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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday, February 05, 2016: from a sweet rain to a mushy-ass snow. Methane guns ... just might be so.

Girly-man face ... 

Friday, February 05, 2016: from a sweet rain to a mushy-ass snow. And mushy is the word of the weather day. One the Island, we didn’t get more than a couple inches, add a half inch here and there. But it went straight to goo and slush.

Sure, there was that so-thought scenic side to the wet snow, as it clung to branches and pine comes. Well, folks want scenic snows they should go to New England, the Rockies or, like, Belgium or somewhere. I got s*** to do around here, like treasure hunting – which I sometimes get to do on Fridays … based on the frickin'  weather.

Below; I just needed to check .. just to make sure. Here's Belgium in the snow. See, I told ya.

OK, enough of my bitching, may you plowers and sled riders get in some quality time. There’s also a wind and rain/snow weather matter muscling in early next week. That should play out as a typical winter nor’easter. My concern is now much colder ocean temps are. Any onshore winds won’t be as effective at warming things to rain-only levels. Still, winds off the ocean also add in the salinity factor, which also converts snow to rain. You can tell what I’m cheering on … and it ain’t white of me.

Below: Not that many years back ... My shivering Chevy.

I have a public service announcement that just hit my desk, one that could be highly applicable tonight, when temps dip to well below freezing and slush turns rock-hard. By law and logic, you have to remove all gathered snow on your vehicle, especially the roof. You can be ticketed even if your vehicle’s ice and snow didn’t actually fly off and smash the windshield of someone driving behind you – and if your luck is like mine that vehicle would he a cop car. Again, this mushburger type snow and ice freezes into some serious crystallized matter.  

Making local matters worse, a likely place for frozen roof matter to take deleterious flight is the Causeway Bridge, where the wind speed rips of ice getting loosened from the heat in the vehicle warming the roof.

I’ve been in a vehicle when the windshield was shattered by flying ice debris; on the Parkway much less. You might be the type with nerves of steel and ice water in your veins but when a chunk of speed-of-light ice nails the windshield you’ll scream like a sissy Mary. Many of the motor vehicle accidents (some fatal) caused by flying break-away ice come when motors simply lose control out of sheer fright – after being hit by what, in a New Hampshire accident, was described as an ice bomb.

If all this isn’t spooky enough, and worthy of a minute dedicated to clearing a vehicle of all snow/ice residue, the motorist responsible for any icy material that flies off and causes an accident is liable.

Free-flying chunks of vehicle ice could be lethal to other motorists, especially when zipping over the already challenging Causeway. Imagine driving on those narrow trestle bridges lanes and suddenly having your windshield shattered. Hello oncoming traffic.

Per the state: 

Ice & Snow - Remove It Before You Go
 
  Remember to remove all ice and snow from your vehicle before driving, especially from the hood, windows and roof. It’s the law in New Jersey! Motorists who fail to do so face fines of $25 to $75 for each offense, regardless of whether the ice and snow is dislodged from the vehicle. If flying ice or snow causes property damage or injury to others, motorists face fines of $200 to $1,000 for each offense. There are approximately 500 fatalities in the United States per year due to icy road conditions.

 METHANE THAT GOES BOOM: I’d be remiss to not mention the goodly number of folks who are at least entertaining the possibility that methane gas discharges are behind the mysterious Seneca Gun booms. Those are the fully unexplained oceanic booms that have been occurring for thousands of years. The booms are verifiable enough that the feds keep close track of them, primarily through firsthand accounts – though a system of coastal boom-tracking devices might be placed, funding permitting. Anyway, it is being hypothesized that methane gas from the ocean bottom can surface in odd and unknown ways.

Below: Entrapped Arctic methane ... 

By the by, we likely are not talking about the latest series of booms, on two different days. Those seem to be from verifiable – though not fully explained – military tests over the ocean.

As you might know, scientists are studying the possibility (among many) of inordinate methane eruptions being the cosmic culprit in tracelessly taking down boats and planes within the Bermuda Triangle.

