This weekend...* If you want to cut...

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

This weekend...

* If you want to cut off your nose to spite your face, go ahead. Ignore that new Coast Guard user fee and its accompanying sticker, but it won't go away -- not for the present at least. That the Coast Guard promises, as well as promising enforcement of Congress' latest anti-boater maneuver.

Next Tuesday, the highly controversial user fee goes into effect -- accompanied by stiff fees -- for recreational boatmen. Unless many private boat anglers act swiftly, they could find themselves high and dry for the Oct. 9 opening of the fall rockfish season. Their applications could become inundated in the big rush.

Many outraged skippers claim they will ignore the fee. "What can they do?" they ask. Here's what the CG can do: ticket them -- and this is no ordinary ticket. There is no paying a small fee by mail. It means an appearance at a hearing. In addition, the fine can be as high as $5,000 for boats without decals on navigable waters.

Something else: No sticker, and the Coast Guard will inspect the boat's equipment, which many skippers would rather not think about. Don't blame the Coast Guard; Congress implemented the user fee, none of the proceeds of which go to it. Instead, the monies go into the General Fund. It's a money-making move in these recession days and red ink budgets.

Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee canceled a meeting on the issue when unable to come up with revenue options to replace budgetary funds that would be lost if the new fee was repealed. In the budget process, equal funding must be made available from an alternative source.

Here's how things now stand.

* After two delays in enforcement, the sticker must be displayed Oct. 1 -- and it covers applicable boats in the water, not just those traveling -- though the Coast Guard indicates it won't check docks for boats not stickered. Nor will patrols be on the water just scouting for violators. However, there will be no more grace periods.

* The fees: None for pleasure craft under 16 feet; $25 for boats 16 to under 20 feet; $35 for boats 20 to under 27 feet; $50 for boats 27 to under 40 feet; and $100 for boats over 40 feet. The sticker is valid for the calendar year.

* To obtain a permit application, call 1-800-BOAT, and it will be mailed to you. Completion of the process could take two weeks or more. If you prefer faster service, call the same number and order a permit with either VISA or Mastercard, and expect it in seven to 10 days. Currently, there are no cash basis outlets for purchases at this time.

* Owners of only one in 10 boats requiring a sticker has yet to order one, so anticipate a rush -- and possible delays -- from now on. Purchases are coming in at the rate of 3,000 a day. If stopped after next Monday, after ordering a sticker but not yet in possession of it, there are indications the CG will check via computer, but there are no guarantees of immunity. It's your risk.

* BOAT/US has filed suit to knock out the fee, but that's a big if; so is alternate funding by Congress. You have been warned.

Calendar...

* Saturday: Deale Sportsmen's Show, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Deale Volunteer Fire Department. Enjoy wildlife arts, crafts, decoys, fishing tackle, gun and muzzleloader exhibits, speakers on fishing and hunting, goose and predator calling contests and bow shooting. Call 1-301-867-3181.

* Saturday: Observance of National Hunting and Fishing Day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring all kinds of outdoor exhibits, seminars and demonstrations at Remington Farms between Chestertown and Rock Hall. Free. Call 1-301-778-1565.

* Sunday: The 90-foot headboat OC Princess will depart in late afternoon on its last offshore overnight tuna fishing trip. Last weekend, 22 tuna of up to 65 pounds were taken. Reservations limited. Call 1-301-289-8121.

* Monday: Can it be that the Atlantic Coast Marine Fisheries Commission has spotted something it doesn't like in Maryland's proposed spring rockfish season? Rumor has it this is so, and that subject is on the agenda at a special meeting of the Maryland Striped Bass Advisory Committee at 6 p.m. at Tawes State Office Building.

Planning ahead...

* Oct. 11-14: 22nd annual U.S. Sailboat Show, Annapolis City Docks. Call 268-8828.

* Oct. 18-20: 20th annual U.S. Powerboat Show, Annapolis City Docks. Call 268-8828.

Names and places...

* For the first time in any combination big money fishing tournament, a sea trout has topped a bluefish for big fish honors, and it happened in the $25,000 Big Bucks Tournament out of the Rod & Reel Docks, Chesapeake Beach. Todd Ireland's 9.80-pound sea trout won $15,000. The best blue was a 6.5-pounder worth $1,000.

* A largemouth bass of 4.37 pounds won $5,000 first-place money for John Snyder of Woodstock, who was fishing a 6-inch plastic worm in the first of the planned annual series of Liberty Lake Bass Classics. Mark Bowers of Pikesville won $2,000 for second place with a 3.65-pound largemouth taken from shore, and worth $2,000. Other winners: Gene Zinkhan, Baltimore, third with a 3.63-largemouth, $1,500, and a fifth-place smallmouth of 2.73 pounds worth $500. Charles Burleson of Finksburg got a 2.94-pound smallmouth that won him $1,000 for fourth place. Thirty-eight boats and 35 shore fishermen weighed in 69 bass, of which 63 were released alive.

* Fifteen bass, one of them a 6-pounder taken on a Pig 'n Jig by Clem Luberecki, was the catch aboard guide Duke Nohe's bassboat at Prettyboy Reservoir. The pair fished 18-foot depths, and Nohe got a 3-pound smallmouth on a crayfish. They also did well on Spider Jigs by Cabin Creek.

Question box...

* Baltimorean Henry Rogers wants to know if he opens the fall rockfish season on a charterboat and catches his limit of two fish if he will be able to fish on his own boat later in the season.

Our answer: This is a much-asked question -- and the answer is yes. Regulations stipulate the two seasons -- and quotas -- are separate. Anyone can catch two fish a day on a charterboat as many days as he can afford, and his two tags will remain valid for private boat fishing. However, there is one, pardon the pun, catch. If the angler catches two fish on either a charterboat or a recreational craft he cannot keep any more fish that day on another boat.

The daily possession limit is two a day for sportsfishermen regardless of the category in which they are caught. One can catch and keep one a day on a charterboat, then another on a private boat, or two on either.

Keep in mind that while the charterboat limit is two a day for the entire season, it is only two a season in the recreational fishery. Confusing, and questionable, but don't blame me. For further information on the fall season, call Frances McFaden, 974-3365.

* 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.

Bill Burton's best bets

* TILGHMAN ISLAND: Good chumming for blues at Sharps Island Flats.

* UPPER BAY: Bluefish, either by trolling, or chunking or chumming with cut spot.

* LOWER POTOMAC: Blues in abundance.

* UPPER POTOMAC: Excellent smallmouth bass fishing.

* PATUXENT: Flounder, blues, big spot and sea trout here.

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