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Half a Million Marylanders for the Bay
by Liz Zylwitis
Do you follow transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau in your daydreams through the back woods of early America, searching for rural simplicity?
If you want to escape the modern world for a bit, you’ll soon be able to do just that with an exhibit that shows you how folks used to live on the wide open spaces forests, swamps and waterways of Calvert County.
Another exhibit links the local environment of the Cypress Swamp with the whole Bay watershed.
In a third, life-size specimens of black bear and bobcat reign.
In all, 25 new wilderness exhibits are on the drawing board at BATTLE CREEK CYPRESS SWAMP south of Prince Frederick.
“Our new exhibits will be more interactive and educational than our existing ones, which are as much as 25 years old and revolve around local wildlife,” said senior naturalist Andrew Brown. “They will incorporate up-to-date technologies and a conservation theme.”
The $150,000 renovation is being paid for in part by a $7,500 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
Battle Creek is one of 103 groups throughout Maryland ranging from nonprofits to community associations, civic groups, schools and public agencies that shared in $350,325 of your money distributed by the Trust in January.
“We believe that the future of the Bay depends on everybody getting involved,” said Rick Leader of the Trust. “We make it easy to become involved with our program for people who have never filled out a grant application before.”
The plan is working. The Trust proudly reports the highest acceptance rate among organizations of its kind. Seventy one percent of all applications that come in Trust doors are accepted.
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Find Familiar Comforts in Old Books
by Betsy Kehne
A story’s a good friend regarldess of its age or cover.
Nat King Cole, a comfortable chair and a good book in fact, an old house full of good books: now that’s the place to be. For readers or browsers, the Lazy Moon Bookshop on Main Street in Solomons Island is the place to visit.
Make sure you look for the Lazy Moon, otherwise you may never find it. Even when the big “OPEN” flag flaps in the front yard, and with a Lazy Moon sign above the front door, you may think you’re walking into someone’s home. Don’t turn back.
Go up on the porch where Books the Cat lounges under a rocking chair in suitable weather. The box of free books (books that will never sell) is a temptation to peruse; it’s just the beginning. Opening the door is like opening a book into a place where people and things have many stories to tell. Music is likely to accompany you. If you’re lucky, you may bump into a native to Solomons returning after 30 years, or a student from up the street, or boaters en route to Bermuda stocking up on $150 worth of paperbacks.
Used and out-of-print books, postcards, signs and artwork illustrate countless times and places. Behind the literature is history: history of authors, of literary movements and the history behind each book.
“Books have very interesting stories to tell,” bookshop owner, Jim Gscheidle reminisced from his wooden desk. “Somebody should write a book about them.”
What ever happened to that John Steinbeck I loaned out 15 years ago? Or the poem tucked away safely in its pages? After traveling through many hands, it may well have ended up here like the yellowed, handwritten schoolboy’s essay tacked up on the wall. This young writer probably never imagined his plans for the “Ideal Schoolhouse” (a combination soda fountain/car/airplane/swimming pool) would be displayed so prominently 65 years later.
Maryland history, World War II, philosophy, classics, romance, children’s books: Lazy Moon offers many subjects, authors and editions. James Thurber populates the humor section in the little room upstairs and to the right; this one window room was the Lazy Moon Bookshop when it opened in 1989.
Today, the walls of this tiny space are stuffed with books and games from Trivial Pursuit to Dungeons and Dragons. A glass cabinet houses postcards depicting Calvert County in the early 1900s.
I may be one of the readers sitting on the floor or on a stool, hunched over a book. Politely step around me if I’m in your way, and I’ll return the courtesy. Everyone gets caught up in something.
Very few can spend less than 30 minutes browsing through the store when that perfect shelf appears. For me, it was a bookcase stuffed with the works of Ogden Nash, P.G. Wodehouse, P.J. O’Rourke and so many others I promised myself I’d come back to see. I stumbled downstairs, peering guiltily over my armload of books.
“Don’t worry,” said Gscheidle, “I’m my own best customer, and I’ve got 10,000 books at home to prove it.”
A visit to the Lazy Moon is a treasure hunt, just like Gscheidle’s regular circuit of bookstores, flea markets, yard sales and auctions. His search takes him up and down the East Coast.
“I look through 5,000 to 10,000 books and pick out 400,” he said. “My job is to figure out trends in reading and collecting habits.” Trends change, too. As people move or pass away, their private libraries are sold or given away.
“Very few libraries from the 1920s are left,” said Gscheidle. “Now I’m seeing ones from the 1940s and 50s.”
Still you may stumble on a turn of the century edition of Alice in Wonderland, or the St. Mary’s County Coroners Inquest: 1821-1921.
Ask about Edward F. Bigelow’s Walking: A Fine Art.
