It’s al­ready been a bet­ter 2017

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­

2016 was a note­wor­thy year for the set­ting of state fish­ing records.

Three records were bro­ken: Co­bia, white perch (ti­dal divi­sion) and that un­wel­come preda­tor that’s staked out quite a per­ma­nent niche in South­ern Mary­land, the north­ern snake­head.

But, as it turns out, 2017 is an even bet­ter year, with five records al­ready smashed and three more months re­main­ing be­fore the year’s end.

In April, a new white perch (non-ti­dal) record was set, musky in May, white cat­fish lo­cally here in June, sheepshead (Ch­e­sa­peake Bay) in Au­gust, and an­other record for sheepshead (At­lantic Ocean) has been con­firmed by the Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

Sykesville teen Robert Martin set a new state fish­ing record last month with an 18-pound sheepshead he caught off the coast of Ocean City.

Af­ter hear­ing ru­mors that sheepshead were bit­ing (pre­sum­ably from the Reel Re­port, no doubt), he and his fa­ther did the only right thing and took a few days off to go fish­ing in Ocean City.

That first day fish­ing to­gether, they caught 11 sheepshead be­tween them. On the sec­ond day out, the 17-year-old an­gler felt an un­usu­ally ro­bust tug on the end of his line and reeled in the record-break­ing sheepshead around 9 in the morn­ing, which is be­fore most of us have even taken our first of­fi­cial cof­fee break at work. His catch was weighed in and cer­ti­fied by the Ocean City Fish­ing Cen­ter on Sept. 22.

The moral of this story is sim­ple: When the fish are bit­ing, call in sick.

Third time’s a charm

Movie ac­tors have the Os­cars, Broad­way has the Tonys. For wildlife artists, they have the Duck Stamp.

It’s the ul­ti­mate honor to have your art­work grace the front of the Mi­gra­tory Bird Hunt­ing and Con­ser­va­tion Stamp, which has been in ex­is­tence since 1934 and brings in nearly $40 mil­lion each year to con­serve and pro­tect habi­tat crit­i­cal for ducks and other mi­gra­tor y birds.

This year’s win­ner is no stranger to the con­test, which was held Sept. 15 and 16 in Wis­con­sin.

Be­fore a packed au­di­ence and a panel of five judges, Bob Haut­man’s paint­ing of a pair of mal­lards fly­ing above a cat­tail marsh reigned supreme over the other 214 sub­mis­sions in this year’s con­test.

This is Haut­man’s third time win­ning the Fed­eral Duck Stamp Con­test and his two broth­ers, Jim and Joe, have each won the con­test five times. You may re­call in 2015 the broth­ers ce­mented their “Duck Dy­nasty” when the trio took all three top spots with

Joe in first, Bob in sec­ond, and Jim in third.

It’s been 16 years since Bob Haut­man has taken first prize. When he was called up on stage to ac­cept his win, he said, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice news re­lease, “It’s been a while.”

This stamp will go on sale next year.

A new chap­ter

A merger be­tween the two big­gest names in out­doors re­tail­ing was an­nounced nearly one year ago and last week that merger fi­nally be­came a re­al­ity as pri­vately-owned Bass Pro Shops pur­chased Ne­braska-based Ca­bela’s for $5 bil­lion.

Those com­pa­nies — both worth stag­ger­ing amounts of money — came from equally hum­ble be­gin­nings.

Johnny Mor­ris, who started Bass Pro Shops in 1972 and still owns the com­pany today, sold bait and tackle out of the back of his fa­ther’s liquor store in Spring­field, Mo. His prod­ucts were so pop­u­lar

that cat­a­log sales soon de­vel­oped, fol­lowed by a whole­sale busi­ness, and then the re­tail mega­s­tores Bass Pro Shops is so well known for, like the one lo­cated nearby in Hanover in Anne Arun­del County.

The Bass Pro Shops brand is so iconic these days, I couldn’t be­gin to imag­ine what it was like back in 1970 — not that long ago, re­ally — be­fore the cat­a­log ex­isted. And, more im­por­tantly, how did peo­ple do their Christ­mas shop­ping?

Ca­bela’s, like­wise, started out as fam­ily-owned com­pany that sold fish­ing lures by mail.

Dick Ca­bela and his wife Mary filled or­ders from their kitchen ta­ble in Chap­pell, Neb., when the com­pany got its start in 1961. As the list of cus­tomers grew and the com­pany started its cat­a­log

busi­ness, Dick’s brother Jim quit his job and joined the team, a de­ci­sion I’m sure he never re­gret­ted. Ca­bela’s be­came a pub­licly-traded com­pany on the New York Stock Ex­change in 2004.

Cus­tomers are won­der­ing what the merger means for the fu­ture of both brands, their stores and all the lit­tle de­tails that make or break a shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence.

Don’t ex­pect any big changes right away. Stores will re­main open. The mer­chan­dise is stay­ing the same for now. And, so far, it seems like the cus­tomer hasn’t been for­got­ten in this deal.

A web­site has been set up at to­gether that an­swers fre­quently asked ques­tions to help the cus­tomer nav­i­gate changes

brought about by this merger.

One big change that’s sure to make cus­tomers breathe sighs of re­lief is that prod­ucts can be con­ve­niently re­turned to ei­ther store. Life­time war­ranties are still guar­an­teed, and cus­tomers can make those life­time war­ranty claims at ei­ther lo­ca­tion for re­funds or ex­changes for a com­pa­ra­ble item.

An­other un­ex­pected boon is gift cards will be ac­cepted at ei­ther store.

If you’ve got a Ca­bela’s gift card burn­ing a hole in your pocket, you can take it to the cus­tomer ser vice counter at Bass Pro Shops and

ex­change it for an equal amount. You can even call ei­ther com­pany’s on­line cus­tomer ser vice cen­ter (Bass Pro Shops: 1-800-211-6440; Ca­bela’s: 1-800-237-4444) to make the ex­change by phone.

Cus­tomers at both stores will re­tain their cur­rent re­ward pro­gram points and can con­tinue to earn points. Right now, Ca­bela’s Club Re­ward points can only be re­deemed at Ca­bela’s lo­ca­tions and Bass Pro Shops Out­door Re­wards points at Bass Pro Shops lo­ca­tions. That might change in the fu­ture.

Ca­bela’s, a com­pany that’s al­ways had more of a foothold in firearms sales than Bass Pro Shops, will con­tinue to trade and buy used firearms. And both com­pa­nies plan to keep their re­spec­tive roundup pro­grams for con­ser­va­tion in­tact.

The last ques­tion on the FAQ page made me chuckle.

If there’s one ben­e­fit to the merger of these two com­pa­nies I’m look­ing for ward to, it’s less cat­a­logs in my mail­box each week to re­cy­cle. But it doesn’t sound like my re­cy­cle bin is go­ing to get any respite any­time soon.

As the web­site said, “There are no plans to stop mail­ing cat­a­logs.”

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