Backcasts archive: Through Jan. 12, 2007

Blog calendar: Jan. 12 | Jan. 11 | Jan. 10 | Jan. 9

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    posted Jan. 12, 2007

    If freeing fishermen means peace on the border, then so be it

    It's not at all uncommon; hey, what the warden doesn't know won't hurt him, right? Step on a short halibut to squeeze that extra half-inch to be legal length. Go one crappie over the limit.

    Shame on you, poachers; your time will come.

    But how about serving hard jail time, for years, without a trial, just for fishing?

    That's the story along the shared border of Pakistan and India in the Arabian Sea.

    It has been customary for years that saltwater anglers from either country are busted for alleged border violations and the fishing infractions that are added on to the charges.

    One day these fishermen are working to make end's meet and the next their families are without the breadwinner or any knowledge about when or even if he's coming home.

    Ah, but in what is considered a peace offering, Pakistan this week released 115 imprisoned anglers and bused them home to India, according to the Associated Press.

    "We have released these 115 Indian fishermen as a gesture of goodwill, and this is a gift for our neighboring country," said Wasim Akhtar, a senior Pakistani security official.

    "We want good relations with India," Akhtar said in Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province. "We hope that India will also reciprocate and release all those Pakistanis who are languishing at Indian jails."

    Last month Pakistan released 70 Indian prisoners while India sent back 54 Pakistani detainees. The exchanges were part of an agreement between Pakistan and India to free all fishermen held by both countries, according to the AP.

    Now that is what I'm talking about. Fishermen can make a difference on the world stage and bring peace to warring nations.

    Shout it from the rooftops: "Make peace, free the fishermen. Put your guns down and let the anglers go home."

    Could it be any simpler?

    Probably not, but it is very encouraging to see that it's making a difference in countries that have engaged in three wars since gaining independence from British rule in 1947 and where steps to ease political tensions since 2004 include unlocking the cells of working fishermen caught up in the turmoil.

    Here's to hoping the gesture is sincere, permanent and not ever any sort of bait and switch.

    Moose on a noose? The best of your photo captions

    We're sure officials at New Hampshire's Berlin Police Department never dreamed the emergency call they received from neighboring Milan, N.H., would result in freeing a moose tangled in a swing set and that we'd be writing captions for their photographic evidence.

    Last week we asked you for cutlines for the moose shot, and here are our top-five selections for best captions:

    Terry Condon (Horseheads, N.Y.): Can't a moose end it all without being interrupted by The Man?

    Greg (Wibaux, Mont.): I knew I should have read the directions.

    Bill (Jena, La.): This catch and release moose hunting is not going to catch on!

    Alan (Sherwood, Ark.): I wish Santa would pick up his reindeer.

    Craig Huxta (Monument, Colo.): Moose on a noose

    Thanks to all those who participated in our request for cutlines. To see additional entries or if you would like to write a caption of your own for this moose shot, check out our mailbag.

    Look for additional photos and caption contests in coming weeks. Click here if you have a photo that you would like to submit for our consideration to post.


    posted Jan. 11, 2007

    No record for Pennsylvania bowfisherman? Then carp we must

    In Europe, carp are BIG deals. Here, well, not so much.

    Across the Pond, tournaments are fashioned around the bottom feeders.

    In the States they are most often considered pests — along with whitefish and suckers, scorned by many as among the worst of the trash fish.

    All that said, here's a story of a carp that's not even good enough to be considered a carp.

    Now that's low.

    It turns out the 54¼-pound carp Dennis Russian thought was a shoo-in for state-record status in Pennsylvania doesn't qualify because, as we understand, it wasn't the right kind of carp. (Never mind that Russian amazingly arrowed the brute while bowfishing on Presque Isle Bay in May.)

    Nope, Russian recently was denied the milestone, according to the Associated Press, because his fish was the lowest form of bottom feeder — a grass carp — and not the more heralded common carp.

