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It's time to stop wading around

The Baltimore Sun

Why can't impatience be a virtue, too?

I know, "Slow and steady wins the race," and "Rome wasn't built in a day."

But we got to the moon because John F. Kennedy poked a stick in the placid behinds of Americans and the rocket establishment.

Teams such as the Detroit Tigers get better because the guy with the checkbook OKs a blockbuster deal when everyone else is happy just listening to themselves talk. (Can you hear us now, Orioles?)

So Scott McGuire, one of the young Turks on the state Task Force on Fisheries Management could hardly be faulted for expressing disappointment when his eager "I'm ready to get to work" was met with a verbal bucket of cold water and a lengthy tutorial on all things finned.

It's a tough balancing act when you're trying to rebuild the underpinnings of a management system that has not kept pace with an environment that has been fouled by greed and overdevelopment. Pull the wrong thread on the jacket, and the whole sleeve might fall off.

Everyone at the table represents an interest: recreational anglers, watermen, environmentalists and charter boat captains. It's going to be hard to change old habits and bite the hand that feeds you, if that's what it takes to fix things.

But failing to show progress soon will lead to muttering among the faithful, who become grumpy when winter denies them their fishing fix.

Tom Lewis, the chairman of the task force, is aware of the itch to get down to serious business. That's why, after two sessions of introductions and background on the Department of Natural Resources - "good first steps," he calls them - Lewis believes the Feb. 12 meeting will be one to watch.

Lewis has told task force members to be ready to "stand and deliver" their ideas for making fisheries management better.

"I think this is an important moment for the individuals and organizations," he says.

After task force members express their recommendations, Lewis would like to hear from the public. It will be interesting to see whether Maryland's fishing community can embrace radical change.

Can they look beyond their own interests to advocate dumping single-species management in favor of a big-picture approach, one that sees the links between habitat and the fish food chain? To use an example supplied by one task force member: Does the decrease in the East Coast shark population mean an increase in cow nose rays, a shark food source, which in turn means fewer baby crabs, a ray delicacy?

Or, what is the relationship in the Chesapeake Bay between rising runoff from development and farms, declining menhaden stock and skinny striped bass?

"It's hard to look at fish without looking upstream to see what activities are having an impact," Lewis says. "Habitat is overwhelming every other factor. Somewhere, there are people allowing grading of the landscape and turning open land into highways. Every time people do that, there has to be the voice of the fish and it has to be listened to."

That's a tall order. It will take patience to piece together a workable plan.

But I'm betting if the proposed solution is largely propping up the status quo, the impatience of the Scott McGuires of the world will be a virtue.

Anybody home?

One of the Chesapeake Bay's most conscientious charter boat captains recently sent this e-mail to DNR's customer assistance mailbox: "There is a sail boat that has broken away from it's mooring in Selby Bay, off South River. It's [leaning] on its side, and in dangerous situation. The registration number is MD 2454 AU."

Fourteen days later, this was the response: "I will forward this to the DNR communications center. This site is not checked every day. Please call 800-628-9944 for responses that need immediate attention. Thank you for your assistance."

As my grandmother would say, "Wouldn't want to be hanging by my neck that long."

Guess that's the impatience talking.

Don't add water

We pass this along as a public service and also because it's a cheap laugh at the expense of a neighboring state that has jacked up tolls on Interstate 95 to the point of highway robbery.

Delaware's outdoors community has been warned by state officials not to affix 2008 boat fishing license decals to their vessels. The problem?

When dunked in water, the stickers don't do what their name implies. (Makes you wonder who wrote up the specs for that bid.)

That was news to the vendor - not identified in the Division of Fish and Wildlife communique - which won't be able to print and deliver sticky stickers until late March.

This gets Delaware's new boat fishing license program off to a roaring stop. But keep buying those boat fishing licenses, state officials urge.

One can only imagine what will happen if the revenue stream runs dry. Those Delaware Turnpike tolls might have to be raised from $4 each way to $400 to cover the privilege of motoring on 11 miles of asphalt.

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