We are starting a new feature, "Ask Outdoors Girl," where my alter ego will find answers to your questions: historical, cultural, legal, epistemological.
You may call it lazy. I call it a way to responsibly clean out my e-mail account.
We'll kick it off here this week and then move online next week. If you have questions, e-mail them to me and Outdoors Girl will begin the search.
George Sennett of Baltimore writes: "Where is Diamond Jim? The fish worth $20,000 must be in the [Chesapeake] Bay, right? In the history of the Maryland Fishing Challenge, has anyone ever caught Diamond Jim and won the big money?
Marty Gary, a biologist with the Department of Natural Resources' Fisheries Service and keeper of all things Diamond Jim, replies: "This year marks the fourth year for Diamond Jim. In each of the first three years (2006-2008), Fisheries tagged and released 61 striped bass. In 2006, three of the tagged fish were caught, two in 2007, and no tagged stripers were caught last year.
"Though no big-money Diamond Jim has been caught to date, a Monkton man did go home with a Toyota Tundra pickup truck for his catch of an impostor Diamond Jim in Eastern Bay in 2006.
"To improve the chances of catching a tagged fish, we have increased the number of tagged fish to 150. This year's tagged fish are generally in the 18-inch to 23-inch range, which are resident fish. Although they have tails and could swim to Virginia or other locations outside Maryland, what we do know about their migration tendencies indicates these fish are probably not far from where we originally tagged them (Solomons to the Bay Bridge).
"What we need are a few good anglers to catch the elusive Diamond Jim. As of Wednesday morning, he is worth $20,000."
Chuck Cobey of Reisterstown writes: "Where did the $284,819 in restitution go when those five striped bass poachers were sentenced - to the state's general fund or to DNR? That money could pay for the DNR's helicopter fund."
Tim Zink, spokesman for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, replies: "The penalties paid to NFWF in the recent striped bass poaching cases will be placed in the Impact-Directed Environmental Accounts Fund, which was created to handle money we receive from judicial proceedings, mitigation, licensing, etc.
"The Department of Justice has ordered the creation of a new category, the Chesapeake Striped Bass Restitution Fund, within IDEA. The money paid into this account will be used only for 'the protection, scientific study, and/or restoration of marine and aquatic resources and associated habitat in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.'
"NFWF has not yet determined the specific guidelines for these grants [we have not yet received any funds from this settlement, either]. We have been directed by Justice to do so with input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and likely will solicit input from both the Maryland DNR and Virginia Marine Resources Commission."
Vincent Grey of Abingdon writes: "The Eastern Shore is in a recession far worse than in the central part of the state. I think a mutually beneficial change of law that could help out would be to allow waterfowl hunting on Sundays during the December and January split season. At that time of the year, with little tourism, hunters staying at hotels, campgrounds and buying gas and food could help out a lot.
"I understand that it is good to prohibit Sunday hunting in the fall to allow non-hunting outdoor enthusiasts ample opportunity to be outside. However, I find it hard to believe that we need to keep a Sunday hunting ban in January. Open up the marshes for folks like me who work five days a week and would love the ability to get out in a field or marsh on a Sunday. I think that rather than closing it on Sunday, another option would be to close it on Wednesday, similar to the crabbing season."
Paul Peditto, head of DNR's Wildlife and Heritage Service, replies: "There's several speed humps to get over. First, the waterfowl guides and outfitters have opposed this in the past and I suspect they'd continue to do so.
"More importantly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently gives us a pass on the unhunted Sundays in our calendar. In other words, say we have a 60-day season for ducks or geese. If we don't hunt a particular day during a split, the Feds would normally take that out of the 60, even if we don't hunt it. We managed to avoid that penalty on Sundays now because the majority of Atlantic Flyway states don't have Sunday hunting.
"If we were to close any other day, they would not give us the compensatory coupon for those days. So we would have a 60-day season that includes eight Wednesdays and the Feds would require us to count those unhunted Wednesdays against our 60, effectively reducing the season to 52 days.
"I suggest we take the bird in the hand that we have now."