    The state Fish and Boat Commission came down hard on poor Mr. Russian.

    "There was simply no way a grass carp — no matter how large — could qualify as a recreational fishing record," said executive director Doug Austen.

    Now that is a quote worthy of the dry-eraser board above the desk of any outdoor communicator, because, to my way of thinking, a carp is a carp is a carp. Am I right or what?

    Indeed, if there is room in the Pennsylvania record books for a common carp, why not make space for the grass carp, even if it may be a rung lower on the evolutionary ladder?

    Sure they are used for weed control, and yes one must have a special state permit to possess them. But grass carp are strong and free swimmers that have finned their way into the vast waterways elsewhere in Pennsylvania and other jurisdictions.

    I'm sure I speak for carp anglers everywhere, Mr. Austen: Tear down this wall that keeps the grass carp from its destiny.

    As for Mr. Russian, he must have tired of waiting for official word on his record status; when his carp started to rot, he tossed it and opted for a replica to hang in his archery shop.

    (Me, I would have hung it au naturel and used some of the scales for guitar picks, but that's a different fish story.)

    Yes, Dennis Russian is a proud sportsman with a fish to be proud of, more than 2 pounds superior to the heaviest on record in Pennsylvania — the fabled 52-pound Juniata River common carp of 1962 that apparently will keep its historic spot, for now.

    Grass carpers, keep the faith: Our day will come.


    posted Jan. 10, 2007

    Two heads are better than one, aren't they?

    "It's the craziest thing I've ever seen."

    Talk about understatements.

    That's the sentiment of southwest Virginia dairyman Kirk Heldreth attempting to describe a new arrival at his farm.

    A calf born with two faces is attracting curious visitors to his property in the state's appropriately named hamlet of Rural Retreat.

    Yep, two noses and two tongues, but one eye socket — containing two eyes — where the heads "split."

    Curiously, this freak of nature, a product of artificial insemination, was spawned with designs of being a genetically superior specimen — a notion Heldreth still holds, according to the Associated Press.

    "Genetically, this is one of my better calves," he said.

    Wow, those visitors might be curious to see some of his animals that aren't so genetically superior.

    In related news, a sportsman in Wisconsin has tagged a two-headed buck.

    Rifle hunter I.B. Fibbing shot what he thought to be a whitetail with massive headgear, only to discover on closer examination of his downed prize it had two noggins.

    After his initial amazement, Fibbing was confused over how to score the thing. At first he thought he had a 16-point buck, but then by division he deduced perhaps it should count as two 8-pointers. It was a dilemma.

    But here's the kicker: After tagging the rare ruminant and dragging it out of the woods to his pickup, who should happen by but the game warden, who calmly stated, "Aha, I got ya."

    "Whatever do you mean?" the surprised Fibbing responded.

    "You only have one tag," said the warden, who promptly issued a citation for possessing two deer.

    OK, I jest … but can you imagine? That would be one to tell the grandkids, huh?

    Unbelievable hunt? Midwest midwinter more like midsummer

    Here's something you couldn't make up:

    Up in the Midwest — you know, where the hunting doesn't get really good unless it's 20 below and snowing — whitetail pursuers are shedding layers of clothing in the deer woods.

    Soon they'll be tracking in T-shirts, it's that warm.

    But apparently the climate change isn't hurting hunting, according to Mike DonCarlos, Wildlife Research and Policy Manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

    "Minnesota has experienced warmer weather than normal, which makes the deer hunting a lot easier," recently told ESPNOutdoors.com.

    "A lot of hunters are hunting later in the season because it's a lot more comfortable sitting in a blind when it's 40 degrees compared to when it is zero degrees."

    Blame it on El Nino, that convenient, seemingly catch-all phrase that's kicked down when things warm up.

    But it may or may not last long, according to the National Weather Service, which maintains the unusually tepid December could give way to colder temps in the western United States; it's anyone's guess what's in store this month for rest of the country, according to the prognosticators.

