Over the holiday weekend we got checked by the watercops for life jackets and safety gear by the DNR (marine) police, while chumming for stripers in Eastern Bay. We’d only been there for a half hour or so and already dropped a 26 inch fish into the cooler, so we were pretty happy with the way the morning was going. But when the DNR approaches you have to pull in your lines and lose a bit of fishing time, so there was a collective groan onboard as they approached. Still, we knew these guys were only doing their job and we appreciate them for keeping the water safe and the people fishing it honest, so we put on smiles. What the watercop did next made the encounter our best ever with the marine police.

 After the usual Q & A the watercop pointed to my 9 year old son Max, who was wearing his life jacket. (By law in Maryland, at age 9 on our 22′ boat, he’s old enough to go without. But I’ve always made it clear to my kids that they’ll be wearing life jackets until at least age 12, when and if I determine they’re big enough not to.)

The law man pointed at Max, asked how old he was, then said “I have to give you a citation for that life jacket.” While Max stood there with a what-did-I-do look on his face, the watercop reached over, and handed him this:

Max gets a citation

Max shows off his "citation".


The “Be Cool” life jacket “citation” he gave Max was good for one free Italian Ice at Rita’s!

Now think back to all those ”It floats you don’t” media campaigns which, quite frankly, accomplish virtually nothing but burning up the DNR’s budget. Simply put, no one pays any attention to them beyond mocking the ads. Hand a kid a free Rita’s Italian Ice, however, and you’ve gotten his attention!

We took Max and his Be Cool coupon to Ritas that evening, and bought 2 more Italian ices for his sister and brother – so Rita’s won out, too. Whoever at the DNR thought up this program deserves a big, fat pat on the back! And, just for the record, it was Max who caught the biggest fish of the day.