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Entries in Potomac River (31)

Wednesday
Feb072018

The Power of Fishing As A Lesson in Life 

Photo from City of Oswego, NY, website

(Excerpt from "The Fishing Triangle" in Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature. Owner of National Bass Guide Service, author Steve Chaconas catches bass and snakeheads on the Potomac River and is a fishing friend of mine.)

My intention is to teach as much as possible in the allotted time to allow the parent to reinforce on their own outings. Where things get interesting is when the kids return, year after year. I see a little of me in them, noting their focus, understanding, and passion for what they are doing and how they have carried this over to other elements of their development.

When they don’t return, I wonder why.

Zev’s dad booked a trip with me about 15 years ago. He insisted his six-year-old was really into fishing. He also made it clear the trip was all about his son, not for him to fish. I was very happy to hear that, as often the kid is being dragged along so dad can go fishing.

I rigged Zev’s small spinning rod with a bobber and worm and handed it to him with a bit of instruction. He loaded that rod and released it, making a long and accurate cast. I was astonished and asked his dad about it. He said he could cast like a champ. I cut off live bait and tied on a weightless, artificial worm. Cast after cast, Zev hauled in three- to five-pound largemouth bass for the remainder of our trip. I was very confident I had a new regular client. Meanwhile, Dad shot video, with Zev excited about each cast and catch.

As we said our goodbyes back at the dock, I was certain that they would be back for another outing. Zev’s mother was amazed with the video and called me. She was even more excited than her son. They were eager to go out again!

Sadly, I never heard from them. That is until about 13 years later. I was giving a seminar at a Bass Pro Shops when a guy came up to me with his son who was more than six feet tall. Dad asked me if I recognized them. Honestly, I said no. He reintroduced me to Zev! Now a 19-year-old college freshman, Zev told me he watched the video of our trip over and over so many times his dad had to have it transferred to DVD before time took its toll on the tape.

I wanted to know why they never came back. Zev’s dad said they enjoyed that trip so much that he went out and bought a boat the next day. They have fished together nearly every weekend, including team tournaments, for several years. This floored me. From one four-hour trip, I changed the course of their relationship. Well, maybe I didn’t change it as much as I just gave it a nudge.

*           *          *           *

 . . . until kids are really ready, four hours is usually all I book.  One day, I received a call from a woman whose grandson was visiting. I explained my reluctance to take such a young child out on the boat, but she sold me on a trip after we agreed I would take him out until he wanted to go home.

There was no way he could cast, so I started fishing right at the launch area. With a drop shot, I explained the procedure to him. He took to this technique quickly. He caught three nice bass in an hour with grandma documenting the catches with a camera. I shot a few of them together for her as well.

Shortly after, he asked if we could go for a boat ride. I obliged, firing up my Yamaha to his delight. Once the Skeeter was on plane, he grinned from ear to ear. I told him to tap me on my leg if we were going too fast. Feeling nothing, we took a 20-minute ride, stopping a few times to take in Potomac River sights, including Fort Washington, Mount Vernon, Reagan National Airport, and the Washington Monument.

When I asked him what he wanted to do next, he said, “It’s been about an hour and a half. I think that will do it.” Grandma concurred and we returned to the marina. Kids will let you know, sometimes not so directly, when it’s time to go. Don’t argue.  Consider the outing a success!

Instruction to adults also can make a lasting impression. One client has been fishing with me for 20 years. During that time, he has bought a boat, dozens of rod and reel combos, and a boatload of tackle. His wife refers to me as Dr. Bassenstein, as I have created a fishing monster out of her husband. 

Some refer to fishing as a hobby, sport, or an addiction. I prefer to think of it as a lesson in life. It allows us to spend quality time in a quality environment, forgetting about everything else except the rod in hand.  It allows us to focus on something that, in the big picture, really isn’t that important. As far as being an addiction?  It’s only an addiction if you are trying to quit.

Saturday
Apr222017

Stop the Snakehead Derby for Maryland's C&O Canal 

C&O CANAL Pennyfield Lock on June 3rd, 2017 at 9 a.m.

The Stop the Snakehead Fishing Derby will raise awareness and reduce the negative impact of snakeheads in our ecosystems. Snakeheads have spread beyond the Potomac River and throughout many tidal rivers in the Chesapeake Bay. In 2015 the species was found reproducing in the C&O Canal.

Please share the Snakehead Derby Flier with anyone you can. Our goal is to put a dent in the snakehead population and reduce the number of this invasive species in Maryland.

To sign up for this event use the online form and submit.

Prizes and giveaways provided by Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 
United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Bass Pro Shops

Purposes of Fishing Derby
1. Raise awareness about snakeheads and other invasive species.
2. Raise awareness about fish that live in the C&O canal and that could be negatively impacted by snakeheads.
3. Remove any snakeheads that are caught, thus reducing potential impacts to C&O canal fish.