“It may never sell,” Gscheidle may tell you, “but where else are you going to find a book from 1910 on the joys of walking?”
To find treasures, look around the Lazy Moon. Have a seat in the easy chair under a reading lamp and browse the shelves.
Remember that the Lazy Moon is one of several second-hand bookstores along the Bay.
“It’s a business where you’ll find things you never thought existed,” said Gscheidle. “Or things you’ve been looking for forever.”
Find Lazy Moon Books on Main Street in Solomon’s Island: 410/326-3720. Call ahead. Winter hours may be casual. After March 20, stop in Sundays through Fridays, 11-6 and Saturdays, 10-6.
USED BOOKS ALONG THE BAY
Second Looks Books: Fox Run Shopping Center, Prince Frederick
“We strive for depth. Well, we at least try for breadth in selection,” said owner Elizabeth Prouty. “We try to be broad and cheap. We have a 10-cent book shelf of 500 books in bad condition We’re three years old and the only second-hand book store in town.” Co-owner is Richard Due.
The Book Shelf: 57 Mayo Road, Edgewater
“I carry run-of-the mill paperbacks and general fiction. People take my books on vacation: if they loss them, it won’t matter,” says Cathy Toth, owner of the six-year-old Book Shelf.
Briarwood Bookshop: 88 Maryland Avenue, Annapolis
“Every single bookshelf is unique. My customers run the social gamut, spending $1 to hundreds. I have 1000 books priced at $1,“ says David Grobani.
Dock of the Bay
Will Maryland's Smoking Ban Snuff Out Business?
Bil Shockley surveys the bar at Neptune's in North Beach as he spoons creme vegetable sauce over a hearty hunk of poached salmon.
Shockley, a graduate of Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., brings the same precision to his 10 year-old business as to cooking. He sees seven tables and 14 seats at the bar, which he separates into “parties.”
When tiny Neptune's is packed, which is almost always, Shockley all but four or five parties smoking. He's worried what might happen when Maryland's workplace smoking ban kicks in later this month.
“They'll get done with dinner, go grab a 12-pack, and go home where they and their friends can smoke,” says Shockley, a non-smoker himself. “I don't think it's the job of the government to mandate health policy.''
Maryland's far-reaching smoking ban which would ban puffing at virtually every indoor workplace in the state as early as March 27 could be felt most heavily in taverns and restaurants.
“Very small taverns and restaurants,” Gov. Parris Glendening allows, might be exempted.
Even so, smaller businesses might have to go to great lengths to win an exemption. At Neptune's, Bil Shockley observed that he may need to lay off a few of his part-time employees to get down to the threshold for to win an exemption.
On a larger scale, if a widely supported bill it has 85 cosponsors, exactly enough to override the governor’s promised veto makes it through the General Assembly, smoking might survive in bars, hotels and restaurants that serve liquor.
At Bobby D's in Deale, a popular restaurant with two bars and a bustling pool room, owner Bob Durbin mirrors the sentiments of many restaurateurs about the looming ban.
Most people who come into Bobby D's smoke, Durbin says. There's no doubt in his mind that Maryland's drive to look out for the health of its citizens will wind up hurting some of its businesses.
“We spent two years building this business up, and the government could destroy it in one stroke,” Durbin asserts.
The ban could force many businesses to make unwanted and expensive changes. We're likely to see more establishments open outdoor facilities. Depending on how the legislation turns out, larger businesses might be forced to build specially ventilated rooms, like the smoky fishbowls you see in California and at some airports.
Bob Platt, a non-smoker, owns restaurants in Annapolis (Mums) and Galesville (Pirates Cove). He’s also a partner in a barbecue franchise. He’s already wrestling with what to do it the ban prevails.
At Pirates Cove, where the lounge is separately ventilated, he plants to set up “one separate room with doors” as a smoking room. he hasn’t figured out how such a set-up would work at either
Mums or Red, Hot and Blue, where single ventilation systems serve entire buildings.
“You’re dealing with the public and they’re the public. It only takes one person in a group to take whole group somewhere else,” Platt says.
If smoking gets banned at Neptune's, Shockley's worried that people who duck out for a smoke may keep going without paying their tabs. He's fearful that when he stops putting out ashtrays, people might grind out their butts on the floor and the furniture.
Some of Neptune's patrons suggest that tavern-owners have reason to worry. Charlie Ward, 27, says he and some of his pals are thinking about cleaning up the old pool table and getting out the dart board in anticipation of nights at home.
Becky Wilson, 21, who moved down the Bay from Elk Ridge, Md. says she won't be much of a partier if she can't smoke.
“If I don't have a cigarette, I'm going to be in a bad mood,” she says.
Her husband, Ryan Wilson, 25, doesn't smoke. But like many Marylanders, he thinks the ban goes too far.
