2009 Maryland Fishing Challenge – The Search for Diamond Jim

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Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff, with the help of more than a dozen students from across the state, tagged 50 new rockfish for prizes in the 2009 Maryland Fishing Challenge, The Search for Diamond Jim. The fifth annual Challenge – which also includes a citation component — kicked off June 1 and has already drawn hundreds of participants.

“Whether experienced anglers or first-timers, Marylanders of all walks of life can participate with their families in the Fishing Challenge,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “This is a great opportunity to introduce a new generation to one of Maryland’s greatest traditions, the sport of fishing.”

This week 50 specially tagged striped bass – one genuine Diamond Jim and 49 imposters — were released into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The real Diamond Jim is now worth $20,000 cash if caught by midnight July 31, 2009, and the 49 Diamond Jim imposters are worth $500 each for the duration of the contest. DNR will release additional tagged fish at the beginning of August, at which point any previously released and uncaught Diamond Jim will become an imposter. The newly released Diamond Jim’s value will increase to $25,000 in August, if the preceding Jims remain on the loose.

The Diamond Jim component of the 2009 Fishing Challenge is a reincarnation of the popular tournaments of the 1950s. Bill Burton, who has reported on outdoor recreation and Chesapeake Bay issues for more than 50 years, was influential in bringing Diamond Jim back to the new contest.

“This is the first time in a couple of years that I’ve gone fishing,” said Tyler Price, a student from C. Milton Wright High School. “My dad fishes and I’ve always been kind of interested in fishing. I’m having a good time.”

Created to promote recreational fishing in Maryland, recognize angler efforts and inspire natural resources stewardship, the 2009 Maryland Fishing Challenge will run through Labor Day, September 7, 2009. Any angler who catches a citation-qualifying fish and enters the challenge becomes eligible to participate in the grand prize drawing, which includes a boat and trailer package from Bass Pro Shops and thousands of dollars in fishing gear and trips from Bill’s Outdoor Center.

“We could not hold the contest without the generous help of our sponsors,” said DNR secretary John Griffin. “We appreciated what they have contributed despite tough economic times.”

More than 60 species of fish are eligible for the grand prizes, including large and smallmouth bass, trout, walleye, musky and panfish in the freshwaters of Maryland; rockfish (striped bass), bluefish, drum, sea trout and perch in the Chesapeake Bay; and tuna, marlin, flounder, kingfish and sea bass caught in Maryland waters off the Atlantic Coast. Grand prize winners will be randomly selected at a closing ceremony in mid-September.

As an added youth component, children participating in various fishing rodeos across the State may qualify for a unique category and win a guided fishing trip. Last year 12 children won trips donated by Maryland charter boat captains, which DNR is currently scheduling and will take place throughout the summer.

“Catch a fish” is one of the Maryland Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, issued by Governor Martin O’Malley in April. The Bill is part of the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature, an initiative to ensure all Maryland young people have the opportunity to connect with their natural world and grow to become informed and responsible stewards.

Complete Rules are available online at www.dnr.maryland.gov/fishingchallenge.

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