Big Bucks lures thousands of anglers

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

Two thousand fishermen or more will be looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow during the weekend's second annual $50,000 Big Buck's II Fishing Tournament sponsored by Rod & Reel Docks, Chesapeake Beach. The biggest fish in the two-day affair will be worth $25,000 cash.

Oddly enough the prize catch might not be a bluefish. Both blues and sea trout are eligible catches, and the way blues have been running, a sea trout might be the winner. Occasional trout of up to 10 pounds are still available at the Stone Rock sector of Sharps Island Flats -- and they are also off Solomons, Hooper Island, the mouth of the Potomac and Tangier Sound.

However, competitors shouldn't forget that a couple of weeks ago a netter took a 19-pound blue at Sharps Island Light. That fish's twin on hook and line would win an angler enough cash for a new boat rigged for fishing, including tackle and almost a full tank of gas.

Fishing hours both days start at 7; boats will be inspected an hour earlier at nine weighing stations around the bay. The last captain's meeting for tournament craft will be tonight at 7:30 at Rod & Reel, but boats can be entered until 10 p.m. Friday, and more than 500 of them could be out there trying. Call 1-800-233-2080.

If you're not in the contest, the fishing will still be good for blues -- and among the best spots of all are the waters of Sharps Island Flats off Tilghman Island. Many great catches are made close to the lighthouse. It's a great time to go fishing there.

Calendar ...

* Friday/Saturday: Silver anniversary celebration of Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, highlighted by a wooden boat auction Saturday at noon. Among the craft up for auction will be a well-maintained wooden charterboat of 40 feet with Chrysler 270 engine and built in Deal in 1943. There will be older boats, both sail and power. Call 1-301-745-2196.

* Saturday: Opening of the Maryland bow season for deer -- and there might be more than deer involved. The Maryland Bowhunters Society expects a repeat visit at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Montgomery County by Wayne Pacelle and his cohorts from the Fund for Animals, so it plans a counter demonstration.

Bowmen participation is urged by MBS to show humane extremists that Robin Hoods are organized -- and also civilized. Hunters are urged to come dressed "in tasteful casual or dress clothes, and to avoid fighting or confrontations." Just be there, and orderly, is the theme. No camouflage and hunting gear, although by midmorning things are expected to be over, so then participants can switch to hunting clothes and try to get their venison.

Demonstrators are urged to be there at 4 a.m. to allow organizers to plan their strategy. Call Russ Nichols at 551-3182 evenings; 677-5233 or 677-4813 during the day.

* Saturday: Moderate Mountain Club of Maryland hike, Patapsco State Park. Call 655-3136.

* Saturday/Sunday: Farewell to Summer Trap Shoot, Beretta Trap and Skeet Range, Glenn Dale, Md. Call John Stevens, 679-4199.

* Sunday: Maryland State Chapter of Wild Turkey Federation hunting and safety seminar, noon to 4 p.m., 4-H Park, Centreville. Call Courtney Lamp, 1-301-384-4873.

L * Sunday: MCM moderate hike, Rock Creek Park. Call 265-8332.

Planning ahead ...

* Sept. 23: Sign up now; limited enrollment for DNR Advanced Black Powder Hunter Course 8 a.m. until dark, Howard County Fairgrounds. Call Phil Waggenbrenner, 461-3007.

* Oct. 10-12: $175,000 Maryland BASS Master Invitational on the Potomac out of Smallwood State Park. Standby reservations being accepted. Call 1-205-272-9530.

Commentary ...

* Recreational fishermen are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place; let's say flanked by charterboat and commercial fisheries interests. So they better make themselves heard -- quickly and decisively.

No one, it seems, wants us to catch anything. And if we don't get on the ball quickly, we won't be allowed to. Consider the following:

1. In the Watermen's Gazette, official organ of the Maryland Watermen's Association, president Larry Simns claims the best way to protect rock is to make it strictly a commercial fish.

His reasoning: Catch records could be better monitored, and there would be less by-catch mortality, meaning less fish dying of stress after being hooked and released by recreational fishermen. Read on; that's just the beginning.

2. The minutes of a recent meeting of the DNR Striped Bass Advisory Board report charterboat interests including Capts. George Prenant and Ed O'Brien seek a May trophy rockfish season, not only to boost their sagging early-season business, but at the exclusion of non-charterboat recreational anglers.

3. Then early this week an upper bay charterboat skipper, Capt. Bob Spore, urged that the bluefish limit of 10 a day apply only to recreational fishermen. With small blues, he argued, charterboat patrons wouldn't be satisfied with 10.

What's going on here? What's the big difference between a charterboat sports fisherman and one who fishes from his own boat, or from shore? Don't argue economic issues; private fishermen contribute more to bay fishing-oriented business than the netters and charterboats combined.

We'd better wake up fast, and while we're awake, do something about it. Starters would be to let DNR know how you feel. Time is running out. Write Pete Jensen, Fisheries Division, DNR, Tawes State Office Building, Annapolis, Md. 21041. Better still, call him

at 974-3558.

Names and places ...

Bruce Landskroenner of Chestertown has taken the lead in the wahoo category of the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament with a 93-pounder taken off Wachapreague.

* Baltimorean Kenneth McDonald got a 10 1/2 -inch bluegill at Deep Creek Lake, where Pennsylvanian Jim Gwynn Jr. took a whopping 14-inch yellow perch of 1 pound 3 ounces.

Question box ...

John Duncan is curious whether the upper bay's catfish are "fit to eat," and if so, what to use for bait.

Our answer: Certainly they are good to eat, as good as any other fish. Nothing wrong with catties -- they're in the same waters and eating the same small marine critters consumed by other fish that some claim are more desirable.

They are found smack on the bottom where they should take about any bottom bait, though pieces of crab, gobs of bloodworm, nightcrawlers and even plain old garden worms should work best. Pieces of cut spot or perch also will get them, and so will clam snouts. Allow the bait to rest on the bottom, and set the hook hard after the catfish has made its move.

The best catfishing is found at the mouths or farther up the rivers; time of day seems unimportant, though a moving tide is best. Beware of the sharp spine in the dorsal fin when handling catfish, and this includes skinning and cleaning them.

* NOTE: To have an item or question included in the Outdoor Journal, write Bill Burton, The Evening Sun Sports Dept., 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278-0001.

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