“I come here because I like to be in a place where people can be free and express themselves,'' Wilson said.
“Uncle Teddy” Carries On Chick and Ruth’s Delly
It’s a big year in the life of Ted Levitt.
So big that he just shakes his head. “I haven’t figured out yet how I’ll manage. I’m just carrying on. It’s the only thing I know how to do.”
The biggest change Ted faces is the death of his father and partner, founder Chick Levitt. Chick, 67, died unexpectedly this year of heart failure. Ruth, Ted’s mother and Chick’s husband, died in 1989. Son Ted is now the heart and soul of the home business, while overseeing the success of his pretzels-and-milkshake franchise, Uncle Teddy’s.
Trials come in threes and the first quarter of a hard year isn’t done yet. Reconstruction of Main Street is scheduled to begin this month. And a new administration must have new sandwiches, signs, and menus. Life must go on.
So Ted’s working seven days a week, coping.
The work on Main Street, won’t, he thinks, hurt him too much.
After all, he reasons, only one quarter of the street will be affected at a time. After all, people can park in the two garages, one right behind the Delly.
Except, he worries, “it’s psychological. People feel if they can’t get a spot on Main street, they can’t come to Annapolis. I’m kind of afraid, but I’m hoping it won’t hurt me.”
On top of it all, a new election means new faces in government and new faces mean new sandwiches at Chick and Ruth’s. For three decades, local, state and federal officials have read their rise and fall on Chick and Ruth’s walls.
Now “The Parris N. Glendening, the healthy choice” will replace William Donald Schaefer’s hot dog with melted cheese and bologna. The new governor’s pick is a baked potato stuffed with broccoli and cheese for $3.50. There’ll be 11 new names on the wall, covering five new sandwiches.
Ted’s favorite is the No. 1. The long-standing “Main Street” kosher style corned beef, cole slaw, and Russian dressing on rye now bears a subtitle. “I’ve named it ‘The Chick & Ruth,’ for what they’ve done for the town and its people, since they’ve been the Main attraction so long,” says Ted.
If Chick and Ruth were innovators, Ted is a conservator. In his reign, all of the sandwiches that have been featured for 30 years will reappear on the menu. He’s also a businessman. Prices will change too, and Delly lovers, it’s for the worse as sandwiches will increase a bit “to keep up with the rising cost of business.”
Ted discussed the changes with Chick days before his death and found no reason to change the family philosophy. “If the stores doing find, why change it?”
Following in his father’s footsteps, he treats each customer special, offering each service with a bowtie and a smile.
Ted walks to each table and asks, “Have you been served?” or “Was your order taken?”
Uncle Teddy won’t change much.
Boating’s Tide Rising
They’re saying it’s a tide, not a tidal wave, that’s raising the fortunes of the boating industry, but it’s a rising tide with a wide sweep.
“Recovery has been slow and we have to attend to business, but it’s much better than last year,” said David Morrow, an Annapolis marine insurer. He is president of the 420-member Marine Trades Association of Maryland. Over one hundred members of the association gathered in Annapolis this week for their 17th annual conference.
Summing up the news of the day, Mick Blackistone spoke with the same cautious optimism: “With the repeal of the luxury tax and turn-around of the recession, people are loosening up their pocketbooks. We anticipate a modest growth in sales of about eight percent, which means money for the many ancillary businesses impacted by a strong boating market,” he said.
Blackistone is the director of government relations for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
The luxury tax adding 10 percent to boats priced over $100,000 cost the nation 25,000 to 30,000 jobs between 1991 and 1993, according to Jeff Napier, national association president. It also dampened the industry’s buoyancy: big boat sales dropped by 75 percent.
Congress’s new go-slow attitude on environmental regulation can further buoy the industry, Blackistone told his home-state audience. The moratorium on all new regulations proposed under the Republican “Contract with American,” is, he said, “critical to us. We want the moratorium because regulations have hit the industry hard.”
Also improving the industry’s immediate climate, he said, is a proposed cost-benefit analysis on any new federal regulations.
Also on the agenda:
• repealing diesel fuel taxes on recreational boaters,
• removing federal fees on VHF marine radio licenses,
• reforming product liability in favor of manufacturers,
• keeping passenger trucks heavy enough to pull boats, and
• preserving the Coast Guard’s place within the Department of Transportation.
But nobody in the industry is claiming smooth sailing ahead.
The decline of ocean fisheries particularly yellow- and blue-fin tuna off Ocean City worries Blackistone. “Eight-five percent of people who buy boats get in for some aspect of fishing. If people can’t catch fish, they won’t buy boats,” he said.
