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James Drake

Up front, I’ll freely admit to loving stories about kids and the outdoors.

Whether it’s the tale of a first hunt, first deer, first fish or big fish, I’m usually all in and eager to hear and report everything about it.

We raised two daughters, and I figure the lessons they taught me about the joys of watching them participate in something outdoorsy have stayed with me over the years.

I can remember my oldest doing a science fair project where she fired .22 long rifle bullets into one-gallon water jugs kept at different temperatures to measure the influence of heat on the density of water. I don’t recall if she won anything, but I haven’t forgotten what a fun project it was to do.

I can also remember our little one once hooking into a pretty fair size striped bass when she was maybe 4 or 5 years old and her hollering for me to come and help. “You hooked it, you land it yourself,” I yelled back.

She just bit her bottom lip, hung on tight and finally did get that bad boy to shore all by herself.

On March 1, I received a press release from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources that detailed how nine young anglers from the Maryland Bass Nation helped our DNR build 12 temporary spawning habitat structures for largemouth bass.

These kids got down and dirty putting together the heavy duty, corrugate plastic structures, and DNR is going to plant them in two bass sanctuaries along the tidal Potomac River. According to the account, one sanctuary had too much grass and the other not enough.

“When the aquatic vegetation is very thick, it inhibits the navigation options for adult bass,” said Dr. Joe Love, DNR tidal bass program manager. “Too little grass means easy access for the predators that eat the young bass.”

These artificial plastic habitat structures should fill in both of those gaps nicely.

DNR now plans to survey the artificial structure effectiveness for the next three years, and if they prove successful and are indeed an aide to the spawn, DNR will expand their use in similar tidal coves in years to come.

If that does happen, I only hope more of our children will volunteer to take part in a project that benefits not themselves but rather does something so good for a wild species.

Gumtree Cove in the Nanjemoy Creek and Concord Cove in the Chicamuxen Creek are where these current structures are going, and both places are off limits to boating and fishing during spawning season, which is now to June 15.

Fishing update

This year’s yellow perch spawning run has so far been more of a trickle than a mad rush upstream.

I do believe the full moon just came too early this year and water temperatures have stayed downright chilly. If the weatherman is correct and some warm weather gets here this weekend, then I’ll predict the perch run will be in full force, too.

Ken Lamb, from the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, has been sending me pictures of good numbers and good size catfish caught by the warm water discharge around Chalk Point in the Patuxent River. Even a few red drum have been surprisingly caught in the same area.

Casey McClure, park manager at Gilbert Run in Dentsville, told me anglers there have been going after the recently stocked trout. More trout are available in many of our other local waters, as well.

McClure also said that Gilbert Run will be open weekends only through March from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The park will be open seven days a week in April.

Sales up

Sturm, Ruger and Co. Inc. has confirmed what almost everyone has strongly suspected: 2012 was a very good year to be in the firearms business. A 10-K filing showed growth in almost every category and earnings of $3.60 per share.

CEO Mike Fifer boasted, “Demand for our products outpaced the growth in the overall industry demand.”

Five new products — the Ruger American Rifle, 10/22 takedown, SR22 pistol, 22/45 Lite pistol and Single-Nine revolver — accounted for more than a third of all 2012 sales.

Overall, there was more than a 50 percent growth in all weapon sales.

Record donation

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is the recipient of one of the largest endowments ever gifted to a hunter-based, wildlife conservation organization.

We’re talking about a $30 million gift from the Torstenson Family Endowment that will allow RMEF to vastly accelerate the rate at which it carries out its mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

According to The Outdoor Wire, the foundation promises to use the money to further its core mission programs: permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

“The impact this endowment will have on RMEF’s on-the-ground projects is incredibly far-reaching,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “This gives us the potential to increase our mission accomplishments substantially. RMEF plans to invest half a million dollars this year alone toward improving elk habitat and supporting hunting heritage projects.”