This is not to say the excessive gas literally explodes force. Could it imperceptibly create an instantaneous atmospheric change, with a gas mix that causes planes to lose lift under their wings? Might sudden mega-discharges of ocean-bottom methane, when rising up, create a huge bubble effect – causing boats and ships to fall into the equivalent of a gaseous hole in the water, to then be instantly enveloped by water when the bubble essentially bursts onto the surface of the water. Hey, weirder things happen at sea.

I was a thorough skeptic on the methane thing until I read some highly-respected scientists agreeing with the rising methane concept -- at least in theory. In fact, the odd atmospheric and hydrologic impacts of methane overloads can readily be displayed in the lab settings, though such lab work is a world away from the likes of real-world, Bermuda Triangle magnitudes.  

Below: Seneca Guns boom frequently in an area facing the Bermuda Triangle. 

But how could methane releases cause booms? Technically, erupting or expanding gases could surely put a jolt into the atmosphere, possibly even creating an exploding sound upon release, not unlike a mega-pop. Add in atmospheric inversion layers, holding sounds closer to the earth – and even intensifying it – and it’s not hard to imagine sounds arriving onshore as a boom.

Hey, until you thoroughly study and disprove the improbable, it remains soundly within the realm of possibility. When it comes to oceanic methane rising in eruptions --unlike the ongoing slow issuance of methane – research has only now begun.

My thinking exactly: Neil Laird, Executive Producer of what I find a mesmerizing TV show, Science Channel’s “What on Earth,” abides by the channel’s motto “Question Everything” … and “No matter how bizarre or strange … put it under the bright glare of modern science to see what might be revealed.” 

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Free-flying chunks of vehicle ice could be lethal to other motorists, especially when zipping over the already challenging Causeway. Imagine driving on those narrow trestle bridges lanes and suddenly having your windshield shattered. Hello oncoming traffic.

Per the state: 

Ice & Snow - Remove It Before You Go
 
  Remember to remove all ice and snow from your vehicle before driving, especially from the hood, windows and roof. It’s the law in New Jersey! Motorists who fail to do so face fines of $25 to $75 for each offense, regardless of whether the ice and snow is dislodged from the vehicle. If flying ice or snow causes property damage or injury to others, motorists face fines of $200 to $1,000 for each offense. There are approximately 500 fatalities in the United States per year due to icy road conditions.

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Lo-rider NASCAR potential ...Ferrari for now. 

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Me and my trusty Canon, looking for art shots among the shells.  

And scoring ... 

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On the fly ... 

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Todd Adams

Bass for breakfast
Todd Adams's photo.
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Amanda YeagerContact Reporterayeager@capgaznews.com

Wayne Witzke and Kevin Wilcox hopped off the truck and disappeared through the back door of the restaurant. A few moments later, they re-emerged, dragging two heavy bins each: the past week's haul of empty oyster shells.

Once considered trash — or, at best, material to pave driveways — the shells are now a coveted tool in efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay's health.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh wants to make recycling them an attractive financial pursuit, too.

This legislative session, Schuh has drafted a bill that raises the cap on a state tax credit for oyster shell recycling from $750 to $5,000 a year per individual or business. Sponsored by the Anne Arundel County delegation, the bill has its first hearing in the Senate's Budget and Taxation committee at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.



The Bay's little helper

Though the Chesapeake was once teeming with so many oyster reefs that they posed a danger for ships navigating its waters, native oyster populations now register at less than 1 percent of historic levels, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.





Oysters contribute to the Bay's health by filtering algae out of the water. While the bivalves were once able to filter all the water in the Chesapeake over the course of a week, scientists estimate the same process takes current oyster populations about a year.

"The biggest problem of the Bay, in my opinion, is the decimation of the oyster population," Schuh said. "It's like the Bay has lost its filter. So we need to do anything we can do, within reason, to encourage growth in the oyster population."

Organizations like the Annapolis-based Oyster Recovery Partnership are making strides toward that goal. Since 1998, the nonprofit has planted nearly 6 billion oysters on over 2,000 acres of Maryland waters, including more than 2 billion in the Eastern Shore's Harris Creek alone.



The Chesapeake Bay Foundation also runs oyster restoration centers in Maryland and Virginia, and collects recycled shells through its "Save Oyster Shell" program.