    What is clear is that a continued warming trend will not only mean hunters might be able to lose the long underwear — oops, too much 411, sorry — and deer numbers will improve as fewer weak animals will succumb to chill, according to DonCarlos.

    And you know what that means: More generous hunting privileges to properly regulate the harvest. No kidding.


    posted Jan. 9, 2007

    Bush Administration concurs: Polar bears do indeed need ice

    In a development definitely heating up, President Bush appears primed to slap the threatened tag on the polar bear.

    Could it possibly be that the icy heart of this global-warming Grinch is … melting? Good thing, too; he has clearly needed a not-so-gentle kick in the ice.

    Bush has received grief the world over for his near denial of the negative impacts of global warming. But you gotta give the prez props for his proposal to protect the great white bruin. It seems the bear's home in the Arctic is getting sunburned and his administration wants to offer assistance.

    The polar bear is in peril of becoming the first large mammal to succumb to climate change, and the Interior Department points to thinning sea ice as the culprit, according to the Associated Press. Its proposed listing of threatened is a rung below endangered on the Endangered Species Act's ladder of protection.

    Environmentalists are hoping the move might be the start to a federal effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases thought responsible for atmospheric overheating, according to the AP.

    Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., made it very plain big changes are essential.

    "This news serves as a wake-up call to the U.S. Congress and the administration that we must quickly begin to address global warming through legislative action," said the incoming head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

    And there is something satisfyingly symbolic that the plight of this majestic tundra tenant may be what it took to turn Bush around on his firm stance on global warming.

    I just wonder now, how many polar bears are on the vast ice shelf that has broken free of land near the North Pole due to extreme climate change?

  • Click here for tips on how you can reduce global warming.

    President Ford certainly did his part for the outdoors

    Speaking of positive presidential influence on the environment, how about former President Gerald R. Ford having spent quality time as a park ranger?

    I did not know that.

    In the summer of 1936, Ford pulled the detail of armed guard on, get this, the bear-feeding truck at Yellowstone National Park, according to the Associated Press.

    That admirable vocation, in fact, makes the late commander in chief the only U.S. president to have worn a ranger uniform in the National Park Service.

    Park rangers and game wardens (read James Swan's comments on the latter) are some of the most difficult, honorable and underappreciated professionals in the outdoors.

    When he became president, Ford added 18 new areas to the national park system.

    Bully for Ford … and bully for us.

    And now I'd like to give myself a slap on the back, too, for writing so encouragingly and genuinely about two Republican presidents and their efforts in the outdoors. So there, you can't say I'm not doing my bit for bipartisanship.

    Easing global warming? Do your part

    The National Wildlife Federation, in its publication "A Waterfowler's Guide to Global Warming," offers 10 measures sportsmen can take to combat global warming:

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.

  • Install a clock thermostat to save heating and cooling energy at night and when no one is home.

  • Change or clean furnace and air conditioner filters regularly to keep heating and cooling systems running efficiently.

  • Set your water heater to a lower setting or call a service person to adjust it for you.

  • Wash your laundry in warm or cold water instead of hot.

  • When shopping for home appliances and electronics, look for the Energy Star label; when purchasing a car, buy the most fuel-efficient model that meets your needs.

  • Choose alternative transportation methods whenever possible, such as public transport, carpooling, biking or walking.

  • Reduce gasoline consumption by keeping your tires properly inflated and your engine tuned.

  • Recycle aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastic, cardboard and newspapers to help reduce the energy needed to make new products.

  • Contact your representatives in Congress and encourage our government to enact policies to reduce global warming pollution.

    Ohioans eating crow, not alligator

    We're betting all those stores in Ohio that were stocking up on alligator meat in anticipation of an Ohio State feast on Florida in Monday's national championship game are selling the remaining fillets at bargain-basement prices after the Gators gnawed on the Buckeyes.


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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site.
    He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade. The Evergreen State of Washington is where he makes his home. Click here to email him.

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