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State hatches fishy idea - golden trout

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WHOOPIE CUSHIONS, hula hoops, lava lamps - novelties all.

The state Department of Natural Resources is considering getting into the act by introducing a funky fish to its hatcheries to turn heads and reels.

The golden trout, not to be confused with the High Sierra fish of the same name, is a rainbow trout, minus the rainbows.

The golden was discovered in 1955, the same year the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series and Mighty Mouse got his own TV show. It was one fish, minding its own business in a sea of standard-issue rainbows at the Petersburg Hatchery in West Virginia.

Faster than you can say "teacher's pet," that single fish was cross-bred with other rainbows until fisheries people got solid gold.

"If they have a fault, it's that they're plastic trout, a manufactured product, if you will," says Bob Lunsford, Maryland freshwater fisheries director. "But it gives people something a little different."

Lunsford has until the end of the month to order golden trout eggs if he is to stock them in "put-and-take" fishing areas in spring 2002. He wants anglers to contact him if they have strong feelings one way or the other.

"I see more positives than negatives," Lunsford says, "but I want to hear from the people who will be paying for this."

Adding goldens won't cost anymore. Lunsford says he'll just allocate some of the present stocking budget to the golden trout project. Ultimately, the goldens would constitute between 5 and 10 percent of the spring stocking.

He thinks anglers will like the novelty and the sport of catching them. "They tend to be more wary than our standard hatchery trout," he says. "Once they feel they've been spotted, they'll torment you to death."

But whether they generate the sale of more fishing licenses is another question. Lunsford says only time will tell.

Joe Williams owns Springleigh Trout in Greenville, Va., and has been stocking the goldens in his recreational fee-fishing area for several years.

"They act the same as regular rainbows, and they fight just as hard," he says. "I put them in as an attention getter." Williams says the one drawback he has found is what makes them attractive to human anglers also makes them easy pickings for herons and mink.

"When I put them in a stream, they don't last. They're so visible that the predators can easily find their dinner," he says.

Lunsford says he's waiting to hear what the public thinks before he makes his recommendation to his bosses.

Don't disappoint him. E-mail the department at searly@dnr.state.md.us. Or call 1-800-688-FINS.

Liberty yields 47-lb. striper

Sykesville's Bob Bruce recalls thinking of the state record as he struggled to land an immense fish on Thursday morning in Liberty Reservoir.

It was fighting harder than several striped bass that he and his partner, Gary Peters of Eldersburg had caught recently in the same area. Each had weighed almost as much as the state record catch of 44 pounds, 8 ounces set by Dean Barrick of Westminster last year, also at Liberty.

The strike came as Bruce and Peters were trolling deep diving crank baits in the lower portion of the lake, not far from the boat launching ramp. During a fight that lasted almost 15 minutes, Bruce says many things ran through his mind: "I hope the knot holds!" "I hope the gears on the reed don't strip!" "I hope Gary doesn't miss the fish!"

Peters, the current smallmouth bass record holder, did his part. So did Bruce, whose 47-pound, 2 ounce catch sets the new state freshwater record for striped bass. He checked in at Old Reisterstown Bait and Tackle, where the fish was measured at 49 inches long with a girth of 32 inches.

"It was a dream come true," Bruce says, adding a twist to his biggest fish story: He'll have his catch mounted, and the taxidermist will be Barrick, whose record his fish broke.

A biologist approved the fish Friday and sampled scales to determine its age. DNR will post the results next week on its Web site, at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/fishingreport/index.html

Weeding out a word

There will be no harvesting in this column. We will not harvest deer, doves, or ducks. Nor will we harvest geese, grouse or gobblers."'Harvest,'" says Joel Vance, former president of the Outdoors Writers Association of America, "is a weenie word."

Amen.

Hunters kill. They bag. They take.

Farmers harvest.

I report and write. Weenie words will not do.

We are grown-ups here. Using a word such as "harvest" doesn't fool anybody. When someone says "crabbing," people know the end result: dead, red crabs spread out on newspaper, covered in Old Bay. When we say fishing, we know that means removing a creature from its life-giving environment, sometimes not to return it. We are not squeamish when we write and talk about what human beings do to other human beings.

We do not read about the St. Valentine's Day Harvest. Or the harvest at Little Big Horn.

Why should we dance around what hunters, who generally are far more discriminating with what they fire at, do?

Most likely, biologists started using the euphemism without meaning to make it one, says Vance, a former Missouri fish and game guy. They see animals as a renewable resource that can be harvested.

But the term caught on with the outdoors crowd when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals-types began flinging animal parts on people and chaining themselves to fences.

It didn't fool PETA folks. It certainly didn't fool the deer and geese. When hit with bullets or arrows, animals fall down dead. That's hunting. That's what this column is about. That's what it will say.

No animals will be harvested in the making of this column.

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