Originally created 01/22/06

Feedback spurs Perdue to keep hybrid program



A budget-cutting proposal to eliminate Georgia's popular hybrid bass stocking program wasn't too popular with Gov. Sonny Perdue.

When the governor unveiled his fiscal 2007 budget, the recommendation from Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division to ax the program was absent.

"What that means is, unless something changes, it will go on as it always has," said John Biagi, Georgia's assistant chief of fisheries.

Biagi, complying with a request last fall to reduce budgets by 2 percent, offered to eliminate the hybrid program - saving an estimated $100,000 per year.

Support for the program from fishermen and constituents likely helped save it, he said.

"Certainly we received more feedback on that proposed cut than any other proposal we've ever submitted," Biagi said. "I don't have numbers, but I can be comfortable in saying it was more than a weekly occurrence with letters or calls from people."

Gov. Perdue also heard from his share of anglers, said Heather Hedrick, his press secretary.

"We received eight e-mails, from Nov. 29 through the end of December," she said.

"And this wasn't a program Gov. Perdue singled out and eliminated himself, but rather something that was proposed by DNR."

Hybrid bass do not occur naturally and cannot reproduce.

Rather, they must be "manufactured" each spring, when biologists at Georgia's Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery blend eggs and sperm from female white bass and male striped bass to create hybrids.

Statewide, about 6.5 million hybrids are produced annually, of which about 280,000 are stocked at Thurmond Lake.

WILDLIFE LAND SOUGHT: Developers hoping to build high-end homes in McCormick County, S.C., are trying to gather support for a request that Congress release 550 acres along Thurmond Lake currently under lease to South Carolina for public hunting.

The developers, John McDill of Greenwood, S.C., and C. Birge Sigety of Tampa, Fla., own 1,452 acres adjoining the public land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. If they acquire the public land, the resulting project would include 500 waterfront lots and 300 interior lots.

Some officials with South Carolina's Department of Natural Resources Department are concerned that losing such property could set a precedent for further erosion of public recreation opportunities.

The land is part of the state's Wildlife Management Area Program.

Angela Viney, executive director of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, said her organization is opposed to the use of political pressure to steer public lands to private developers.

"We've been e-mailing our members in that part of the state and encouraging them to oppose the idea," she said.

Both sides will have a chance to be heard Monday, when the McCormick County Council sponsors a 7 p.m. town hall meeting to seek opinions on the plan.

The meeting is open to the public and will be held at the Savannah Lakes Village Activity Center near McCormick.

APPLING ANGLER HONORED: Willard Henry Cartledge Jr. of Appling was honored by Georgia's Department of Natural Resources for a fish that came close to setting a record.

Cartledge used a blueback herring in June to entice a 56-pound, 2-ounce flathhead from the waters of Thurmond Lake.

It was 46 inches long.

The Angler Award program recognizes those who catch fish that meet or exceed a specific weight for that particular species, but don't necessarily eclipse records.

Award recipients receive a certificate signed by state Wildlife Resources Division Director Dan Forster and an embroidered baseball cap that reads, "Georgia Angler Award 2005."

It is customized to include the species and weight of the fish caught by each winner.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue:State leader decided not to eliminate a hybrid bass stocking program from the 2007 budget.