Avoid nat­u­ral se­lec­tion

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

I’m sure you are fa­mil­iar with the name Charles Dar­win from high school Bi­ol­ogy class.

Dar­win was a sci­en­tist who be­came quite well known for his the­o­ries and re­search in the nat­u­ral sciences. Among his many the­o­ries, his writ­ings on nat­u­ral se­lec­tion have got­ten a lot of at­ten­tion over the years.

Ear­lier this month, we nearly had a public ex­am­ple of nat­u­ral se­lec­tion in the boat­ing world, ex­cept that for this ex­cep­tion­ally lucky group of boaters, the U.S. Coast Guard stepped in, just in the nick of time, to foil na­ture’s plan.

Four chil­dren and four adults were on a 14-foot alu­minum boat near Fort Ni­a­gara State Park in New York when a wave came over the bow and swamped the ves­sel. They were for­tu­nate to be within vis­ual range of a U.S. Coast Guard sta­tion and thank­fully a watch­stander ob­served the fam­ily wav­ing in dis­tress and dis­patched help im­me­di­ately.

The four chil­dren were wear­ing life jack­ets, but the adults’ life jack­ets had floated away with

the first wave that came over the bow. If this ac­ci­dent hadn’t oc­curred so close to a U.S. Coast Guard sta­tion, those four kids would have likely watched their elders drown, and who knows what would have ul­ti­mately be­come of the chil­dren them­selves.

In ret­ro­spect, I’m sure those boaters re­gret tempt­ing fate by over­load­ing that boat and be­ing quite cav­a­lier about safety and the well-be­ing of those kids. How many souls can you sen­si­bly pack into a 14-foot alu­minum boat? Can a life jacket save you if you’re not wear­ing it?

Good judge­ment is what al­lows us hu­mans to avoid na­ture’s clutches and dodge Dar­win’s the­o­ries.

In Mary­land, the law only

re­quires a child un­der the age of 13 to wear a life pre­server. Usu­ally I’m not one to sup­port an­other iota of gov­ern­ment over­sight, but why don’t we ex­tend that law and make it a rule that every­one, adults in­cluded, wear one? About 80 per­cent of wa­ter fa­tal­i­ties could be pre­vented that way. We all put on a seat­belt when we get in a car. It’s time we ap­ply that same kind of think­ing to boat­ing.

Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources po­lice handed out 526 ci­ta­tions around the Fourth of July. Tick­ets were is­sued for vi­o­la­tions rang­ing from ex­ceed­ing the 6-knot speed limit to in­suf­fi­cient num­ber of life jack­ets.

Haven’t most of us seen the movie Ti­tanic? Hav­ing enough

life pre­servers for every­one on­board isn’t just the law, in the boat­ing world it’s your best op­tion to avoid nat­u­ral se­lec­tion.

And sadly there were 12 boaters ar­rested for op­er­at­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol. That’s 12 too many.

There’s a very good rea­son man­u­fac­tur­ers set a max­i­mum oc­cu­pancy for the boats they sell. Let’s fol­low those guide­lines, put a life vest on every­one on­board, and not drink and boat.

A few poor de­ci­sions are all it takes to turn a day on the wa­ter into a tragedy that could have been pre­vented. Re­mem­ber, only you can make com­mon sense de­ci­sions that will keep

na­ture at bay and you and your loved ones safe and sound.

‘If you don’t know, let it go’

A buddy from back in the day, Dave Red­den of St. Leonard, re­cently shared a story about a trip to Nan’s Cove with an end­ing we all can learn from.

Red­den has a kayak and tries to get out on the wa­ter as much as pos­si­ble, but with a busy life and two teenage sons, it’s hard to find the time. Luck­ily, he’s got a gem of a wife, Va­lerie, who lets him go fish­ing when­ever he can fit it in.

I should also men­tion Red­den is a high school

teacher. The adage “a bad day fish­ing is bet­ter than a good day at work” is true for most of us, but es­pe­cially so for him Septem­ber through June.

Lately, while Red­den is load­ing up his kayak with gear, he’s been putting his min­now trap out. He can catch a dozen or two min­nows in a cou­ple min­utes. His grand­fa­ther called these lit­tle fish “bull min­nows,” but you might know them as mum­mi­chogs.

Red­den used those min­nows as well as a small beetle­spin on this par­tic­u­lar day and caught about 18 white perch just be­fore high tide. When it was time to head in, he cast out one of the left­over min­nows and pulled it be­hind the kayak. It was a fine idea be­cause right away he hooked some­thing with

a lit­tle heft to it.

The fish put up a fight, and af­ter a few ex­cit­ing min­utes reel­ing it in, Red­den was pleas­antly sur­prised with a nice 23inch rock­fish. He didn’t have the reg­u­la­tions handy in his kayak and couldn’t re­mem­ber the min­i­mum size. So be­cause he wasn’t sure, Red­den let the fish go to swim and fight an­other day.

That’s good ad­vice for any­one who goes fish­ing.

DNR puts out a handy mag­a­zine ev­ery year called the “Mary­land Guide to Fish­ing and Hunt­ing,” which can be picked up for free at area re­tail­ers around the end of Fe­bru­ary each year. It makes for good read­ing on a cold win­ter’s day.

I like to read it cover-to-cover right away, then I put a copy in the bot­tom of my tackle box and keep an­other one in my trunk. By now, my

copies are pretty worn out and start­ing to come apart, but the in­for­ma­tion in­side is al­ways avail­able, 24/7, on­line at www.ereg­u­la­tions.com/mary­land/ fish­ing/.

In case you are won­der­ing if he could have kept the fish, it was le­gal. The min­i­mum size for rock­fish is 20 inches un­til Dec. 20. An an­gler can keep two fish be­tween 20 and 28 inches or one fish 20 to 28 inches and one fish greater than 28 inches. But Red­den did the right thing.

We can all take the moral of the story to heart next time we are faced with a sim­i­lar dilemma. It doesn’t hurt to err on the side of cau­tion, es­pe­cially when it comes to our nat­u­ral re­sources. We all share a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect recre­ational fish­ing for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

As Dave said, “If you don’t know, let it go.”

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