500 light-years away could go ka-boom like the death star in Star Wars, suddenly being an outdoors writer didn't seem like such a good idea.

As this week's offering shows, you folks weren't scared off by mere news reports.

Seize the carp

Tourists visiting the Tidal Basin in Washington during last weekend's Carp-In may have seen something really worth writing home about.

Twenty-two anglers from around the country lined the paved walkway. The Napier family from Indianapolis caught a 27-pound carp. The $250,000 winner of last year's Texas tournament, Al Cyr, talked to tourists and dispensed tips.

But the big winner was England's John Tillbrook, who hauled in a 38-pound carp Saturday afternoon, believed to be the biggest carp caught in the basin since the record-setting 57-pound fish caught in 1983.

Tillbrook, who lived in Virginia until recently, fished with "plain old kernels of corn with one small piece of fake corn to balance it out" at a place between the Jefferson Memorial and Outlook Bridge by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Carp anglers call the spot "Christian's Corner" after a local French chef who used to fish there a lot. But Tillbrook's catch may have them rethinking the name.

Two years ago in upstate New York, he and teammate Stewart McKenzie finished second at the World Carp Championship and was part of Team USA, with Baltimore's Tommy Robinson, Mark Metzger of Silver Spring, and Louis Cook and Matt Coll of Pennsylvania.

Big winners

Just hours before the big blow started a week ago Saturday, Rodney King of Owings caught the biggest fish at the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association annual spring striped bass tournament. His 48.65-pound fish was good for the $10,000 top cash prize plus an extra $2,260 for the "$25 Tournament Within A Tournament."

Herb Patterson of Solomons took second place with a 45.50-pound striper, but he walked away with the most money - $50,220 - by entering all the skill levels.

With a 45.25-pound striper, George Wagner Jr. of Pasadena earned third place with total winnings of $35,274.

In the charter boat division, Capt. Wilson Ford of Pasadena took first place with a striper weighing 41.20 pounds. His total winnings were $11,205.

All results are preliminary until polygraph tests are completed.

Organizers say 655 amateur boats and 37 charter boats signed up for the tournament, which had great weather the first two days only to be blown out by winds of 20 to 30 knots, with gusts up to 40.

Outstanding in field

He turns 54 on Saturday, but instead of golfing or swinging in a hammock or watching TV, Jerry Dell will be mixing it up with 39 other sportsmen at Field & Stream magazine's "Total Outdoorsman Challenge" at Bass Pro Shops at Arundel Mills.

Contestants will have to prove their skills at air rifle, archery, bait casting and fly casting.

The Carroll County electrician and farmer said he's "a fair shot with a bow and a fair shot with a gun and I've been a bait fisherman my whole life. The only thing I've never done is fly-fished."

The competition will begin at noon, with the finals at 4:30 p.m.

The contest, in its fourth year, is being held at six Bass Pro Shop locations. The top finishers at each event plus seven wild-card entries will compete in the national championships in Springfield, Mo., on Aug. 24 and 25. In addition to the four competitions at the qualifiers, contestants will have to show proficiency at shotgun and all-terrain vehicle handling and pass an endurance test. The winner will get $25,000 in cash and prizes.

"It just seemed like it would be neat. I think I'll be pretty good at it," Dell said. "If nothing else, it will be a nice day out."

Shuffling the deck

The Department of Natural Resources has reorganized, going from five assistant secretaries to three. Two of the three are holdovers from the Ehrlich/Franks administration.

The Fisheries Service and water quality monitoring will be the responsibility of Frank Dawson, previously acting assistant secretary for Chesapeake Bay programs.

The Wildlife and Heritage Service and State Parks will answer to Kristin Saunders, who was assistant secretary in charge of administration and water and land conservation.

The newcomer is Monica Johnson, a former executive with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission who used to work for Secretary John Griffin when he ran the water and sewer utility. She will be in charge of "mission support and administration," a position similar to the one she held at WSSC.

Natural Resources police will report to Deputy Secretary Eric Schwaab, a former fish and game cop.

What does this mean? Dunno. We report. You decide.

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