Striped bass now worth $20,000

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Maryland Department of Natural Resources staff, with the help of more than a dozen students from across the state, tagged 50 rockfish for prizes in the 2009 Maryland Fishing Challenge’s “Search for Diamond Jim.” The fifth annual challenge began 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 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 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.

Created to promote recreational fishing in Maryland, recognize angler efforts and inspire natural resources stewardship, the 2009 Maryland Fishing Challenge will run through Sept. 7. 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.

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