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Woods & Watear

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What's in a name?

“A rose is a rose by any other name,” said the poet. However, if we change the name, does our opinion of said item change? Let’s take a look into the world of fishing for an example.

The Department of Natural Resources has declared the snakehead an outlaw. In fact, we are encouraged to kill on sight or when landed. The snakehead is an invasive species. It does resemble a snake, albeit a very attractive one.

We have lots of invasive fish species, not only in Maryland, but in most other states, as well. Smallmouth bass and carp are more of the invasive species, brought to us from other states or countries. Yet, we have not declared war on these species. Could it be because they do not resemble snakes or something else scary?

Many lawmakers are attempting to do the same thing with black rifles. If it’s black, ban it, is their cry.

In 1965, Maryland lawmakers declared the rockfish to be the state fish. Why? At the time, there were plenty of striped bass (rockfish) to be caught, especially by commercial fishermen. Rockfish are strong, put up a good fight, are pretty and they taste good.

However, their numbers declined to the point that in 1985, a moratorium was declared until 1989. Nobody was allowed to catch and keep a rockfish. Finally, their numbers increased until everybody was allowed to keep a rockfish. So there were reasons to declare it the state fish.

Now, though, we see the numbers of rockfish plummet. If we want to catch one today, our best bet is Rock Hall. Let’s add a couple figures. We are allowed to keep two rockfish. Probably, we will pay for the privilege. If we decide to go with a commercial fisherman (which we will probably do), the cost is $100 per person plus the cost of gas and food. If the fishing is good, you will be back at the dock after three hours. For guys like me, that limits the number of trips per season to just a couple.

Rockfish numbers are still dropping, yet we hold desperately to the image as the state fish. In reality, there are options.

Let’s get back to the snakehead. Numbers are definitely on the rise. Most assuredly, it is a tough fighter. It is a pretty fish. Most snakeheads weigh in excess of two pounds in this area. Plus, they have teeth. Who doesn’t like a fish with teeth? It also is an excellent choice for the table.

Now, let’s name the snakehead something else, something attractive. Let’s get rid of the image that if it gets in your boat, it will kill you (although, yes, it will bite you). Call it “warrior fish” or any other appealing name.

Next, get rid of the image that the DNR propagates. Don’t kill it unless you intend to eat it.

Finally, make the leap: make the snakehead the state fish. Got enough nerve to do that?

Have fun. It's vacation time!

For the last two weeks, Valerie and I have been in upstate New York, Vermont and the Poconos having fun. First stop was Queensbury, N.Y., which we used as our headquarters. We visited Dan and Mary Austin, their five children and caught up on old times (or new ones for me). They have five kids, headed up by Abby. It was a good visit, good dinner, lots of laughs and fun.

Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame was something we both looked forward to. It is worth a day trip to see your favorite Hall of Famers.

Next up was Fort Ticonderoga, where much of “Last of the Mohicans” took place. There were demonstrations, tours and handling of weapons. Mount Defiance was next. It is one mile from Fort Ticonderoga and overlooks the river.

Our next trip was on the ferry to Vermont, then to Waterbury, home of Ben and Jerry’s. No tour would be complete without a couple free samples, plus more ice cream while you wait your turn for the tour. We wound up, of course, with more ice cream for the road.

The Poconos made up the next leg of the tour, and no trip would be complete without a visit to Llama Ice Cream and the Village Farmer and Bakery. Pie and ice cream? You betcha!

Winding down our two weeks was a whitewater rafting trip in Jim Thorpe, Pa. 

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