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Ken Perrotte’s Outdoors Column: Offshore turbine a future magnet for anglers and prized fish

Saltwater anglers will be watching the development of a huge wind turbine generator in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay a couple of miles off the Eastern Shore town of Cape Charles.

Anglers heading out from Cape Charles often reference the relatively small Plantation Flats Light, but by the end of the summer of 2013 a new edifice standing in approximately 53 feet of water could dominate the view. And forget needing a GPS, because at 479 feet tall with blades half the length of a football field, there’ll be no escaping the giant windmill’s visual impact.

Last week, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted unanimously to approve the 5-megawatt wind turbine generator prototype.

What could excite recreational anglers is that the base of the wind turbine’s steel monopile foundation and tower will be protected by an incredible expanse of stone riprap–16,186 square feet, according to the briefing given to MRC commissioners. Talk about fish structure potential!

The media release announcing the project’s approval stated that no public objections were received and that “public interest review concluded that it will not impact commercial or recreational marine activities. Rather, the project may enhance recreational fishing on the Eastern Shore because the structure likely will attract fish looking for shade and shelter. The fish, in turn, will attract anglers.”

This turbine is a test device of Gamesa Energy USA that will be designed to “help perfect this new technology for worldwide commercial market deployment by 2015.”

Approval came with a stipulation that Gamesa conduct a “comprehensive scientific study of the turbine’s underwater acoustical potential impact on marine life under a variety of wind and weather conditions.”

Acting Commissioner Jack Travelstead said, “This will bring jobs, energy, important new scientific information and enhanced fishing opportunities for recreational anglers.”

RECORD TAUTOG

Yorktown dentist Dr. Ken Neill III was making a rare solo fishing trip aboard his boat Healthy Grin recently, struggling to get the craft anchored on the wreck of the Morgan for some tautog fishing.

As he was nearing the end of his bait supply of small crabs, a tautog favorite, he received what he termed “an impressive tog bite.”

The fish grudgingly rose and then repeatedly fought back toward cover.

Finally netting it, Neill glimpsed the 32-inch fish that would weigh in at 24 pounds, 3 ounces, a Virginia record. The previous record fish, caught in 1987, was 24 pounds.

Neill has caught and tagged for release many “togs.” Tautogs are very slow-growing fish, which means Neill’s record fish must be an underwater elder.

BATS FALLING TO DISEASE

Bats are among nature’s most prolific controllers of pesky insects, but they are dying rapidly in Virginia’s mountainous areas to a veritable plague known as “white-nose syndrome.”

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologists are monitoring this relatively new disease’s impact. Reports as bats emerged from hibernation weren’t good.

New evidence indicates the problem is spreading.

Of eight species of bats that hibernate in Virginia, all but the Virginia big-eared bat have contracted the disease.

White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus.

Virginia is assisting the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center with a study examining the persistence of WNS fungal spores in caves and mines in the eastern United States.

Results from bat counts in these areas are disturbing. Little brown bats declined from a combined high of just over 5,000 bats in 2009 to 1,266 in 2011 and just 125 bats in 2012. That is a 95 percent decline in just four years. Tricolored bats declined by almost 90 percent, from 388 to 42.

Several websites provide “how to do it yourself” approaches as well as links to professionals who can advise on excluding bats from human dwellings. They include Bat Conservation International (batcon.org); Bat Conservation and Management (batmanagement.com); and the Organization for Bat Conservation (batconserva tion.org).

MORE CONTEST TRIPS

Two more regional anglers have committed to providing complimentary trips to winners of the 14th annual Take Dad Fishing for Father’s Day contest.

Capt. Tony Harding, specializing in fly fishing and light-tackle charters, is back for another year. Check out his Latitudes Charters web site at flyfishtidalva.com or email him at Capt@FlyFish TidalVa.com.

One winning team will get the unique opportunity to join former Women’s Bassmaster Tour professional and Geico Powersports fishing team member Christie Bradley for a trip. Bealeton resident Bradley still fishes in national tournaments and many major local events. See christianabradley.com.

YOUTH TURKEY DAY

Saturday is Virginia’s special early youth turkey hunting day. The unseasonably warm weather through March and the fact that the regular season comes in relatively late means youngsters may catch the birds at their peak of gobbling and strutting.

These special youth days are prime opportunities to coach youngsters in hunting skills, safety and etiquette, as well as to underscore the importance of conservation.

Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or email at outdoors@freelancestar.com.

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