Nor did association director Beth Kahr want the silver lining without the cloud. “In Maryland, recovery is slow, painful and arduous. Because we’re so dependent on discretionary income, we’re one of first industries to feel a recession and one of the last to feel a recovery,” she said.
The rest of us, on the other hand, ought to give regular thanks for the 190,436 boats registered and documented Maryland.
They poured $1.01 billion into the economy in 1993, said the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program, analyzing a new survey of over 300 marine trades firms.
That’s no surprise: anybody who owns a boat knows it’s a hole in the water into which you pour your money.
Look Alert to Catch Whitey’s 15 Seconds of Big-Screen Fame
When you see the suspense thriller Outbreak, keep your eyes on the coffee tables. That’s where if your standard of attention is up to snuff you might see a copy of local gourmet Whitey Schmidt’s Flavor of the Chesapeake Bay.
Warner Bros. requested and secured Schmidt’s permission to use the book as “set dressing” in the movie. No wonder. Flavor of the Chesapeake, Bay, Schmidt’s fourth book in celebration of our regional cuisine, is as good to look at as to cook from. Fifty-one pictures by signature Bay photographer Marion Warren make irresistible Schmidt’s 112 pages of the best presentation of local favorites and surprises.
Judging by the stars, Outbreak will be a big deal. Starring are Morgan Freeman, Rene Russo and Dustin Hoffman, who plays a military officer at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Md.
But, according to Whitey, “it’s a horrible subject. A disease comes in from Zaire by way of a monkey bite and spreads across the country. California, Hawaii … it just take off.”
Nonetheless, “we’re all on pins and needles here, cause Outbreak ’s coming out Friday,” says Whitey, who’s himself about to break out his fifth self-published and distributed book, the Eastern Shore volume of his guide to travels in Maryland.
He’ll be seeing Outbreak in Annapolis. You’ll know if you see Whitey by his full head of white hair.
But you won’t know if his book survived or fell on the cutting room floor unless you’ve sharpened your eyes.
We suggest sharpening them on an Alfred Hitchcock film. If you’re not distracted by the suspense, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Master in each and every one of his films.
Okay, now you’re ready for Outbreak .
See our “Previews” page for times and places to see Outbreak. Order Flavor of the Chesapeake for $13.95 from Marian Hartnett Press, Box 51, Friendship, Md., 20758.
In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation has problems in its own backyard. The department’s regional headquarters in New Paltz has elevated levels of lead, arsenic and DDT, Ward Stone, a state wildlife pathologist revealed. The problem is apparently due to spraying when the property was an apple orchard 15 years ago.
• The federal government is taking steps to rescue New England’s fishing industry. The Commerce Department last week announced a $2 million boat buy-back program and $4.5 million in grants to help the troubled industry. A Commerce official said the government is exploring such options as buying and scraping boats outright, and the “Scottish model” of buying a fisherman’s right to fish. Cod fishing is now prohibited in the Atlantic Ocean off New England because of severely depleted stocks.
• The Idaho Coeur D’Alenes are certainly a sporting tribe. They announced this week a national lottery that will operate in 36 states including Maryland and the District of Columbia. Tribal spokesman Bob Bostwick told New Bay Times that the lottery is a prime example of self-sufficiency for Indians. “We’re a small tribe but we’re on the cutting edge of big things in this country,” Bostwick said.
Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from Kenya, where Wildlife Service officials surprised diplomats at the airport last week by inspecting their bags. Among the underwear of officials of the United Nations operation in Somalia were two elephant tusks, ivory carvings, and a cheetah skin. Wildlife officials have long suspected diplomats of trading in the spoils of poaching.
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Prof. Glendening: D- So Far In Governing 101
Modest roots. College professor. Executive of complicated Prince Georges County. Parris Glendening's background suggests the makings of a successful people's governor.
But we can't help but wonder after his first tests how well he's studied. Does he have only textbook understanding of public opinion, like the behavioral political scientists? Did he skip the classes on timing and intangibles of politics?
Legal or not, his decision to grab extra county pension funds for his own bank account sent every wrong signal. Now, rather than repairing his reputation, he's leading the march to impose the nation's heaviest smoking ban, which would snuff out butts in nearly every place in Maryland but your home and maybe there too, if it’s a large home-office.
Glendening's goal better health for Marylanders is laudable. But the method is wrong and heavyhanded. And it couldn't come at a worse time, a time when people are mad as hornets at meddling politicians.
The professor, we fear, isn't doing his homework.
People everywhere are rebelling against government. In Washington, they're passing dumb and dumber bills to strip federal power. To reel in environmental legislation. To create an expensive entitlement program for landowners. We see the same kind of thing in Annapolis, too.
People and their representatives are lashing out, imprudently. Why? Because government is perceived to be too intrusive and too intent on minding everybody's business. With his rule for a workplace smoking ban, Glendening is making this perception reality.
