Diamond (Jims) in the rough
Gorgeous morning to be on the Chesapeake Bay. Except for the choppy water part.
But it was time to bear witness to the work being done by boatloads of volunteers, young and old, students and veterans, who helped biologists tagging striped bass for the Maryland Fishing Challenge--Diamond Jim contest. Besides, the old adage still holds true: any day on the water beats a good day in the office (if office good days even exist anymore).
A dozen boats headed out early from the Eastern and Western shores and Baltimore with marching orders: catch and tag 200 fish with green plastic markers for the July portion of the DJ event. One fish is Diamond Jim; the rest are imposters.
The sun was just warming up its act and clouds were few and far between. The only fly in the ointment was a northwest wind pushing the water into blue-green lumps that rocked boats and sent spray over the bows.
Campers from the Indian Creek summer program and kids who participated in the Baltimore Recreation and Parks "City Catch" program augmented the usual cast of Fisheries Service biologists and anglers who could play hooky for a few hours.
The going was kind of slow a shade south of Bloody Point. But everyone was filling their camera memory card with, well, memories, so how bad can that be?
There's still several hours left today (June 30) for someone to catch the striped bass with June's winning tag on it and collect $10,000. But given bay conditions today and the low water salinity levels above the Bay Bridge, I'm guessing that's unlikely.
So, the one striper with the lucky green tag released today will be worth $20,000 tomorrow. And if no one catches the July fish, the August fish will be worth $25,000.
For the first time, this year’s contest features a guaranteed $25,000 payout: If one of the three authentic Diamond Jims is not caught by Labor Day, the cash prize will be split equally among the anglers who catch imposters this summer.
Every angler who catches a citation-sized fish or a tagged striped bass and enters the challenge becomes eligible to participate in the random drawing for prizes on Sept. 10 at Sandy Point State Park. Prizes include a boat and trailer package from Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Boats, thousands of dollars in fishing gear and trips from Bill’s Outdoor Center, a tropical vacation from World Fishing Network and merchandise from Under Armour.
All the fine print is here.
More than 800 anglers have qualified for the drawing that generally draws a couple of thousand. There's the final free fishing day of the year on Monday, a good opportunity to qualify.