Happy National Fishing Week!
Hallmark doesn't have a card for the occasion, but given the nearly 47 million anglers in this country, it's surprising that the marketing geniuses haven't designed one yet.
Fishing can be relaxing, challenging, educational, social - sometimes all in the same outing. You can go it alone or make it an intimate party for the immediate world. You can drop a bundle on tackle or dust off a relic from the attic. Be a bait dunker or a fly fisher or both. Wear the latest from Orvis or Goodwill.
You don't know how to fish? Every week, organizations in Maryland are teaching some aspect of the sport. Not a sport, you say? Tell it to Ted Williams.
This year, the American Sportfishing Association, organizer of fishing week, has dedicated the event to women, who make up about 32 percent of the anglers in the country. Association spokesman Craig Koch says the future of the sport depends on attracting more women and children.
Lots of folks are catching on to that philosophy.
Earlier this month, the Howard County Parks and Recreation Department sponsored a "women only" casting clinic at Warfield Pond Park with certified master casting instructor Philip Krista. A half-dozen women (and one boyfriend) showed up, despite temperatures creeping toward 90 and high humidity.
"I've wanted to learn this forever," said Sandy Nolan of Havre de Grace, as she glanced over her shoulder to watch her back cast. "This is a long-term project, like golf."
Barbara Witt of Ellicott City had taken nearly a dozen county courses when she saw the listing for Krista's class.
"I'm a golf widow and I wanted a hobby of my own," she explained. "I liked the idea of the women's-only class because I thought I wouldn't feel really silly."
Krista has heard that before. "It can be intimidating for women. It really can."
But, he said, woman often are better students because they have more patience and don't let their egos get in the way of learning.
Another source for fishing instruction is Chesapeake Women Anglers. Once a month, the group has a "fish, lunch and learn" outing. On June 10, the women will practice on Middle Patuxent River in Savage. On July 8, they'll be in Edgewater to cast on the South River. To join or find out more, call 240-632-9318.
Prize on the line
If you're teaching a kid to fish as part of National Fishing Week, the state Department of Natural Resources is offering a reward commemorating that first catch.
"My First Fish" is being run as part of the 2000 Maryland Sport Fishing Tournament. Participants receive a certificate that records the day, time and place of the catch and the angler's "fishing buddy." If a photo of the happy angler and his or her catch is submitted to DNR, it will be attached to the certificate.
Any fish is eligible, but those that do not meet state regulations must be released immediately.
"This certificate is a memory," said Angel Bolinger, the DNR fisheries biologist who runs the tournament. "It's a good way to get kids interested and keep them interested."
Two other states - New York and Pennsylvania - have the "My First Fish" program.
Applications are available at any tackle shop that serves as a state citation center or at the DNR Web site. A number of charter captains also have the applications.
Bolinger said that since the program began this year, she has mailed out four certificates and has another 10 waiting to be processed.
She said that once kids are on summer vacation, she expects to have more requests. And, she said, novice adult anglers proud of their first catch can have a certificate, too.
Bonding with fish
Three youngsters walked away with U.S. Savings Bonds after a good weekend of fishing at the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association 17th annual spring tournament.
Ryan Perry, 12, of Centreville, Va., won a $800 bond for first place with a 36-inch rockfish; Steven Pilipauskis Jr., 10, of Riva, took second place and a $500 bond for landing a 34 1/8 -inch rockfish; Candice Wilkerson, whose age and residence were not recorded, took third prize and a $400 bond for catching a 34-inch rockfish.
The adults did OK, too.
Kenneth Bowers of Washington Borough, Pa., won the tournament and the $11,000 first prize with a 41 1/8 -inch rockfish. He won an additional $4,371 for other fish he checked in.
James Snyder of Baltimore took second and third place for a pair of 40 1/2 -inch rockfish. By entering the competition in several skill categories, he won a total of $20,046.
Fourth place was won by Carmel Libercci of Fallston with his 39-inch fish. By entering the tournament at multiple skill levels, he won a total of $8,013.
Capt. Harry Scheller of Stevensville won $500 worth of Penn rods and reels for his participation in the catch-and-release program. Scheller said that while trolling near the natural gas dock near Cove Point, he released 105 rockfish, all between 18 and 26 inches.
Honors for Crouse
It's nice to be able to end this column about National Fishing Week with a mention of (and congratulations to) one of the better anglers around.
Ray Crouse II was honored Friday by DNR for winning an unprecedented nine awards as part of the 1999 Maryland Sport Fishing Tournament.
The 38-year-old Walkersville resident was named a 1999 All Maryland Angler and won plaques for: carp (44 inches), channel catfish (38.3 inches), crappie (19 inches), largemouth bass (27.75 inches),rainbow trout (28.5 inches), redear sunfish (11.25 inches), rock bass (12.5 inches), smallmouth bass (23.75 inches) and yellow perch (15.75 inches).
Crouse's accomplishment was no accident. In 1998, he also was named an All Maryland Angler.
The eight other residents named All Maryland Angler were: Robert Devereaux of Pocomoke, Steve Eccleston of Dames Quarters, Morris E. Williams of Eden, Thomas M. Wilson of Princess Anne, and Donald Fountain, Bobby Graves, Jayne M. Queer and Will Smith, all of Salisbury.
Congratulations, one and all.
To read an expanded Outdoors Journal or the fishing report online, go to www.sunspot.net/sports/outdoors.
To hear the fishing report, call SunDial and enter category 5378 on your touch-tone phone. The phone number is 410-783-1800 in the Baltimore area; 410-268-7736 in Anne Arundel County; 410-836-5028 in Harford County; and 410-848-0038 in Carroll County.