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Entries in Potomac River (14)

Wednesday
Mar052014

In Keeping Our Waters Clean, Let's Be Realistic

Photo by Robert Montgomery

We all live downstream.

Thus, pollution poses an exponential threat to our waters and our fisheries. And in a perfect world, no one would pollute.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

As a consequence, we pollute, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes flagrantly. Along the Potomac River, signs once warned that just touching the water could be hazardous to human health. Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it caught fire. And Lake Erie was known as a “dead sea.” The list of waters degraded and almost destroyed by pollution is a long and shameful one.

We, however, also have learned to clean up after ourselves, prompted by the federal Clean Water Act of1972. Erie now is one of the nation’s most productive fisheries. The Potomac is nationally known for its bass fishing. And the Cuyahoga, a river once devoid of fish, now is home to 44 species. The list of waters enhanced and restored is a long and hopeful one, and we arguably do more to protect our aquatic resources than any other country in the world.

That doesn’t mean that we’ve done as much as we can or should do to minimize pollution. But neither are we living in a time when rivers are catching on fire and as much needs to be done or even can be done, for that matter.

But that doesn’t keep some from trying, especially those who believe that more big government is the solution to our imperfections. That’s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to expand the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ to include water on private property.

Additionally, under new proposals, jurisdiction would extend to streams regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, as well as to ditches, gullies, and just about any low spot where moisture collects on a seasonal basis.

And that’s why the move is being heartily endorsed by environmental groups, who argue that court rulings have weakened the CWA.

“It’s taking the way the Clean Water Act works back, so that it works the way water works in the real world,” said Bob Wendelgass of Clean Water Action.

But just how far do you allow the federal government to intrude on the rights of private property owners? Those rights are a cornerstone of who we are as a nation and why so many from all over the world want to live here.

“The EPA’s draft water rule is a massive power grab of private property across the U.S,” said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith from Texas. “This could be the largest expansion of EPA regulatory authority ever.

“If the draft rule is approved, it would allow the EPA to regulate virtually every body of water in the United States, including private and public lakes, ponds, and streams.”

While I understand and even sympathize with the environmental side of this argument, I do not support such an expansion of power using regulations written by anonymous, unelected bureaucrats. Such decisions should be left up to Congress, which represents the people.

Additionally, many who want to impose ever more strict environmental regulations upon industries, agriculture, municipalities, and now private property owners do so with unrealistic expectations. In their never-ending quest for perfection, they want to reduce pollution limits to levels that can’t even be measured.

“These folks live in la-la land,” said Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation. “If you attack these things (regulations) as unrealistic, you are evil.

“What I’d really like to see is for them to sustain themselves on their own little happy ¼-acre subdivision lot. I’d be willing to bet every single one of them has a nice, cozy temperature-controlled house, pantry full of food, a sink with a spigot full of safe drinking water and a shower and toilet that take away all that nasty that they just can’t think about, much less live with, while they point fingers at everyone else.”

So . . . would I like to see an end to all pollution?  Absolutely. After all, we all live downstream.

But I believe that’s an unrealistic expectation, considering our prevalence and dominance as a species on this planet. Let’s keep trying to reduce our pollution footprint, but let’s do so with consent of the governed and with realistic standards, not those imposed by anonymous bureaucrats who live in “la-la land.”

(This opinion piece was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Feb282014

Protection From Pollution or Power Grab?

Photo by Robert Montgomery

We all live downstream.

Thus, pollution poses an exponential threat to our waters and our fisheries. And in a perfect world, no one would pollute.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

As a consequence, we pollute, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes flagrantly. Along the Potomac River, signs once warned that just touching the water could be hazardous to human health. Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it caught fire. And Lake Erie was known as a “dead sea.” The list of waters degraded and almost destroyed by pollution is a long and shameful one.