Rules of Fishing Derby
• June 3rd is a FREE FISHING DAY!! and no fishing license is needed
• Meet at Pennyfield Lock on June 3rd at 9:00 am. Check-in at the staging area. 
• Between 9:00 am and 12:30 pm, anglers can fish anywhere between Swains Lock and Violettes Lock (toward the inside of the floating boundary markers). When a fish is caught, the angler should flag down one of the staff in fluorescent vests. The staff member will measure the fish, record its species, take your name, and send the information to the staging area at Pennyfield Lock. Prizes will be awarded to anglers who catch the biggest fish and most different species. Anglers are encouraged to release the fish except if it's a snakehead
• If an angler catches a snakehead, then the snakehead should not be released alive. In order to increase the odds that an angler will catch a snakehead, snakeheads may be caught anywhere along the tow path. Staff may assist in taking the snakehead to the staging area and in disposing of the snakehead. The angler is welcome to take the fish home with them to eat. Prizes will be awarded for biggest snakehead caught.

Accommodations for individuals with disabilities will be provided upon request. Seven days advance notice is requested. Limited fishing gear may be available to borrow.

Wednesday
Mar082017

Pollution Is Not Good, But Neither was Obama Clean Water Rule

Capt. Steve Chaconas with Potomac River bass

President Trump recently signed an Executive Order to roll back Obama's  2015 "clean water rule," which greatly expanded federal authority over public and private waters. Below is my 2014 analysis of the proposal, before it was enacted by executive fiat.

 *     *     *     *

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,” one water quality expert told me. “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.”

Wednesday
Sep212016

More Intersex Bass Found--- This Time in Illinois

The more waters that scientists investigate, the more intersex bass they find. Latest discovery is in the Des Plaines River, about 125 miles downstream from here.

In dissecting 51 male largemouth bass, researchers from the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) found that 21 had grown oocytes, or female eggs, in their testicular tissue.

“Long-term surveys conducted by the INHS in this region have shown big increases in largemouth bass over the past 40 years since the implementation of the Clean Water Act,” said fisheries biologist Mark Fritts. “It's a dichotomy here because we're seeing a population that has increased dramatically, but we're also seeing this potential problem rising.”

But this part of the river is far from pollution free. Treated sewage from Chicago flows into this area from the Chicago sanitary and Ship Canal. In a 2016 water quality report, the Illinois Protection Agency found 12 out of the 14 segments of the river tested were impaired by contaminants such a fecal bacteria and toxic industrial chemicals.

Pollution seems to be the common thread in other discoveries of intersex bass, both from municipal sewage and agricultural runoff. Specifics are elusive, except for the belief that chemicals acting as "endocrine disruptors" are causing the mutations.  They distort functions that regulate hormones and the reproductive system.

"This is an emerging field of research. We're kind of on the tip of the iceberg," Fritts said. "There are still a lot more questions than answers."

Starting in 2003, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found male smallmouth and largemouth bass with immature eggs in several areas of the Potomac River. Then they noted intersex smallmouth and white suckers at 16 sites in the Delaware, Ohio, and Susquehanna Rivers in Pennsylvania.  At one site near Hershey, Pa., 100 percent of male bass sampled had eggs.

Of these findings, USGS scientist Vicki Blazer said, "We keep seeing a correlation with the percent of agriculture in the watershed where we conduct a study."

Additionally, studies conducted from 1995 to 2004, revealed  intersex bass in the Apalachicola, Savannah, and Pee Dee River basins of the Southeast.

Just last year, meanwhile, two federal agencies found significant numbers of male bass were intersex in waters of or near National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast. Eighty-five percent of male smallmouths and 27 percent of male largemouths tested positive, according to USGS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

Monday
Sep122016

Angler Assistance Needed to Help Improve Fish Habitat in Potomac

Volunteers are needed to help Sept. 16-18 with a bass habitat project for the Smoots Bay area of the Potomac River.

“The submerged grasses in this largemouth bass nursery have virtually disappeared over the past decade and the spawning success of these fish has consequently declined,”  said Joe Love, Tidal Bass Program Manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

“These reef balls will provide important protective habitat for juvenile fish.”

Eighty small concrete balls will be constructed as an initiative of a taskforce that includes MDNR, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), and National Harbor.

The work will involve mixing and pouring concrete into  molds, the “hatching” of the balls after the concrete has cured, and a general cleanup. CBF is providing the molds and expertise, since it has done this for other areas of the Bay.

This is a hands-on event suitable for anyone over the age of 16. Lunch and water will be provided.

“We’re also planning on sinking some wood with concrete anchors.  The wood washes up at National Harbor and the folks there are beginning to stockpile wood for us,” said Love. “I’m hoping the combination of concrete and natural wood will replace the submerged grasses that were once in Smoots Bay.”

The Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc., Fish America Foundation, Pro-Formance Fishing, and the Maryland B.A.S.S. Nation are supporting partners in this project.