Glendening isn't doing well in history, either. He apparently has forgotten the experiences of another Democrat elected with a scant plurality, President Bill Clinton.
You may recall the sucking sound of Clinton's reservoir of good will draining away because of his early missteps and stubbornness. His support of gays in the military may have been the right thing to do, but it sure was the wrong time.
Governors, like presidents, get only so much political capital. They must not fritter it away early.
Glendening is limping these days from his pension arrogance and his inherited anti-smoking crusade. Newspaper stories profile his blunders, not his vision for Maryland. If he trips another time or two before people get to know him, he could cripple his administration just what Maryland's newly emboldened Republicans want.
If he flunks more early tests, it would be bad for the professor, worse for his Democratic Party and worst for the people of Maryland.
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Letters to the Editor
The Future is Now
Dear New Bay Times Weekly:
These are days that will come back to haunt us if enough people don’t have the courage to resist the siren call of the Contract with America.
From Head Start through environment and employment to meals for the elderly, we will feel the impact. Few Americans want many of the cuts that will inevitably result. Those few are already protected by a layer of wealth and privilege that insulates them from the day-to-day struggle of increasing numbers of Americans.
Zeal and dedication to the well-being of upper income Americans have long been a hallmark of Republican policy. Can you name one millionaire who has grown poorer in the past 15 years? Can you name one middle- or lower-income American who hasn’t?
To say that “government” ought to work better is inaccurate. Congress ought to work better. This didn’t start, at HUD or DOT. Congress did it: Congress calls the shots and passes the laws. The Doles and the Armeys and the Specters and the Tip O’Neills and all the rest, they did it.
To claim you can overhaul the 200-year-old federal government in 100 days is idiotic and naive and, more to the point, dangerous. But oh so tempting, to sweep it under the rug, dust your hands and proudly proclaim you’ve solved American’s problems.
The Contract with America will move responsibility for nationwide programs to the no-less-inept state governments, few of whom are either ready or willing to attack these core issues. They haven’t the staff, the expertise, or the cash to do so. If the big guns in Washington can’t get it done, why think the little guns can?
State legislatures haven’t the courage, either. Being closer to the people is a two-edged sword at election time, and state officials see the sword coming when they contemplate courageous but unpopular acts.
The remedy? It’s up to us. For many of us, Washington isn’t a toll call. The rest can call our representatives in their district offices. Pro or con, let them know what you think. Don’t put it off. Your future is being decided now.
Dear New Bay Times Weekly:
I’ve saved Audrey Scharmen’s Feb. 23 article, “Enchanted Things” (Vol. III: 8) to read again the next time I need to go sledding with the crows or wading with the ducks. What a gem!
North Beach, Md.
So Much for So Little
Dear New Bay Times Weekly:
A mere $100 for a lifetime subscription to New Bay Times? So little for so much! Your Bay love brings us closer to your and our own home even, a few miles away in Central Illinois. It’s because NBT gives us what really matters over and over: Burton’s birds, Linebaugh’s exquisite pieces (like the one on Mother Meera), and Flam’s Alex, our hero.
Thanks! We look forward to the gifts of each issue.
Janice DiGirolamo and Phil Tinsley
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When You Want to Put People First, You Can’t Put the Environment Last
by Wayne T. Gilchrest
On the House floor last week, Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrest argued that concern for private holdings should be balanced by environmental principles. This week’s commentary is excerpted from his remarks.
I cannot help but reply to the argument that we should but people first. I think all of us agree with that. It is just how we do that which is important.
In ignoring certain aspects, like clean water or biodiversity, and then saying we are putting all the people first, I think we are losing.
In my area, clean water is absolutely essential for the quality of people’s lives, not only for their health but for our economy. Protecting the wetlands is not a sterile, regimented regulatory form. In Maryland, we all sit down at the table to discuss how we can manage the resources and protect people’s lives. Fish and Wildlife is there, the Army Corps of Engineers is there, the Department of Natural Resources is there, the affected property owners are there.
We hear about a Florida landowner who wanted to engage in limestone mining on a 98-acre parcel of property. The Crops would not allow him to fill part of that acreage because there were wetlands there.
The landowner bought the property for $1,900 per acre. When he decided not to mine, he wanted to sell for $10,500 an acre, a pretty good profit.
As a result of the Corps’ regulation, the appraisers valued the property at $4,000 an acre. Now he was a little regulated there. The Crops diminished some of the value. But gaining the difference between $1,900 and $4,000 is pretty significant.
In that discussion, profit is not the only value. We have to look at the water quality value of the wetlands to the neighboring property owners. What would happen to the value of their property if the wetland were filled and the water degraded? Who would then buy their homes, their property?