We, however, also have learned to clean up after ourselves, prompted by the federal Clean Water Act of1972. Erie now is one of the nation’s most productive fisheries. The Potomac is nationally known for its bass fishing. And the Cuyahoga, a river once devoid of fish, now is home to 44 species. The list of waters enhanced and restored is a long and hopeful one, and we arguably do more to protect our aquatic resources than any other country in the world.

That doesn’t mean that we’ve done as much as we can or should do to minimize pollution. But neither are we living in a time when rivers are catching on fire and as much needs to be done or even can be done, for that matter.

But that doesn’t keep some from trying, especially those who believe that more big government is the solution to our imperfections. That’s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to expand the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ to include water on private property.

Additionally, under new proposals, jurisdiction would extend to streams regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, as well as to ditches, gullies, and just about any low spot where moisture collects on a seasonal basis.

And that’s why the move is being heartily endorsed by environmental groups, who argue that court rulings have weakened the CWA.

“It’s taking the way the Clean Water Act works back, so that it works the way water works in the real world,” said Bob Wendelgass of Clean Water Action.

But just how far do you allow the federal government to intrude on the rights of private property owners? Those rights are a cornerstone of who we are as a nation and why so many from all over the world want to live here.

“The EPA’s draft water rule is a massive power grab of private property across the U.S,” said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith from Texas. “This could be the largest expansion of EPA regulatory authority ever.

“If the draft rule is approved, it would allow the EPA to regulate virtually every body of water in the United States, including private and public lakes, ponds, and streams.”

While I understand and even sympathize with the environmental side of this argument, I do not support such an expansion of power using regulations written by anonymous, unelected bureaucrats. Such decisions should be left up to Congress, which represents the people.

Additionally, many who want to impose ever more strict environmental regulations upon industries, agriculture, municipalities, and now private property owners do so with unrealistic expectations. In their never-ending quest for perfection, they want to reduce pollution limits to levels that can’t even be measured.

“These folks live in la-la land,” said Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation.  “If you attack these things (regulations) as unrealistic, you are evil.

“What I’d really like to see is for them to sustain themselves on their own little happy ¼-acre subdivision lot. I’d be willing to bet every single one of them has a nice, cozy temperature-controlled house, pantry full of food, a sink with a spigot full of safe drinking water and a shower and toilet that take away all that nasty that they just can’t think about, much less live with, while they point fingers at everyone else.”

So . . . would I like to see an end to all pollution?  Absolutely. After all, we all live downstream.

But I believe that’s an unrealistic expectation, considering our prevalence and dominance as a species on this planet. Let’s keep trying to reduce our pollution footprint, but let’s do so with consent of the governed and with realistic standards, not those imposed by anonymous bureaucrats who live in “la-la land.” 

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Wednesday
Jan152014

More Appetizing Name Sought for Snakehead

Clients catch snakeheads as well as bass with guide Steve Chaconas on the Potomac River. Click on the photo to visit his website.

“Snakeheads are considered a good eating fish but who wants to order snakehead for dinner? 

“The Charles County Commissioners invite citizens to participate in a Snakehead Naming Contest. Beginning at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 7, go here and submit ideas for a new and improved name for the snakehead fish . . .

 “The first phase of the Snakehead Naming Contest runs for 30 days from Tuesday, Jan. 7, through Thursday, Feb. 6. At the end of phase one, a panel of judges will select three entries to move forward in the contest.

 “The second phase of the Snakehead Naming Contest begins Tuesday, Feb. 18, and ends Thursday, March 20. During this time, the public will be able to vote online for one of the three selected entries. Prizes will be awarded to three individuals whose entries receive the most votes.


“The final, winning name will be sent to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in hopes that the state will consider the name as the Snakehead’s new, ‘official’ name.”

 From Chesapeake Current

Friday
Dec272013

Snakehead is Carrier of LMBV

Scientists have confirmed the presence of Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) in northern snakeheads taken from two Potomac River tributaries.

That might seem a positive development for those who view the exotic predator as a threat to bass and other native fish. After all, LMBV killed thousands of bass during the late 1990s and early 2000s; now maybe it will do the same to snakeheads.

