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Outdoor Journal

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

Planning trip? Make first one to outdoor show

Continuing through Sunday at the Farm Show Building complex at Harrisburg is the 36th annual edition of the always popular Eastern Outdoor Show, which covers hunting, fishing, camping, recreational vehicles, smaller boats, travel and vacationing.

This is the biggest exposition of its kind in the East. Tonight an tomorrow afternoon is suggested for those who want to avoid the crush. Unless one is familiar with the Farm Show Building, the complex can become a maze, but for outdoor and travel buffs it can be worth it.

The show has it all for those interested in booking hunting fishing, camping trips and vacations. There are thousands of hunting and fishing outfitters, travel agencies, vacation lodge representatives, state and private tourist agencies manning hundreds of booths. Shop around and compare prices and accommodations.

If planning a costly and lengthy junket, ask for references, kee booking deposits to a minimum, then later check the references. Everything seems hunky-dory in the exciting atmosphere of a show, but doesn't always turn out as expected. Don't get swept away by the elaborate displays, pictures and videotapes; make your expectations known -- and get it down in black and white.

Some outfitters have a convenient memory, and once at camp you can waste vacation time -- and there's no getting your money back.

There isn't as much new outdoor gear introduced in the show a there was five years ago, but there is a wide assortment of popular goodies. Some very good bargains are available, but shop wisely. Some tackle dealers use shows to unload items they can't sell in their shops.

Among the highlights yet to come: Team Turkey Callin Championship, tomorrow, 4:30 p.m.; Pennsylvania Knife and Tomahawk Throwing Championships, Saturday, 7 p.m.; and Archery and Archery Team Championships, Sunday starting at 10 a.m.

Show hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. today and tomorrow; 10 a.m to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Plan on spending four or five hours. There is much to see. Admission is $9 for adults; $3 for children. Call 1-717-234-8091.

Calendar ...

* Tonight: The Maryland Striped Bass Advisory Board will meet at 7 at Tawes State Office Building, Annapolis, to discuss recommendations for a spring rockfish season. Call Frances McFaden at 974-3365.

* Tonight: Registration for Dundalk Power Squadron boatin course, 7:30, Atholton High School, Columbia. Call 282-6464.

* Tomorrow: Opening of the 17th annual East Coast Commercia Fishermen's Trade Exposition and second annual East Coast Aquaculture Trade Expo, Ocean City Convention Center. Call 269-6622.

4 * Saturday: Maryland snow goose season closes.

* Monday: Registration for Dundalk Power Squadron boatin course, 9 a.m., St. Johns Church, 518 Franklin Ave., Baltimore. Call 282-6464.

Commentary ...

* If a quota is established for the catch of rockfish in any recreational or charterboat season, it matters not how they are caught -- if the catching is legal, sporting and does not exceed the quota. So why all the lobbying to ban the use of live eels during future seasons?

There is talk of this within and outside the Striped Bass Advisor Board, with protesters giving us the old malarkey that eeling for rock is too easy and could endanger a targeted school of fish. Such claims are ridiculous, in particular the claim that it's easier to catch rock with eels than by trolling.

Many factors are involved in fishing successfully for rock - among the most important being the expertise of the angler and skipper -- but trolling is probably the least difficult of all. And, who would suggest prohibiting trolling, which unquestionably took more rock in our fall season than all other methods combined?

There are some (foremost among them, trollers, of course) wh would have us believe that to catch a rock all one needs to do is drop a wiggling live eel overboard. In fact, successful eeling is a precise art.

Not only does the school of fish have to be located, but the boa also must be positioned correctly and the tide must be right for the boat to drift properly so that the eel drops to the fish. And, of course, the fish must be in the right mood. Knowing the proper weight to use in a given situation and how to present the eel are essential prerequisites. Then one must allow the fish to make its move before setting the hook, and finally, hooking the fish.

The eel fisherman also is frequently handicapped by th presence of too many other boats crowding in to prompt tangled lines, a poor drifting pattern, and sometimes spooking the fish.

Much of the basis for the campaign to ban eeling centers stem from last October at Love Point, where admittedly eels did well, fish were schooled well, and they averaged 6 to 12 pounds. However, this was an isolated example. In addition, any trollers who knew their fishing also made excellent catches there as their pattern took them amid the drifting eel boats.

Also, live and cut bait restrictions could jeopardize anglin activity for those who fish primarily in upper reaches of rivers and in the upper bay from shore, or by skiffs that are not satisfactory for trolling. Restrictions could also wipe out chumming with grass shrimp.

Trolling should not, for all practical purposes, be the only gam in town, and continued monitoring and enforcement of quotas can assure there will not be a massive slaughter. All fishermen deserve equal opportunity. Enough said.

Names and places ...

* The other shoe has dropped in Delaware, where the tentative Canada goose season announced by waterfowl managers is a reduction to 34 days for the coming season -- and with a bag of one goose a day. Also, the season will start later. Incidentally, there is no truth to rumors that Maryland's Department of Natural Resources already has decided to chop a week off the season.

* Commercial fishermen are catching Boston mackerel off Ocea City, reports Capt. Jack Bunting, who plans his first headboat trip on the Miss Ocean City March 15. One boat brought in 60 boxes (100 pounds to the box) and landed them in another port -- and another boat also docked with a good OC catch. Bunting can be reached at 1-301-289-7936.

* Rep. Robert Davis of Missouri has introduced a bill in Congres to repeal the new federal boat "user fee" tax. Davis is the senior Republican on the House Merchant Marine Committee. That committee has jurisdiction over the Coast Guard, which operates programs involving long-standing services that most of the fees were targeted to cover.

Question box ...

* Baltimorean Jimmy Chase asks about reports that Maryland will not close ponds to bass fishing during spawning time this year.

Our answer: Don't plan on it. The springtime ban will continue i all freshwater for both smallmouths and largemouths.

* 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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