Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Learning on the Potomac

I spend a fair amount of time in Washington, D.C. Recently, I was there for the Nation’s River’s Bass Tournament. The Nation’s River Bass Tournament is an annual event connecting students from Washington D.C. and nearby Virginia and Maryland schools with the outdoors.

The event is put on by Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The event takes place at National Harbor on the Potomac River in Maryland.

More than 300 students came out for a morning of fishing and education. The event helps raise money for Living Classrooms’ academic and workforce development programs. Last year the event raised over $40,000. Living Classroom uses a “hands-on” approach to education and job training. They use urban, natural and maritime resources as “living classrooms”.

Selected students had a chance to fish “tournament style” with volunteer bass “pros” from the local area. These anglers are organized by Captain Steve Chaonas of National Bass Guide Service. Chaconas, a former radio and TV talk show host, has been fishing on the Potomac for nearly forty years. He and his fellow “pros” make sure the kids learn while they are on the water.

Fishing from volunteer guide Peter Yanni’s boat, students Brennen Mayer and Kevin Brown boated the winning catch. Their five “keepers” total more than fifteen pounds with one “lunker” weighing five pounds and five ounces. Winmar Construction sponsored this winning team.

Students who did not go out to fish with the pros moved in groups to fifteen educational stations set up along the East Pier at National Harbor. They also had a chance to get out on the water on Living Classrooms’ ship, the Half Shell. The Half Shell, a Chesapeake Buyboat, is one of several “floating classrooms” that Living Classrooms conduct their shipboard education programs on.

The event much like the, Jim Range National Casting Call, helps highlight the Potomac River as an important economic, educational and community resource. The Potomac River is considered one of the top ten rivers in the country for largemouth bass fishing.

The Potomac is also home to both migratory fish like the stripped bass, American and Hickory shad and herring as well as freshwater fish like bass and sunfish.

If this event was any indication than I can personally attest to the excellent fishing. Twenty-plus boats went out Wednesday morning and by 11:30 a.m. everyone had returned with fish. Most boats returned with fish tipping the scales over three pounds.

Recreational Fishing is an important contributor to our national economy. In Virginia alone it accounts for more than $800 million in retail sales and 15,000 jobs each year. When anglers also make an important contribution by introducing fishing and conservation to young people who might not otherwise have a chance to participate in the sport then you have a real winning combination.

Last Thursday, representatives from the five federal agencies responsible for most of the federal investment in fishing and aquatic habitat provided a group of us an informal briefing on the funding they had proposed for fish and aquatic habitat programs.

Across the board, there was more funding proposed for the various fisheries programs than I have seen in a long time. There is also money included for more youth education including grants for programs to “educate and energize young hunters and anglers.”

Those investments are what will keep the wonderful outdoor recreation we have here possible.

You can read more of my columns at News Virginian.com

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