But that’s not a foregone conclusion. The virus doesn’t always turn into a deadly disease. As a result, researchers caution that snakeheads simply could be carriers for spreading LMBV to bass throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, especially since the two share similar habitats.

“The virus has been found in bass, sunfish, and other fish species, but largemouth bass is the only species known to develop disease from it,” reported the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

USGS and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries made the discovery while studying snakeheads for possible pathogens. Until now, little has been known about what diseases this introduced predator might carry and/or be susceptible to.

In 2011, though, researchers found bass with LMBV in all 16 bodies of water tested in Virginia, except the tidal James River.

“The long-term and population-level effects of Largemouth Bass Virus on bass inhabiting these rivers are unknown,” added Luke Iwanowicz, a USGS research biologist.

Meanwhile, efforts to control the spread of snakeheads have been unsuccessful, the USGS pointed out, with scientists predicting they likely will expand their range.

Wednesday
Sep042013

Coping With Clients Sometimes a Challenge for Guides

When guides fish with clients, their days often aren't nearly as peaceful as this morning for Ron Castille on the Sabine River. Photo by Robert Montgomery

For guide and customer alike, the goal is simple: catch fish.

Sometimes it is achieved; other times it is not.

But a bad day on the water still is better than the best day at the office or in a factory.

Right?

Well . . . sometimes for the guides it doesn’t seem that way at the time, especially when they are on the “receiving end.” Invariably, though, they can look back and laugh, despite wet feet, lost gear, assorted injuries, and other indignities.

Louisiana guide and outfitter Ron Castille remembers a client who agreed to back his johnboat into the water for him. All went well until the customer gunned the truck to head back up the launch ramp and the fender brace snagged the bow line.

“Possibly because the sun had already risen, the client was in a hurry and did not see me waving or hear me yelling for him to stop,” Castille remembered. “He dragged the boat behind the trailer for about 100 yards on the gravel and shell parking lot.

“Several giggling spectators and I arrived at his parking spot only a few seconds after he exited the truck. With the help of the gigglers, we were able to put the boat back on the trailer and the re-launch was successful.”

But the fun wasn’t over.

Later that morning, Castille “felt something wet and moving fast” hit his collar. It was his client’s spoon and pork chunk.

“I can still remember looking at him as he continued to try to cast me, along with his spoon, into the water. I think that it took about three times before he gave up.”

The Louisiana guide, however, still hadn’t learned his lesson. He later asked his customer to hand him the push pole. And, yes, that’s exactly what happened.

“I am still fighting with the trolling motor when I am clobbered on the head with the end of the push pole. With an open mouth and squinting eyes, I did not see where my sunglasses entered the water, but I could easily see my brand new white fishing cap sitting in the stinking black marsh mud.”

Lesson finally learned, Castille cranked the outboard and headed home, where he received a tip that he would have considered “really good” under normal circumstances.

A forgiving man, the guide agreed to take the man fishing again. This time, the client showed up “with a useless 4-foot push pole” as a joke.

“I fished several more times with him and we joked about our first trip together,” the Castille remembered with a laugh. “He continued the tradition of tipping me well and it was appreciated. I still have the short push pole.”

Once a guide, pro angler Dennis Tietje also received a generous tip for services rendered above, beyond and, well, below . . .

A father with five children asked him to take two out at a time so that he could videotape them fishing. The kids ranged in age from 2 to 10.

“The day was a lot of fun, but challenging,” Tietje recalled. “The funny part came when the youngest boy wanted to drive the boat and so I put him up in my lap, with his hands on the steering wheel. The dad thought that was great.”

The guide, though, couldn’t leave well enough alone. He started tickling the boy.

“I thought he needed to smile a little for the camera, so I tickled him a little harder. That’s when I felt something warm running down my legs. He peed on my lap! A lot!

“It was pretty funny and I got a really nice tip at the end of the day.”