The question in my mind is this: Should we compensate people to stop them from degrading the value of somebody else’s property?
Now in Maryland, it’s being said a couple was denied the right to shore up their property because of an endangered beetle. It’s said 15 feet of the bank fell off while they were waiting for a permit.
Here are the facts: This property in Lusby, Maryland has a high bank. The man who lived there wanted to move because the erosion was so bad. He did not pay the mortgage, and the bank took over his property.
The couple purchased the property at a very low price. While living there, they realized the problem because 15 feet of the bank fell off. At that point, they applied for a permit for riprap.
The Federal Endangered Species Act, in its great flexibility, was going to permit that shoring up. But the Maryland Endangered Species Act, which is more strict than the federal act, wanted more information. Now the couple has protected their property with riprap.
Let’s put people first. But let’s remember, while we do so, the beetle, the fairy shrimp, the butterfly. Biodiversity offers us a tremendous amount of good things for medicine, for agriculture, for many causes. Let us not forget that fact.
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Gone Fishing Fulfillment of a Winter’s Impatience
When it comes to spring and fishing, you stick with the calendar the fancy, expensive, full-colored and glossy edition mail-ordered from the Sierra Club or the el-cheapo one stuffed into the bag of pharmaceuticals at the Medicine Shoppe. Me, I'm from Yankee country boy stock.
I look around to tell when it's time to go fishing. I get the same calendars you do, but they are for jotting down deadlines, social engagements and listing mileage and other expenses for IRS. The birds, trees, plants and other parts of my surroundings tell me when it's time to select a rod and reel, then tell my wife Lois I've got to go to work.
I'm lucky. Since I switched from political reporting and editing 40 years ago to writing about outdoors, primarily fishing, angling has been dominated my itinerary. Who else, while the other half is busy at the office or spring cleaning, can walk out the door toting a tackle box, and say "I've got to go to work"?
I can, and someone has to do it, and I kind of like it. Everyone has got to be somewhere, and my preference is on the water.
This is the time when we start thinking seriously about fishing. Better still, this is the time to go fishing.
It's just not things outside of me my surroundings that trigger the urge. Something within me also lets me know that, moderate as it has been, it was a long winter. All winters are long. They are that uneventful and boring period between the fall runs of rockfish, sea bass, smallmouths, largemouths, white perch and other assorted species and the spring spawning runs of the same.
In between is hunting, but shooting sports don't really fill the void. The best and longest shot with my muzzleloader, whether it be at ducks and geese or deer, does not bring the thrill I feel when a fish is brought to hand, net or gaff. And an angler, in a moment of compassion or conservation, can always release a fish.
When the first robins of the year visited my lawn much earlier than usual three weeks ago, I knew it was time to wet a hook. Those who rely on the calendar were still waiting for the right numbers.
It was a moderate, sunny day, and there were only a few yellow perch at Allen's Fresh, but it was fishing, a sport in which catching is the bonus. Being there is the sport, the fulfillment of a winter’s impatience.
The emergence of life out of doors is my personal barometer of what's in store in the waters where I fish. When the canvasbacks raft briefly on Stoney Creek, it's time for Boston mackerel to run at Ocean City. Back before the moratorium, blossoming dogwoods meant it was time to try for white shad on the Susquehanna. Now dogwood prods me to head to the Pocomoke for crappies
The blooms of the forsythia indicate smallmouths are hungry; rockfish soon will be as they complete their spawning mission. What better portent for largemouths in ponds than the opening of the first yellow crocus?
Think what you like and the thinking of weathermen to the contrary spring does not come gradually. Suddenly, it is here. It’s the same with spawning runs, which for most fishes are associated with late winter and spring. Presto, they are underway.
A Picket Fence on a Hill
Curiously and sadly with few exceptions in tidal and salt waters each spring reminds us of the vulnerability of humans and our efforts to manage the schools of fish we cherish. While most of the fishes of freshwaters prosper or at least hold their own, a chart of their counterparts in waters with a lot or little salt is something like a picket fence a picket fence on a hill.
Ups and downs are obvious, but that picket fence is going downhill, as are so most of the fish so important to us in the recreational fishery as well as in the community of watermen who work nets in rivers, bays and ocean.
Many are eager to point out that, in most instances, fisheries diminish primarily in areas where they are hit by commercial fishermen. Some cry we need still more recreational fishermen, notably of activist ilk, so by numbers alone they can overwhelm commercial interests in management decisions and strategies.
They refer to states where recent commercial curtailments have reduced catches of specific species mostly species important to recreational fishermen. Some gloat about events in Florida, where just about all netting of finfish has been voted out. But is this really the answer?
If you know the answer, it isn't a question. Properly managed, there is enough for all, but properly managed means not just politically managed, conceding recreational fishermen all they want and commercial fishermen what's left over.
