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Volume xviii, Issue 8 ~ February 25 - March 3, 2010

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Escape Winter — Now

If your patience has worn thin, good fishing awaits to the south

Do you miss the feel of a bent fishing rod, sun on your face and warm, wet feet? Are you feeling trapped by the snow, ice and frigid temperatures? Perhaps it’s time to escape to a better place, by heading south, way south.

The closest fishy escape destination, Florida and especially the Keys, sport an endless shoreline, warm, sunny days and bountiful supplies of accessible fish. If you’ve got an accomplice or two who can handle the non-stop driving marathon, leaving before dawn will get you there in time to start fishing the following morning.

You can fly as well, with bargains for the determined angler. One word of advice: Fly into Ft. Lauderdale, not Miami. Life will be easier.

The key to your successful escape is preparation. With Internet access you can find accommodations. FishHoo and MetaCrawler are excellent for your angling queries.

If you don’t have your own small craft to tow, small fishing boats can be rented all around the coast. Many shore-side motels offer free docking with their rooms, giving you 24-hour access to some great angling. In many areas of Florida, shoreline fishing can be productive.

This time of year there are tarpon, snook, jacks, snapper and about 50 other species of fish to pursue: many are delicious, and the others a thrill to catch.

Maximize your catching for the duration of your stay by booking a guide the first day — with the understanding that your money will also buy you a good local route to follow later, when you’re on your own.

New Orleans is also within marathon driving range. It too is a relatively inexpensive air-ticket. This time of year, the Big Easy’s superb light-tackle redfish angling is at its best. Prospects for speckled seatrout and black puppy drum are also excellent, and Louisiana’s freshwater largemouth bass fishing is great.

Souther Still

Way farther south, Cancun, Mexico, has some great deals this time of year, especially since the imperiled global economy has stimulated competition for tourist dollars.

Cancun, on the Mayan Riviera, is an intensively developed wintertime vacation area targeted to Americans. An inexpensive cab ride northwest will bring you to good do-it-yourself wade fishing for bonefish, jacks, snapper and small barracuda.

Cancun has the additional advantage of direct flights out of BWI; if you leave on an early morning flight you can be warm and fishing later that afternoon. It’s only about six hours air time and about the same cost as flying to Florida.

South out of Cancun is Ascension Bay and a half-dozen or so resorts that cater to the tropical flats angler. Resorts are not cheap, but you get picked up at the airport in Cancun, comfortable lodging and a flats skiff with a skilled guide who can put you onto vast quantities of bonefish, jacks, barracuda and even, perhaps, the elusive permit. This place is a light-tackle angler’s dream. And it’s warm.

Yellow Perch Appreciation Day: March 6

Anglers, conservation-minded citizens and elected officials gather at North East Community Park, North East, to celebrate a conservation victory with the Coastal Conservation Association, Maryland. For many years, commercial netting of yellow perch during the spring spawn took over 90 percent of available fish and preventing resurgence of the yellow perch populations. Recent legislation and regulations altered this imbalance, and the perch populations are already rebounding throughout the Chesapeake. Celebrate from 10am to 2pm: 888-758-6580;

Fish Are Coming

Hardy souls are venturing forth after yellow perch this week, but I haven’t had any reports of consistent success. Most catches have been out of the deeper water staging areas of the tributaries where the fish school and await the right temperatures and conditions to make their run. Shore-bound anglers have not had much luck.

In Season

Squirrel, rabbit and snow goose seasons open. Any area in snow goose territory with standing corn is red hot.

Conservation Legislation Alert

Bills are pending before the Maryland Legislature that are both good and bad for the Chesapeake and its resources. The bad part first: Commercial fishing efforts are underway to attack Gov. Martin O’Malley’s ambitious plans for oyster restoration. Bills are being considered to legalize environmentally destructive power dredging and the use of patent tongs for more efficient harvesting of the last one percent of Maryland’s oyster population. The legislation is also proposing to increase commercial operations in public waters despite science-based opposition. These bills (House Bills 154, 284 and 303) are currently before the House Environment Matters Committee.

Good from a conservationist’s perspective are efforts on the part of Maryland Department of Natural Resources to increase the penalties for poaching and other violations of regulations involving commercial operations and to provide for the revocation of commercial licenses under certain conditions (Senate Bill 342). Historically, a commercial license has never been revoked, no matter the frequency, degree nor flagrancy of the violations. This must change if progress is to be made in oyster restoration.

House Bill 98, proposed by DNR, would close legal loopholes allowing commercials to operate despite license suspensions and permit state sanctions for federal convictions for commercial poaching in Maryland waters.

The Coastal Conservation Association is spearheading testimony before both the House and the Senate on these bills, but your support is essential to conserving Maryland resources. Calling 800-492-7122 will direct you to the correct Maryland legislator.

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