ELDERSBURG — Mud. Thick, gooey, slimy mud. Mud that turned the shoreline of PineyRun Lake into a quagmire. Mud that sucked your boots in right up to the ankles.
That's how many participants will remember Saturday's ninth annual Early Bird Fishing Tournament.
Rain. A nasty, driving downpour that made anyone without proper rainwear a candidate for pneumonia.
But then that's the sort of weather anglers have come to expect from this annual event. Last year, it snowed.
Cold. When Roland Brown checked in with his prize-winning trout, his fingers were so numb he hardly could get the fish out ofthe creel.
Fish. Lack of same. Not a single catfish ended up on the hook. Same for perch.
The big-money fish -- the bluegill, cat and crappie tagged in advance for prizes of $1,000 to $10,000 -- all stayed home. Bill Arney of Taneytown did manage to pull in an 8-inch bluegill tagged in a previous tournament, netting himself a $100 prize.
Anglers. Cold, wet, miserable and out there fishing.
"Yeah, a bunch of them did leave by 7:30 (a.m.)," admitted Bill Smith, who managed this year's tournament for Carroll's Department of Recreation and Parks. "But of the 615 who registered, 583 preregistrants and 32 walk-ins, over 500 came through the gate this morning."
By three in the afternoon, however, only a few die-hards and those whose catches had a possibility of claiming prizes huddled near the flames from ametal oil drum in the committee's shelter.
For all this, anglers paid an entry fee of $30 to fish from shore or $35 to fish from boats.
Although no one claimed the big prize money for tagged fish, a total of $2,900 in prize money was awarded for catches of largest species, largest fish caught from shore and largest fish caught from a boat.
The Maryland Recreation and Parks Association-sponsored tournament is open to all anglers, regardless of age. The field is limited to 650 entrants and 200 boats. Designed as a fund-raiser for MRPA, itdrew close to 500 participants last year and raised approximately $10,000 after prizes.
Ron Prietz of Sykesville went home with the largest cash prize -- $700 for his 32.5-inch striped bass caught from aboat and weighing 12.94 pounds. Lenny Rudov won $300 in the boat angler category with a 27-inch, 8.16-pound crappie. Tony Cooper came in third to win $150 with a 13-inch crappie weighing 1.3 pounds.
Of the shore anglers, Roland Brown's 12-plus-inch, 0.72-pound trout took first prize of $600. Steve Clagett's 10 3/4-inch, 0.7-pound crappie was second for $200, and Ron Crouthamel of Sykesville came in third towin $100 with a 12-inch trout weighing 0.68 pounds.
In the "Largest of Species" division, prizes of $250 were awarded Stanley Hatfieldfor a 12-plus-inch trout weighing 0.73 pounds, George Whiglan for a 13 3/4-inch crappie weighing 1.4 pounds and Nick Crispino of Sykesville for a 9-inch bluegill weighing 0.57 pounds.
The staff of Piney Run Nature Center has prepared a brochure on how to plant a garden that attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies.
Tips are offered that will allow the gardener to supply all the needs of these creatures.
The brochure is available free of charge from the center, or by sending in a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to:Piney Run Nature Center, 30 Martz Road, Eldersburg 21784.
Two demonstration gardens have been planted behind the center in memory of volunteer Kimberly Joy Abbot. The public is invited to view the gardens.