In 2010, the Oyster Recovery Partnership launched the Shell Recycling Alliance, teaming up with 22 restaurants to collect used shells, which can be re-used as starter homes for oyster larvae. Each recycled half-shell can house about 10 baby oysters.

The alliance has since grown to include more than 300 participating restaurants, individuals and community drop-off points throughout the Bay's watershed, and last year recycled more than 26,000 bushels of shells — more than 19,500 bushels of which were collected in Maryland.

In Anne Arundel County, there are about 50 collection spots for recycled oyster shell. In 2015, county businesses and individuals recycled 4,200 bushels — about 150 tons — of oyster shell, according to Tommy Price, the alliance's operations manager.

'No shell left behind'

Thursday is oyster shell collection day in Anne Arundel County.

Witzke and Wilcox, who both work with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, take the organization's truck to about 15 sites in the Annapolis area, and farther afield, to Glen Burnie, Pasadena and beyond. The alliance's motto is "no shell left behind."

At each stop, they collect buckets — sometimes bins — of discarded shell from local seafood restaurants and other drop-off spots. The whole tour takes several hours.

Schuh tagged along one collection day last year, and got to talking with restaurant owners about the state's existing tax credit program, which offers to knock $5 per recycled bushel off a participant's income tax bill, up to $750 a year. Restaurateurs reported the payout wasn't substantial enough to be worth the time it takes to file for the credit.

No one from Anne Arundel County claimed the credit in 2014, according to Schuh's office. It was started in 2013.

Officials from the Maryland Comptroller's office could not confirm that statement on Tuesday. Information about the credits is not yet available for 2015, since tax returns are still being filed.

"The problem is the amount of effort and energy and volume that has to go into the program for a restaurant makes it uneconomic for such a small credit," Schuh said. "Even without a limit, we think the financial impact to the state will be minuscule, but the environmental impact and the impact on the oyster hatchery will be significant."

According to a fiscal and policy note prepared for the bill, the anticipated annual revenue loss from expanding the credit would be about $37,700 in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 — an amount the report called "minimal." For local governments, which receive a piece of corporate income tax revenues to help pay for road construction and maintenance, as well as transportation facilities, the higher credit would mean slightly lower highway user revenues, per the fiscal note.

The new $5,000 cap that Schuh is proposing for the credit was calculated based on the projected maximum bushels of shell that the county's largest participating restaurant — Mike's Bar & Crab House in Annapolis, which recycled 954 bushels in 2015 — could produce, according to Schuh's legislative liaison Bernie Marczyk.

"We want to encourage people to recycle," he said.

Schuh's restaurant venture with Council Chairman Derek Fink, the Greene Turtle — which has franchises in Annapolis, Gambrills and Pasadena — was not among last year's Shell Recycling Alliance participants, according to a list from the Oyster Recovery Partnership. Blackwall Hitch, one of Fink's investments, recycled 135 bushels through the program in 2015.

'The sky's the limit'

Price, of the Oyster Recovery Partnership, sees opportunity for oyster shell recycling to expand in the region. The mollusk is experiencing a resurgence in popularity — a renaissance, in his words.

At Boatyard Bar & Grill in Eastport, a recent special on oysters saw 2,500 of them sold in one weekend.

Boatyard owner Dick Franyo has been a Shell Recycling Alliance participant for years, since the program's conception, he said.

He said recycling oyster shells is "a natural thing" for a seafood restaurant to do.

Since oyster restoration began, "there are places in the Bay where you can see 10 to 12 feet deep," Franyo says. "It is really getting better. Underwater grasses are back, dead zones are shrinking. I think we're starting to see the benefit of the science that has been applied."

Boatyard Chef George Betz said the program is "bringing our oysters back to us."

Franyo said his restaurant would probably participate in the program even without a tax credit. Boatyard recycled 597 bushels in 2015. Still, "it's a nice pat on the back," he said.

For more and more customers who walk through the restaurant's doors, eating oysters is a "lifestyle," Franyo added.

"Oysters are so hot right now," said Betz. For shell recycling efforts, "the sky's the lim

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