Countless millions on this globe are hungry; fish are available and nutritious. Also, isn’t the not-so-hungry consumer who doesn't know how to fish or doesn't care for the sport entitled to enjoy the flavor of a truly wild rockfish from the market? Must such a one be content with the bland product of aquaculture?
Other considerations: While recreational fishermen can justifiably claim their sport has greater impact on the economy than does the commercial fishery, let us remember commercial fishing is a big business that also contributes to the economy.
Curiously, it is the sportsman the man or woman who fishes, hunts or otherwise enjoys the out-of-doors who cries that resources management should not have an economic base. The resource must come first, as well it should.
But these same vocal users of the resource do not hesitate to use financial arguments what they spend in claiming the lion's share of a resource. It makes one wonder.
Prudent management of a resource goes far beyond what who can take and how much can be taken. It involves, with fish as an example, considerations of habitat management, which goes far beyond pollution control. Every link in the food chain must be maintained. We must appreciate the domino effect.
350 Years of Frustrated Mangement
In this nation, we have had regulations and laws to protect species for more than 350 years. But look where we are today. Regulating the catch obviously was not the entire solution; it has not overcome such forces as development, oil spills, wasted wetlands, pollution in general, natural disasters and many other problems known and unknown.
Still, one wonders why today there is such a distinction between sweet waters and those with a tad or a lot of salt.
In the United States, our first fisheries conservation regulations were directed to a saltwater species, which is the most coveted of all fishes for those of the Chesapeake Bay and along much of the East Coast.
In the first of his exemplary series Issue Papers for Marylanders Concerned About Our Fisheries (April, 1992), DNR tidal fisheries chief Pete Jenson reminded us the Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted America's first fisheries conservation regulation in 1639.
It was the thinking of the elders among the colonists that forbidding the use of rockfish as fertilizer for corn and squash plantings would mean more fish for human consumption.
Nothing was mentioned about more fish for catching by hook and line. The sage elders just figured the less fish buried in the garden, the more would be available to eat. Incidentally, native Americans were more conservation conscious; they used only fish heads and entrails or smaller herring and menhaden as fertilizer in the hills of corn they planted.
Just think, this regulation came at a time when waters teemed with rockfish a time when a law was passed to prohibit those who had indentured employees from feeding them Atlantic salmon more than several times a week.
Other bay colonies, the pilgrims and offspring settlers, though they shared the same stocks, apparently saw no need for curtailments. So from the beginning, management of migratory fish followed different paths from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, species to species.
A little over a half century later, Maryland got into the act with a 1696 law prohibiting "the striking of fish" on our waters. This practice involved "catching" fish by clubbing them during their springtime upstream spawning runs.
In 1758, New York banned the sale of rockfish during the winter months, which shut down a commercial fishery. Back then, the recreational fishery was negligible.
In 1762, Massachusetts moved again, this time to prohibit winter fishing to outlaw the use of acid to drive stripers into nets.
None of these regulations and those that followed for nearly 100 years had much impact on fish populations. But as the 19th century approached, striped bass numbers crashed. Season, size and gear restrictions were implemented, but only after long controversies.
Little if any federal intervention was involved. States chose their own management plans. It wasn't until 1931 that Maryland outlawed purse seining, perhaps the most controversial and deadly of all catching methods ever in the Chesapeake.
The results were a hodgepodge of curtailments, with many of the restrictions within individual states dependent on which fishery had the most political clout. As the 20th century progressed, the federal government became more involved, implementing some curtailments itself, and prodded states to work together either regionally or coastwide on meaningful management.
The Atlantic Coast Marine Fisheries Commission, established by Congress in 1942, covered 18 states, the District of Columbia and the Potomac River. In the past 20 years, it has had much to do with contemporary management strategies, though individual states are granted some leeway.
The Commission played a significant role in the coastal moratorium on rockfish; Maryland shut the season down for five years beginning in 1985. But not all management efforts have been as successful, as evidenced for rock since the ban was lifted. Bluefish, sea trout, flounder, shad and herring are only some of the fishes whose populations have yet to be turned around.
On these species, catch limits and/or moratoriums are in effect at some place or other along the coast. But each year it becomes clearer that reducing or banning the taking of these fish on regional or state levels might not be a good enough solution. Yet the battle drags on; state against state, state managers against federal bureaucracy, commercial fishermen versus recreational anglers, and individual fishermen against laws and regulation makers.
Time to Go Fishing
It's mind boggling and it’s worrisome, but it's also time to go fishing. We've practically made it through another winter. The stage is set for spawning runs, and there's a long season ahead. It isn't like the good old days; it never will be. But let's enjoy what we have, and hope for the best while not forgetting that picket fence going downhill.
