Concerned volunteers clear way for lot of clean fun on Potomac

Bill Burton

May 03, 1991|By Bill Burton

MARBURY -- Come on, get away from the hustle and bustle. Get on the rejuvenated Potomac where fish and wildlife abound, and where some humans are making an effort to restore waters while other environmentalists are cleaning up shoreside.

The average largemouth bass of Matawoman Creek are considered by the Department of Natural Resources to be the biggest in the state. So it's not easy to forget about them while casting the shoreline in spring when the biggest of the biggies are on the rampage.

But there I was with guide Ken Penrod, casting momentarily forgotten, watching a plump woodchuck mosey along the shore not more than 20 feet away. It ignored us, as did two squirrels chattering in hardwoods above.

In the distance two ospreys were, like us, fishing. Their sudden dives to the surface got them lunch, but a half-dozen brazen herons knee-deep in the shoals had to be more patient.

The wind was brisk from the west, and the tide was rising exceptionally high. "That's two strikes," said Penrod, "but we have no choice. The open Potomac is too tough to run in this wind."

So we stayed inside Matawoman doing most of our casting along the Indian Head Navy Ordnance Base and at the new docks of Smallwood State Park. The docks are new, too new to attract large numbers of bass yet, but Penrod figured a few might have moved in.

They hadn't -- or at least weren't hungry -- but we found a few spots where fish wanted their

lunch. Among them was a most aggressive yellow perch of about 11 inches that took a large spinnerbait, then fought like a bass.

Several nice bass -- two of them of the legal springtime minimum of 15 inches -- also came aboard before being released. They wanted Model A crankbaits, spinnerbaits and Rat-L-traps, the usual fare for spring fishing on the Potomac, which is currently at its best.

The odds were stacked against us this day, but pick one when waters are flat and the tide doesn't work too high, and you can plan on some pretty good catching. The best tide, according to Penrod, is an ebb. But we departed on what we figured was a high, and when we returned about six hours later the launching ramp dock at Slavins Sport Center was under six inches of water.

The emerging lily beds are excellent bets. So are the drop-offs along the shore, and the point near the mouth of the creek. This surprisingly secluded atmosphere with its abundance of mating mallards is less than 18 miles south of the Capital Beltway.

From the beltway, take Indian Head Highway south and follow it until it reaches the entrance to the

naval facility, then take a left on Mattingly Road, which dead ends at Slavins. The launching ramp is adequate ($3 a boat, or $2 for parking), and there is a fishing dock for shoresiders who prefer carp, catfish and perch, shaded picnic tables, a good view of the creek, and peace and contentment.

Yes the Potomac complex is making a comeback -- both its waters and its shoreline. Recently, the third annual Potomac River Cleanup worked the shoreline, with headquarters at Fort Washington.

Tons of trash were collected by 350 volunteers -- including 30 from Maryland Bass Federation, including Penrod. Most of the litter was left by thoughtless fishermen, picnickers, hikers and other users. And the darnedest things turned up, including a full case of unopened wine found near Fort Washington by Nancy Peacock, wife of Potomac guide Glenn Peacock, who also gave up a day's fishing to clean the shoreline.

Spring rains and floods are blamed by many for much of the debris in and along the Potomac, but people do more than their share. Kay Powell, a cleanup coordinator, told of spending 45 minutes cleaning up an area of only 10 square feet.

An elementary school cleanup effort at a half-dozen small sites made quite a haul: 80 milk jugs, 150 straws, 162 plastic bags, 66 oil cans, 21 antifreeze jugs, 162 six-pack rings, 518 plastic containers, 131 Styrofoam coffee cups, 158 glass bottles, and the list goes on and on.

As Oscar Wilde said, Yet each man kills the thing he loves . . .

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