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James Drake

Other than the normal gripes I so often hear from folks about taxes and local traffic, complaints about visiting fishermen crowding our waters and launch facilities is pretty near at the top of the list in the general grumbling department that come to me from readers of this column.

People shoot me emails all the time with stories about a planned weekend family fishing trip that went south because they couldn’t get their boat anywhere near the local ramp, for the hundreds of New Jersey or Pennsylvania fishermen already in line there in front of them.

The Potomac River, specifically the extra fine launch facility at Smallwood State Park in Marbury, is probably the most criticized of them all, but other areas in our region sometimes get hammered pretty hard by out-of-state fishermen as well.

On Oct. 28, a new regulation went into effect from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources that required tournament organizers to register their upcoming tournament with them online. This registration is only required for tournaments that have at least 10 boats, offer any reward for winning and feature staged weigh-ins.

As part of this new directive, DNR promised to keep a comprehensive online listing of all these visiting tournaments, “to assist anglers in planning their own tournament trails throughout the year,” read the instructions for registration.

A few days ago, I took some time to look at that current list and, in printing it out, I only had to add paper to my printer tray once. The type font was pretty small.

The first tournament listed for 2013 will be held on Feb. 12 in the Upper Bay launching from Anchor Marina. This one is pretty modest as only 50 anglers are expected.

Then the list quickly goes to March and the numbers rise considerably. On March 23, American Bass Anglers will be launching from Smallwood State Park and they expect 200 anglers. That wouldn’t be a good weekend for the casual family fishermen to visit, so maybe postpone plans for the next weekend.

Nope, that wouldn't be good either, for the New Jersey BASS Federation Nation is planning to launch 100 fishermen on March 30.

The NJBFN must really like Maryland bass, because they’re coming back to our state again in April and they have multiple major tournaments here scheduled in May and they’ll be visiting yet again in July.

The Walmart FLW tournament circuit also really loves our fish. They’re going to bring 270 fishermen here on April 20 for one of its tournaments and another 400 fishermen will be here at the same time for a different FLW tournament on the very same weekend. Can you imagine just trying to find a parking place near the water that weekend?

Looking ahead to June, things get really crazy on the Potomac with major tournaments scheduled already for June 1, 8, 15, 20, 22 and 30. That’s every single weekend of the month, friends.

Should I go on? July, August, September and October are all heavily booked already as well. This online list currently ends with a Dec. 1 tournament.

My momma taught me at an early age to share, but these out-of-state visiting tournament fishermen are truly getting out of hand. When a local fisherman can’t even get anywhere near the ramps, it has already gone over the line.

I have no doubt that these visiting fishermen are good for the tourism trade. They buy gasoline, have to eat and need a place to sleep. That’s a given, and we don't have to build any new roads or schools for them or soccer and baseball fields for their children to play on.

Tourism dollars are good dollars to our economy, but the cost to us shouldn’t be our local fishermen get penalized.

An awful lot of money changes hands in some of these major tournaments, but the really big bucks always leave the area. Both BASS and FLW are huge businesses and the payouts to winning fishermen run sometimes to $100,000 and more.

Maryland should absolutely get a piece of this action, for we ought to be charging them substantial fees to use our facilities. Right now, it’s free and that’s just too sweet a deal for coming here and making such big money off our resources. Maybe if we charged really high fees, they’d start to look for other places to play.

Pet tips

The holiday season can provide a wonderful experience to be with family and friends, but don’t forget the needs of our really best friends.

You might think you’re just handing out a treat giving Fido that chunk of extra skin from the flap that covers the stuffing cavity of your turkey.

However, any poultry skin is usually really greasy and fatty and could easily cause diarrhea and/or upset stomachs to any canine. In older dogs, it could even cause or exacerbate pancreatitis. Poultry bones are a real no-no for they can splinter and cause real intestinal or stomach issues that could even require surgery to put right.

Raw or undercooked poultry can contain salmonella, which is just as unpleasant and potentially deadly in dogs as it is for us.

Chocolate is horrible for dogs for it can cause seizures, convulsions or even death. If you ever suspect your dog has eaten a large portion of chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Fruitcake sometimes has little pieces of peach or plum pits which can cause internal blockage in some dogs. Those pits also have trace amounts of cyanide. The raisins can cause kidney failure in some dogs.

Mushrooms, onions, chives, grapes, walnuts and macadamia nuts are also on the prohibited list along with nutmeg, which can be quite deadly to a beloved family pet in relatively small amounts.

The Animal Behavior College also lists mistletoe and holly as poisonous and caution against your little buddies using the Christmas tree stand as an alternative water bowl. That’s especially so if you add any chemicals to the mix.

If your dog has a feeding/water station outdoors, store away any metal bowls this time of year and use plastic instead with freezing weather a real possibility.

I truly hope this holiday season is a happy, magical time for everyone, and that includes our pets.

Fishing update

Striped bass action continues to be excellent in the Potomac where the 2012 recreational season ends on Dec. 31. After that date, commercial netters pretty much have the water to themselves through February.

Ken Lamb from the Tackle Box in Lexington Park reported big stripers hanging around both the deep holes and over the 18- to 20-foot oyster bars. There are plenty of smaller fish in the 18- to 28-inch class around, too. They all like the bigger lures such as umbrella rigs and tandems along with the 12-inch shads. Some white perch are still available in the Patuxent River’s deeper depths.