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Cygnus Columbianus: One species of heavy-bodied, long-necked mostly pure white aquatic bird, common named “Tundra Swan.” Many winter on the Chesapeake Bay.
Cygnus: A summer constellation that features the Northern Cross and resembles a swan in flight. The spine of Cygnus passes through the Milky Way and abounds with astronomical treasures, including Albireo, an intensely orange and blue double star; the North America and Veil nebulae; and Cygnus X-1, a probable black hole. Although a summer constellation, Cygnus can be seen just before dawn in February and March.
Day broke on the Chesapeake in spectacular purple, orange and gray. I had slept outside this early March night to see this dawn unfolding before me. Led by the half moon, a celestial parade stretched from the eastern shore to the west. Mighty Jupiter followed; next came dazzling Venus. Some summer’s stars still glimmered in the shadowy, crepuscular light, soon to be lost in the sunshine.
Scores of gulls soared over me like commuters flying north to begin the day’s forage. Black ducks flew by lower, making a shorter hop from the brackish pond to the open Bay. Redesigned blackbirds chirped and squawked, their direction less clear than their prattle. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of tundra swans taking off from the pond, a rambunctious splashing and beating of wings interspersed with plaintive hoots. The decibel level suggested a big crowd.
Nine swans on the wing. Who in Bay country can resist the charm of swans flying? They were still low and bathed in the pastels of sunrise. Veering south, they passed a curtain of fading stars doomed by our star’s rise. The juxtaposition hit me. Here was Cygnus columbianus aflight aligned with Cygnus herself, ever flying south in the heavens.
Consider the rarity. Who has seen a bear in front of Ursa Major, a dragon before Draco? How about an eagle passing Aquila, a crow cawing through Corvus, or a rabbit hopping by Lepus? Consider the anthropocentric constellations. Have you seen a hunter before Orion or a seated queen with Cassiopeia seated behind her? An archer before Sagittarius?
There are exceptions. You could place twins before Gemini or walk your dog when Canis glowed. Many wars have been fought beneath Mars’ red stare, and many beautiful women have passed beneath Venus.
My Cygnus pairing remains unique in timing and beauty.
I was fortunate to catch a summer constellation just before dawn. Add the wintering swans on their morning flight and I’m downright lucky. See the beauty of the moment and it becomes a special juxtaposition, teaching more about nature and its cycles than a dozen textbooks.
Look for Cygnus and cygni in the eastern sky just before dawn. They resemble each other.
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Good, Green Videos
by Joel Makower
The video industry seems to be discovering the environment. In recent months, I’ve amassed a small library of new releases with green themes. Here are some capsule reviews:
“CRUNCH! SMASH! TRASH!”
This live-action video of “monster machines that recycle” aims to help kids learn how recycling works. Viewers follow the recycling process for everything from paper to metal.
Unfortunately, it isn’t very entertaining. You could almost skip the video and go right for the accompanying booklet, which is very good. It contains detailed information on each recycled material and activities to help kids learn more.
From In-Sites Productions: 800/322-2107.
“OUTSIDE WITH BILLY B.”
This upbeat, musical video features Billy B., a nature-loving, guitar-playing, jingle-singing pepster. Billy brings a dozen kids into the “fantasy forest” to meet the “critters” at hotel “treemendous”: a talking tree, bee, squirrel and other characters. Billy’s kids appear to be having a great time. Billy’s butt-shaking bee dance is by far the best.
From Nannerb Productions: 800/4-BILLY-B.
“AUTOMOBILE CARE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT”
This 15-minute video offers insight into how to turn your car into a “lean, green driving machine.” It centers around a newly licensed 16-year-old, who shows her dad what he can do to cut back on environmental ills caused by cars. The hip, funny narration simplifies technicalities. The basic and reasonable tips on how to recycle, store and save automotive products, as well as things to tell your mechanic, are easy to follow.
From the Environmental Hazards Management Institute: 603/868-1496.
“CREATING A HEALTHY HOME”
This video begins at breakfast with a politically correct, environmental- and health-friendly family. After dad and the kids leave for the day, mom takes us around her home, garden and garage to showcase the changes this family has made to make its lifestyle cleaner and greener. While some of this may be beneficial, the tips are time- and cost-consuming, and some downright inconvenient. How many families today have the time to liquefy bar soap in a blender for laundry detergent? Indeed, this healthy home is enough to make you ill from the drastic lifestyle changes and the suggestion that they are easy to do.
From Midway Productions: 800/446-4997.
Thirteen-year-old Billy takes a friend on a tour of his house, showing ways to conserve energy and money. Most eco-aware folks already know most of this stuff. But you might learn a thing or two.
From Midway Productions.
COPYRIGHT 1995 TILDEN PRESS INC.
DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE
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