Avoid natural selection
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.”