Diamond Jim Valued At $15,000+ On The Loose In The Chesapeake Bay & Tributaries

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DNR Fisheries Biologists2008 Maryland Fishing Challenge Offers Opportunity to Win Toyota Tundra, Bass Pro Shop Boat, Bill’s Outdoors Center Gear, Smyth Diamond and Thousands in Cash for Summer Catches

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources kicked off the Diamond Jim portion of the 2008 Maryland Fishing Challenge today aboard the Blind Faith charter boat by releasing specially tagged striped bass into the Chesapeake Bay.

“Whether you may be a first time, veteran, visiting or resident angler, Maryland’s annual fishing challenge encourages people from all walks of life to get outdoors by going fishing with their friends and children this summer,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “We hope that grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, and aunts and uncles take time to pass down their fishing tips and favorite spots to their children this summer, so they too can enjoy, learn about, benefit from and become responsible stewards of our State’s diverse natural resources.”

One genuine and 20 imposter specially tagged Diamond Jim striped bass were released into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries this week. If a lucky angler catches the genuine Diamond Jim by midnight on June 30, he or she will win $10,000 cash courtesy of Boater’s World and a $5,000 diamond from Smyth Jewelers in Timonium. Anglers catching Diamond Jim imposters will receive a $500 Boater’s World gift card. If the genuine Diamond Jim striped bass is not caught before midnight June 30, 2008, he becomes an imposter fish, worth $500 and the July genuine Diamond Jim’s cash value increases to $20,000.

Bill Burton casts a tagged Striped Bass into Maryland waters.“We are thrilled with the tremendous participation and interest already shown by anglers in this year’s contest,” said Eric Schwaab, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary. “We hope that the release of Diamond Jim further encourages those that have not yet entered to take part in the summer-long challenge.”

Designed to promote recreational fishing in Maryland, recognize angler efforts and inspire environmental stewardship, the 2008 Maryland Fishing Challenge began April 12 and will run through Labor Day, September 1, 2008. Any angler who catches a citation-qualifying fish and enters the challenge may win one of the official grand prizes. To date, more than 800 anglers have qualified to win one of the grand prizes, including a 2008 Toyota Tundra 4×4 pickup truck from Central Atlantic Toyota, a boat and trailer package from Bass Pro Shops and $5,000 in fishing gear from Bill’s Outdoor Center.

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 new this year, children participating in various fishing rodeos across the state may qualify for a unique category at the challenge finale event and win a guided fishing trip embarking from several different locations across the state.

In addition to supporting the 2008 Maryland Fishing Challenge, Governor O’Malley continues to make conserving and restoring our natural resources a priority though a more balanced budget that includes an additional $25 million in funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts; fully funding Program Open Space; an additional $750,000 to improve fisheries management and restore habitat; an enhancement of more than $4 million to ensure sustainable management and quality outdoor recreational opportunities in our state parks; and $3 million for new Chesapeake Bay oyster and habitat restoration projects. Governor O’Malley also strengthen Maryland’s critical areas law to ensure more adequate protection from development of the most environmentally sensitive and significant lands within Maryland’s Chesapeake and Coastal Bays watersheds. Protecting vegetation and natural, living shoreline of our Bays will help prevent water quality and fish habitat decline.

For the full rules, list of qualifying fish, qualified entrants thus far, and other 2008 Maryland Fishing Challenge information visit www.dnr.maryland.gov/fishingchallenge.