OPINION: Get Out Your Fishing Pole For Fun and Possibly Money

By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson

Have you been out fishing lately? Now is the time if you love this great sport which is a part of our heritage and quality of life in Maryland.

I had the pleasure of being on hand in Solomons last week with the good folks representing the Department of Natural Resources fisheries division and the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen Foundation to promote: Wanted: $25,000 "Diamond Jim" Striped Bass 2007 Maryland Fishing Challenge.

On a boat just off the Solomons pier, I was pleased to be asked by DNR to release one of 21 "Diamond Jim" rockfish into the Patuxent River.

This is an interesting contest designed to promote recreational fishing in Maryland, and inspire environmental stewardship. It began on June 14 and runs through Labor Day.

If you are lucky enough to catch a "Diamond Jim" you can win $25,000. Other striped bass have also been tagged by the DNR. If you catch one of those, you are eligible to win a Toyota Tundra 4x4 pickup truck from Central Atlantic Toyota or a 591 Nitro sportsfishing boat with a 115 HP Mercury engine and a trailer donated by Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Boats.

It won't be hard to tell if you are a lucky winner of the $25,000 "Diamond Jim" fish or eligible for the Toyota or the boat because the striper will have a large, lime green tag attached to it.

The reason why DNR is strongly promoting this contest and why I am a big supporter is that sportsfishing licenses have dropped off in recent years because there is so much competition for what people can do in the late spring and summer with their time.

Sportsfishing licenses pay for the State's finfish management program. Part of this program supports Chesapeake Bay restoration providing for a stronger ecosystem for Maryland's many species of fish.

Maryland is unique in that it offers so many different kinds of fish ranging from sunfish, rockfish (striped bass), trout, marlin and many others.

This year's "Diamond Jim" program goes back to the mid-50s when the first contest similar to this one was held. Anglers who caught a "Diamond Jim" fish were eligible for a diamond worth $5,000.

The Maryland Legislative Sportsmen's Foundation, whose vice-chair, Bill Miles, was on hand at the event, helps advance pro fishing policies as evidenced by the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative which provides a safe haven for fish, oysters and other invaluable Chesapeake Bay habitat as well as working to preserve the menhaden and yellow perch conservation.

I am proud to be a member of this Foundation and was glad that my Senate colleague John Astle (D-Annapolis) was on hand at this event to promote the Diamond Jim contest.

So, if you haven't been out on the Bay, the Patuxent, the Potomac or the Wicomico or any other waterway in our state with your fishing pole, dust if off and get out there to not only enjoy a wholesome hobby, but a chance to make some serious money while helping out the efforts of DNR to help strengthen our ailing Chesapeake Bay.

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