ELDERSBURG — Slim might be "in," but not when one is worm fishing. Just ask Timonium angler Shep Shepperd, or better still his son, Todd, who made a trophy catch of sorts the other day at Liberty Reservoir near here.
The younger Shepperd got a bluegill of 11 1/2 inches that weighed 1 1/2 pounds, mighty good for a 'gill, though considerably shy of the Fishing In Maryland record of 2 3/4 pounds (14 inches) for one taken in April 1978 by Alvin Riggs of Mechanicsville, St. Mary's County, in a Southern Maryland farm pond.
In all of last year, only three larger bluegills listed in the annual Fishing In Maryland publication topped Todd's catch. The International Game Fish Association world record is 4 3/4 pounds for an Alabama catch made 41 years ago, but any bluegill of 11 inches or more israre.
Todd took his fish on a blown-up night crawler, a trick learned from his father. Before placing the who worm on the hook it is injected with air, which not only fattens it up, but also makes it more evident to fish -- and even more important, makes it buoyant.
The buoyancy bars the bait from hugging the bottom. Instead, it is suspended above the bottom where a fish can grab it easily.
The air isinjected by a small, inexpensive squeeze bottle rigged with a hollowneedle point. The blower unit is available at many tackle shops.
Shep has been using the blown-up worm technique for many years, primarily at Loch Raven in Baltimore County, where he has caught big fish consistently -- and a wide variety, including rockfish hybrids, bass,yellow perch, catfish crappies and bluegills.
His rig consists ofa sinker big enough to hold bottom, a short leader from the sinker to the hook, which baited with the buoyant worm rises several inches or more above the bottom. The worm is an open target for cruising fish.
Elsewhere, regardless of what we constantly hear, such a thing as a free lunch is still available -- at least a free hunting trip. And Carroll County has nine of them, another couple are available just outside the county line.
Public hunting on county and privately owned land comes under DNR's Cooperative Wildlife Management Plan,with about 500 hunters taking advantage of the free hunts, but DNR would like to see more.
We'll cover how to get that hunting opportunity, but first what's available. The following all offer squirrel, rabbit and deer hunting. For bushy-tails and cottontails, the outlook is fair, but for deer, it's good. All have woodlands and fields; somehave wetlands. Except where noted, deer hunting is open to bow, muzzleloader and modern firearms.
* Hanover Watershed: 337 acres located in the northern section of the county, which can accommodate 20 hunters at a time and is part of the Hanover water supply. Hunting is Mondays
* Saw Mill: 500 acres, 10 miles northof Westminster, off Route 97, 10 hunters who can shoot Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; owned by the county.
* Speigel: 250 acres, bordering on the north of Saw Mill, can accommodate eight hunters, shootMondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and also has some good shooting forwood ducks and mallards; owned by the county.
* Maring: 237 acres, north of Mount Airy at Woodbine and Gillis Roads, five hunters, andhunted Mondays through Saturdays. County property.
* Faver: 23 acres, county property just north of Maring, can accommodate three hunters, and is shot Mondays through Saturdays.
* Woodbrook: 326 acres, county-owned, and north of Mount Airy on Gillis Falls Road, seven hunters, but crops are still standing, thus can't be hunted for two tothree more weeks.
* Harper Farm: 515 acres of privately owned property on Route 30 near Hampstead, four hunters.
* Seiler Farm: 330acres, privately owned land just west of the Harper farm, four hunters Tuesdays through Saturdays.
* Brooks Farm: 215 acres of privately owned land south of the Harper farm, and can accommodate four hunters, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
* Dover: 151 acres owned by DNR, in Baltimore County, just west of the Harper farm, three huntersMondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
* Hugg Thomas: 276 acres just south of Sykesville in Howard County off Route 32, also offers doves, and could provide Canada goose hunting. Grass is being mowed there, which should attract honkers. Six hunters can be accommodated Mondays through Saturdays.
For reservations on any of these, hunters can apply for permits which are valid for a specified date within eight days of application, said Winter Smith, a seasonal conservation agent atGwynnbrook. Upon confirmation by phone, the reservation will be made.
First, a hunter must apply for a general permit, which can be done in person at Gwynnbrook, from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Needed will be a hunting license, any stamps required for a species of game and the automobile tag number of the hunter.
If a mail application is desired, send photo copies of the requirements to to Gwynnbrook Wildlife Office, 3740 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills 21117.
Call for a reservation or information at 356-9272.