And children aren’t the only ones to “share,” as Red River guide Homer Humphreys learned, when taking a couple of elderly clients fishing.

“One old gentleman wanted to stand up front,” the guide said. “He told me that he wanted to pee and he wanted me to hold him. I fish barefoot, by the way.”

You see it coming, don’t you?

As the client was taking care of business, he told Humphreys, “Homer, when I was your age, I peed like a bullet. Now it’s like a shotgun.”

But Homer already knew that because he was standing in the evidence. “And I couldn’t let go of him.”

Dale Hollow guide Bobby Gentry received some unwanted "exposure" because of a client. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Occasionally, accidents don’t involve harm or humiliation to the guide, but still can lead to unwanted exposure. That was the case for Bobby Gentry at Dale Hollow Lake, when his customer showed up with a battery-powered, glow-in-the-dark spinnerbait for a night trip.

“We were up one of the creeks and on his first cast, he put that spinnerbait 30 feet up into a tree limb,” Gentry remembered. “It broke his spirit to lose that bait.”

“Lose” might be the wrong word. The bait was disconnected from the line, but it was by no means departed to an unknown destination. That’s because it kept glowing on into the next day.

The client later told Gentry, “I had no problem finding the spot that you took me to.

The guide added, “The battery lasted about 20 hours, but for two years that spinnerbait showed where my bank was.”

Once in awhile, when the fishing is slow, customers can be good for entertainment value. Guide and lure maker Stephen Headrick recalls a couple who showed knowing only how to use push-button spincast reels.

“So, I got to helping them learn to use spinning rods,” the Tennessean chuckled.

“They wanted to turn them upside down. They said they felt more comfortable with them that way. So I was sitting in the front seat and every time I would look back, I would just giggle under my breath as I watched them fish with those spinning reels upside down.”

As they fished, the clients, who were “flatlanders,” asked Headrick what happened to all of the dirt that was dug out to create Dale Hollow. “Just in fun, and not meaning to be mean, I told them to look at all of the hills. And I told them that they took all that dirt and pushed it up to make those hills.”

Other times, customers are a life saver.

“I was fishing a Carolina rig and when I set the hook, it was like hitting a brick wall with no give,” said guide and bass pro Judy Wong. “The rod came out of my hand and, when I reached for it, I fell out of the boat.”

Her clients threw her a life jacket and helped her back into the boat. “They learned afterward that I don’t really know how to swim.”

Rarely, however, clients can be more irritating than fingernails on a chalkboard. Potomac River guide Steve Chaconas recalls one of those.

“One of the worst was a guy and his boss. The guy was great, but the boss was grumpy,” the guide said.

“We pulled up to the first stop and the boss lost a fish. I offered some advice and he told me that he knew how to fish. It happened again a few minutes later, and I again offered some advice.”

This time, the boss replied “Just drive the boat, boat boy!” And Chaconas agreed to not coach him anymore.

At the next stop, the guide quietly told the other client to cast his bait onto the bank and slide it into the water to avoid spooking the fish.”

“He whacked them! Ripped off 12 in a row.” Chaconas remembered with a laugh.

The angry boss kept casting into the water, scaring fish, without realizing what was happening.

“On the way out of the creek, he asked why he wasn’t able to catch fish while his employee was bringing them in one after the other,” the guide said. “I requested permission to speak and told him.

“He scolded me for not filling him in on the secret. I told him that I was just the ‘boat boy.’”

Still, by and large, the majority of clients are a pleasure to fish with, despite the unforeseen and embarrassing events that sometimes accompany them.

“I’ve never had a bad client in 37 years of guiding,” offered Humphreys.

“Most of my clients are good,” Gentry said. “I haven’t had any that I wanted to take back to the dock and dump off.”

And Tietje added, “Every now and then, you get someone with a different expectation about what you will be doing and you have to deal with that. But, in general, guiding is great, especially if it’s family oriented. When I was a guide, my biggest enjoyment was taking kids to catch easy fish.”

(A version of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)