It's always a good week in the FishOn biz when the Russians give us a little of that voodoo that they do so well. Maybe a dollop of election tampering, destabilizing a vulnerable government or annexing a chunk of another country. Whatever the task of the day might be.

This week it was the Russian navy. Or maybe the FSB security service. Heck, it might have been the Bolshoi ballet. Whomever it was, they were operating a spy ship off the coast of Georgia during the weekend and they didn't exactly stay off the radar.

The Coast Guard, according to the U.S. Naval Institute and subsequent news stories, received multiple reports that the RFN Viktor Leonov, a Vishnaya-class intelligence ship, was operating erratically and unsafely off the Georgia and South Carolina coasts.

"In a bulletin, the Coast Guard said the Russian surveillance ship was not using its running lights 'while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements'," according to a story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Who spies like this? George Smiley and Karla would be aghast.

Initial speculation had the vessel spying on the U.S. Navy nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia. But the Washington Times reported Thursday that it was in the area to observe the SpaceX launch of a commercial communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Quick Russian history quiz question: Who was Viktor Leonov?

Quick Russian history quiz answer: Leonov was a captain in the Soviet navy and a two-time winner of the Hero of the Soviet Union award. He was regarded as the USSR's most famous naval commando, "a World War II version of the U.S. Navy Seals," according to a blurb for the book "Blood on the Shores: Soviet Naval Commandos in World War II."

Like all of Russian history, it's a gripping, bloody read.

Who says we don't give you the good stuff?

More from Russia. With love

So it appears we have this thing called a magnetic pole. Have you heard about this? No, not a magnetic Pole, like Lech Walesa. A magnetic pole, as in the north pole. Well, apparently it's moving. And guess where it's going? To Siberia. At least for now. And it's not sparing the horses.

"New research confirms the drifting pole is still headed toward Siberia and it's doing so at unprecedented speeds," the story in the Post stated. "In a new report from NOAA, the 'World Magnetic Model' for 2020 is revealed and it shows that the pole is speeding toward northern Russia."

We're not sure we like the sound of this. Sounds like Santa's Workshop is headed for the Gulag Archipoleago.

Closeout! Everything must go!

Each year, the Massachusetts Legislature wraps up the final work of the calendar year into what it calls a closeout bill. This year's bill includes several initiatives from state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, including a proposal to create a $1.5 million grant program to support the state's fishing and agricultural sectors.

"We are experiencing not only a rise in interest in conserving and protecting our natural resources but also in locally harvested nutritious foods, yet the people responding to that interest need our help," Tarr said in a statement. "By carefully targeting state funds, we can help those traditional local businesses to survive while creating sustainable environments for them to grow."

The grant funds can be used to realize fuel efficiencies, reductions in carbon emissions, research and development, safety equipment and food processing.

The bill now sits on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk. Right under last week's FishOn column. The big guy is a big fan.

Need a Christmas tree? Might want to move to Chicago

Here's a nice Yuletide story just two days out from the big day: The Coast Guard gave away more than 1,200 Christmas trees to Chicago residents who couldn't otherwise afford a tree.

"We believe that every kid should have a Christmas and our story is about bringing Christmas trees to kids who would not have Christmas trees," said USCG Capt. Dave Truitt, founder of the Christmas Ship Committee that started the tradition more than two decades ago.

The trees were transported to Chicago's Navy Pier from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, aboard the USCG Cutter Mackinaw.

The tradition actually dates back to the 1800s, when the Rouse Simmons, a three-masted schooner, handled the job. It was halted in 1912 after a fatal shipwreck before Truitt's group recharged the tradition.

Good on them.

That World Wide Web thing strikes again

Beginning Jan. 2, commercial and recreational fishermen may renew their current federal fishing permits online using NOAA Fisheries' web-based system on the "Fish Online" website. Fishermen will not have to upload or attach copies of their Coast Guard documentation or state registrations. Nor will they need to use gear codes anymore.

"Submissions via mail and fax will remain options, but we recommend fishermen take advantage of the speed and ease of renewing their permits on line," NOAA Fisheries stated.

Nice of them to drop the "Or else."

First sign of spring

Only 50 more days until Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Fort Myers, with position players due five days later.

Get loose.

As always, no fish were harmed in the making of this column. 

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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