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Ken Perrotte’s Outdoors Column: undraiser to help river bass restocking
THE INITIATIVE to replenish largemouth bass populations in the tidal Rappahannock River is gathering momentum.
A major fundraiser planned for Oct. 20 is expected to generate enough revenue to purchase tens of thousands of fingerling bass.
The Rappahannock River Largemouth Bass Restocking Benefit is scheduled for the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds. Organizer Bruce Lee said he expects all 500 tickets to be sold.
The event is coordinated under the auspices of the Concerned Bass Anglers of Virginia, a tax-exempt nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Lee said more than $10,000 in sponsorship donations from both businesses and individuals have been pledged.
The event will run from 2 to 7 p.m. and costs $20 per person. Kids under age 12 get in free.
“It’s going to be very family-oriented,” Lee said. “We’ll have a moon bounce and small train to pull kids around the fairgrounds. We also have a casting contest. Children can bring their own rods and reels if desired, but we’ll have some there for any youngster to use.”
Lee said the silent auction will feature artwork, including a duck decoy carved by Hamp Covert, as well as fishing trips with local pros Christiana Bradley and Teddy Carr and a turkey hunt guided by Buddy Fines. Admission gets you all the barbecued pork you care to eat, as well as hot dogs and hamburgers. Drinks, including beer and wine, will be available.
Anglers have been fretting about Rappahannock bass populations, especially below Port Royal, for several years. Many anglers point the finger of blame at the devastating drought in 2002 when saltwater took over and decimated much of the traditional underwater habitat.
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist Bob Greenlee, who works along the lower Rappahannock, confirmed that largemouth bass catch rates from electrofishing below U.S. 301 this year appear to be at the levels seen in previous surveys. His analysis: “Not great.”
Greenlee added that hydrilla and grass coverage has dropped back from what it had been in 2009 to a much smaller area. Finding grass equated to finding bass, but other cover didn’t yield abundant bass.
Lee was part of an initiative to raise funds to stock bass in the Chickahominy River six years ago. He said success there, including reports by fellow anglers of routine 20-pound-plus stringers of five bass, is ample motivation.
The Chickahominy was stocked with a type of bass called an F1 “Tiger” bass, Lee said, explaining that the bass are a cross between a pure Florida-strain mother and a northern-strain father. Lee said the fish grow well and are aggressive. But they are not inexpensive, at a current price of two for a dollar.
Lee said the plan is to restock the river beginning next spring, with the neediest, lower part of the river getting the most attention.
The VDGIF has reportedly agreed to facilitate restocking. Greenlee advises caution regarding expectations of dramatic improvement.
“The lower Rappahannock is not the tidal Chickahominy. It will be interesting to see what response if any we will see in the fishery from these efforts,” he said.
Lee explained that the CBAV is an all-volunteer organization, and he pledged, “Every penny will go toward the restocking, after food costs and fairgrounds rental is covered, and we’ve had a lot of donations for the food.”
Tickets are available at Ken’s Tackle Shop on Lafayette Boulevard and will be available at the gate on Oct. 20. For details about sponsorships or other activities on the schedule, contact Lee at 540/226-2047 or Buddy Fines at 540/775-7294.
SNAKEHEADS IN THE RAPP
It was a matter of time. The invasive northern snakehead fish, which is now being found in large numbers in the Potomac River tributaries, is now in the Rappahannock River system.
John Odenkirk, VDGIF fisheries biologist, confirmed last week that an angler caught a snakehead in Ruffins Pond in August. This was followed by biologists locating other snakeheads in the pond via electrofishing.
A couple of weeks ago, an angler caught a snakehead in Massaponax Creek just above its confluence with the Rappahannock. Then, last week, Odenkirk and an associate captured one near Hicks Landing while conducting a tidal largemouth bass survey. Greenlee also confirmed that snakeheads were collected by electrofishing in Peedee Creek and Baylor Creek, well down into the tidal Rappahannock.
Odenkirk said it is unknown whether colonization of the river was due to somebody illegally placing them there or to migration from the Potomac. Genetic testing will help determine if the fish are related to those in the Potomac system.
A 446-pound swordfish, caught Sept. 1 by Joseph T. Harris of Virginia Beach, is the new Virginia state record for that species.
The catch was recently certified by the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.
The big swordfish easily bests the existing record of 381 pounds, caught more than 30 years ago by James Alexander of Virginia Beach. Harris was drifting whole squid south of the Norfolk Canyon aboard Captain Justin Wilson’s Lynnhaven Inlet-based 34-foot charter boat Just Right.
Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament State Record Committee member Ken Neill III of Seaford verified weight, length and girth measurements and positively identified the swordfish.
As is common in the Mid-Atlantic, the swordfish took the bait at night. The anglers didn’t even begin putting baits into the water until nearly 11 p.m. The fish hooked up at 2:30 a.m. and it took until nearly 5 a.m. for the angler and fishing crew to get it into the boat.
Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.