By Steve Chaconas
Lower Ramp Fees for Fishermen
No one is really sure why the fee was levied in the first place. Local longtime tournament anglers initially claimed there was an agreement with Leesylvania State Park to improve tournament facilities with weigh in tubs, plumbing and electricity. While many recall this arrangement, none were able to provide any specifics that the $2 fee was earmarked for these improvements.
Authority for the fee only charged to tournament boaters, in addition to parking and launch fees, was given by Virginia Administrative Code 4VAC5-36-50. Tournament fees were deposited into the General Fund along with revenue from parking and launch fees. The boat launch fee for fishing tournaments was part of a registration fee based on the number of boats registered and was nonrefundable regardless of the number that actually participated. The additional fee was applied only to weekend events. According to Leesylvania Park Manager Karen Lambey, the fees enabled park managers to control the number of boats using the ramp site. Leesylvania only allows 100 tournament boats, which could be met through a single tournament or multiple tournaments of lesser size, to launch. This provides available parking space for other boaters. By charging $2 per boat as part of a registration fee, park staff had a better idea on how many were going to actually show up to use the boat launch and made it possible for others to conduct their events. Lambey says. “I was not able to find anyone in DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation) who is aware of any promises made regarding fees. Everything I was able to find out indicated that they were not made with the intent of facility upgrades, but rather as a means of ensuring compliance with tournaments that grossly overestimated their attendance size in order to prevent other tournaments from being held on the same day due to capacity restrictions.” Each tournament that is held at Leesylvania (or any other VA State Park) is required to submit a Special Use Permit ($25) with the list of dates, times, and number of boats attending.
Former Park Manager, Ken Benson recognized the increasing use of the park for tournaments and worked with organizers over 10 years ago to set up electricity for powering pumps and scales. He also allowed tournament directors to use space in the facility to set up polygraphs to test winners. There were considerable plans to construct a more permanent site with tanks and plumbing; however, this effort was lost in the State’s planning and design process.
There were 61 tournaments last year launching out of Leesylvania State Park. Toss in the participants using the launch in advance of their events to practice, tournaments accounted for over half of the annual ramp fees collected. Not to mention that rain or shine, warm or cold weather, anglers hit the water, providing nearly year round business for the park.
Several tournament anglers informed VDGIF biologist John Odenkirk they were being charged an elevated launch fee, of which he was unaware. He thought it appeared unfair and asked for clarification and justification. Lambey replied in good time that, after extensive back and forth discussion with Richmond, the surcharge associated with tournaments has been removed because it was no longer necessary for managing tournaments. The determination was that the Special Use Permit process duplicated the same effort.
Lambey encourages Park participation. She has welcomed many local and national charity events, including the upcoming 22nd Annual St Jude Children’s Hospital Tournament. Allowing in excess of 100 boats is something she would consider, weighing seasonal factors and weekday verses weekend activities.
Having heard about Maryland Department of Natural Resources intentions to offer fish care waivers to possible tournament regulation restrictions, Lambey suggested she is open to discussing improvements for fish care especially where tournament organizations contribute to the financing and construction of improvements. The process might be drawn out as Leesylvania’s Master plan, at this point, does not include weigh in stations. But she says it’s not out of the question. Once the park is on board, it can move up the line to the State level.
Tournament organizers should probably get together to determine what equipment, space and location would be preferred. Funding, maintenance, and storage should also be considered. At that point a meeting with Lambey should be set up to present their case with top–of-the-line fish care in mind. In light of trends across the country, public-private collaborations are likely the best way to achieve the goal for any project. Combining cooperation with better fish care is a win-win for anglers and administrators alike.
Potomac River Bassing in MAY
Spawning bass at the beginning of the month and summer pattern at the end! This is a great time to get on the water. Early, lipless crankbaits like Lucky Craft LVR D-7 in red patterns with cloudy skies and water or chrome and bait fish patterns the rest of the time. Also Mann’s Baby 1-Minus in firetiger and red patterns work well. Use both of these on GAMMA 14 pound test Edge fluorocarbon line.
Shaky head or Texas rigged Mizmo Quiver Stix worms will work. Use a 3/0 Mustad Mega Bite hook and 14-pound Edge. Also Texas rig Mizmo tubes. A 1/8-ounce weight is fine, but 3/16 is better in thicker grass or deeper water. A spray of Jack’s Juice Bait Spray will get fish to hold on longer.
Topwater action is heating up for post spawn fish. Use Lucky Craft suspending Pointer 100 jerkbaits on 14-pound GAMMA Copoly. Buzzbaits on 50-pound GAMMA Torque braid. Walking baits like a Lucky Craft Gunfish in black will also work, braid here too.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & contributing writer for BoatU.S. (BoatUS.com) Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.