This came in last week on the Loop police blotter: We now have official confirmation of what may be the first arrest of a mermaid in the greater D.C. area.

It happened Monday just after noon during the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service kickoff on the mall for National Fishing Week. Hundreds of school kids were down at the Constitution Gardens pond to try their hands.

"While on patrol as Unit 751, I monitored a radio transmission pertaining to a demonstration at Constitution Gardens," officer J. E. Stoudamire said in his "criminal incident record."

"This demonstration involved the organization known as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)." Stoudamire said that "upon arrival I observed an inflatable boat in the lake, occupied by a white female adult," later identified as Karla Lorraine Waples, 24, of Norfolk. Waples, a green-eyed blonde with long straight hair, "was dressed in a blue mermaid outfit and holding a sign that read 'Hooks Hurt,' " the officer's report said. The outfit was the standard bikini top and fish bottom.

"Waples was advised by Motor Unit 701 (Lt. R. Kass) that boats were not permitted in the lake and to immediately return to shore." Kass repeated the warning and said Waples would be placed under arrest if she didn't come in. "On both occasions Waples refused to comply," Stoudamire reported, no doubt unaware of mermaids' legendary shyness.

The officers also declined offers from bystanders to reel her in. But mindful of the oppressive heat that day, one shouted: "We'll be waiting in the shade."

Some 50 minutes later, the mermaid came ashore on the boat and flopped on the dry land, where she was promptly handcuffed, lifted up by the officers and carried to the police station for demonstrating without a permit.

Waples said she paid the $50 fine and was released. "Guess this is part of our 'Catch and Release' program," a National Park Service spokesman said.

Around the World, Again

Juggling a crowded schedule is not always easy for high-flying National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Robert T. Francis. Francis just completed another circumnavigation of the globe, said to be at least his third, with stops in Taiwan, Nepal and an event at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, but he managed to make it back in time for a cameo appearance Tuesday at the NTSB meeting.

Then, with just enough time to change clothes and pack a bag, it was off to the Paris Air Show. But Francis finally may get a break from his arduous travel regimen--though he's not known to sit in the cheap seats.

Word is the White House is going to keep him on for a while in the largely ceremonial vice chairmanship--he has the power to convene a meeting if Chairman Jim Hall is absent. But the Clintonites are not going to re-up him when his five-year term as a board member expires at the end of December.

In fact, the White House already is looking for a replacement, most likely Carol Carmody, a former Federal Aviation Administration official and most recently U.S. representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal. John T. Goglia, whose term expired last December, looks likely to be reappointed.

Arrows Away

Apologies for the late notice, but here's an invite that looks like a lot of fun. "Our gracious friends at the Congressional Sportsman's Foundation and many in the archery community have given us another excuse to play hooky," says our e-mail from Kristen Day, an aide to Rep. James A. Barcia (D-Mich.), who's on the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus.

"If you enjoy archery and wish to join us for our merry adventure," she wrote, "please feel free to contact Jared Hautamaki" in Barcia's office.

The shoot's today at Fort Belvoir and there's a shuttle bus from the Rayburn House Office Building plus lunch and an evening reception. The maximum 30 members and staff already have signed up. Still, there might be a cancellation.

Mystery Web Site

The invitation may help explain a curious House Web site from the clerk's office that lists "hot bills." The site is http://clerkweb.house.gov/docs/hotbills.asp When you go there, it says "Hot Bills for the 106th Congress," but there aren't any listed.

Presidential Poverty?

It's been hard lately not to feel genuine, deep sympathy for our presidents, what with all the recent drumbeat about how underpaid they are, how they need their salaries doubled.

Fortunately the July issue of Money is out today, and we can stop fretting. For example, the magazine reports, Gerald Ford had a net worth of $256,378 when he entered office, including $1,281 cash in the bank. Today Ford's real estate holdings alone are worth $4.5 million.

Jimmy Carter left office $1 million in debt. But after he sold his failing peanut business and invested wisely, he's become a multimillionaire, the magazine estimates. George Bush had plenty when he became president, but that sweet move taking $80,000 in stock in a small company for a speech--the stock now said to be worth more than $14 million--didn't hurt. And the $800,000 he paid his aunt for that place in Kennebunkport worked out fine. Bush has put in major improvements, but the property is estimated to be worth from $7 million to $8 million.