Diamond Jim Caught At Last?

#Bill Heisterhagan of Easton, Md. has caught the first possible $25,000 Diamond Jim winner and fourth tagged rockfish of the 2010 Maryland Fishing Challenge. Heisterhagan was fishing with his longtime fishing partner George Fink off the mouth of the Miles River in Talbot County, when a 19½-inch striped bass came to the side of the boat on the evening of August 27.

"I want to congratulate Mr. Heisterhagen as a winner in the 2010 Maryland Fishing Challenge," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "The Maryland fishing challenge is an opportunity for Maryland families to spend time fishing, enjoying all the beautiful natural resources our State has to offer."

The Diamond Jim component of the Fishing Challenge started June 1 and ends Labor Day, September 6. Throughout the summer, three batches of specially tagged striped bass - each including that month's authentic Diamond Jim and as many as 200 imposters worth $500 - were released into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. So far, anglers have caught three tagged imposters.

DNR Fisheries Service biologists certified Heisterhagan's catch and confirmed that this could be the winning Diamond Jim. Heisterhagen will find out if he walks away with $25,000 when he opens a sealed envelope bearing the tag number of the fish he caught at the Maryland Fishing Challenge Finale at Sandy Point State Park on September 11.

"Fishing is something I've enjoyed since I was young," said Heisterhagen. "My father passed away a few years ago and we enjoyed fresh-water fishing together. It's a great pastime; it's a great leisure time. It's what I do to get away from the office."

The Maryland Fishing Challenge, featuring Diamond Jim is a free, year-round tournament sponsored by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service, 27 recreational fishing organizations and generous sponsors across the State. The purpose of the event is to promote Maryland's excellent fishing opportunities and the importance of exposing children to nature as an essential key to future environmental stewardship.

The 2010 Maryland Fishing Challenge ends at midnight on Labor Day with an awards celebration at Sandy Point State Park the following weekend. The Fishing Challenge Finale will be held at the 43rd Annual Maryland Seafood Festival on September 11, 2010. Qualified anglers are eligible for grand prizes including a Tracker boat package from Bass Pro Shops Arundel Mills and a 7-day dream excursion to the island of Tobago courtesy of the World Fishing Network. Other prizes include thousands of dollars in fishing gear, merchandise from Under Armor and kayaks from Kent Island Kayaks and Bass Pro Shops Arundel Mills.

Through the citation component, 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.

Anglers under age 16 who take part in any of the 50 fishing rodeos across the state and win their event are invited to the finale and guaranteed a "fishing trip of a lifetime," sponsored by supporting Fishing Challenge partners and sponsors.

"Catch a fish" is one of the Maryland Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights, issued by Governor Martin O'Malley in April 2009. The bill is part of the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature, an initiative to ensure all Maryland young people have the opportunity to connect with their natural world and grow to become informed and responsible stewards.

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