When it comes to freshwater fishing, Maryland's largest reservoirs get most of the attention -- and, admittedly, the lion's share of the press -- but the smaller ones offer some mighty good angling.
TakeCarroll County's own Piney Run Reservoir.
No recent statistical information is available, but I'd wager a good coon dog that the average fisherman -- I am not including the fancy bass boaters -- does as well on 300-acre Piney Run as does his counterpart on Liberty, which is 10 times as large.
Maybe the Piney Run regulars prefer it that way.
In fishing, fame is a magnet. It draws fishermen from everywhere; things get crowded, and there can be disastrous effects.
As an example of fame and ruination, I think back 20 years to a Calvert County pond I fished several times a year with Ebbie Smith of Prince Frederick. At the time, it was not only themost productive bassing pond I fished but was better than any large reservoir, tidal river or other bass spot anywhere -- and I've fishedthem all across the country.
In this 40-acre pond, it was not unusual to catch 40 or 50 bass of keeper size in a day.
Once I got two bass, both of 5 pounds, simultaneously on a propeller-type surface plug. What a fight, and both fish stuck -- one on the tail hook, the other on the belly hook.
Ebbie's goal each season is to take 25 bass of over 5 pounds, and he usually tops it. Back then, most came from that old mill pond, which has no name. What a great fishing hole.
In September 1983, Rodney Cockrell of Huntington reeled in a bass of 11 pounds, 2 ounces there. It was both a Fishing in Maryland and Maryland Sports Fishing Tournament record.
Word spread quickly, fishermen came from near and far, the pond was overfished, but worse still they took home many of their fish -- and left behind their litter.
Not long after, the pond was closed to all anglers. It remains closed to this day.
There's a relatively new state-owned lake in St. Mary's County, St. Mary's Lake, and it, too, got an awful lot of fishing pressure and turned out many nice fish, especially bass, crappiesand bluegills. It's 50 acres shy of Piney Run's acreage and a Department of Natural Resources' showcase, but I'll take Piney Run any day -- especially now.
St. Mary's Lake is overfished, and the once great catches have become fair to good. Certainly no longer spectacular.
Will Piney Run be next? I hope not, though landlocked rockfish are drawing increasing attention to the local reservoir.
Fisheries manager Ed Enamait led a netting survey team at Piney Run recently andfound some encouraging news. He found a well-balanced fish population for most species, especially largemouth bass. Among bass that turned up was a 6-pounder of 21 inches, which is mighty nice for anywhere -- and it's back there swimming and available to bass-catchers.
The rockfish also are doing their thing in the reservoir that turned upfor one fishermen this season a 30-plus-pounder.
But not only arethere biggies in Piney Run like the one of better than 34 inches surveyed recently. Several others of 13 to 15 inches, representing natural reproduction from the 1989-1990 year class, are there, as are somefrom 1988, though none of this year's hatch were observed. They could have been missed in the survey, Enamait said.
He said the rock aren't as fat now as in the spring, and catching larger ones in surveys is difficult because the older the fish, the better their chances of avoiding the net.
Bluegills seem to be doing well, and a few large ones were observed, but no huge red-eared sunfish were netted. This species was introduced there years ago and appears to be making itsmark. Red-ears grow bigger, and fight better, than others of the sunfish-bluegill family.
Trout were well-represented, and should havebeen. There have been recent stockings of 13-inchers for catching and of smaller ones to evaluate the put-and-grow program.
Crappies are holding their own, or down slightly. Enamait said he would like tosee some larger ones.
Catfish have declined the past couple of years, perhaps because younger ones fall prey to such bigger fish as bass. To offset the decline, Natural Resources has resorted to stockingfingerling channel catties.
Something new at Piney Run is yellow perch, which wasn't stocked by DNR. Obviously, some Johnny Appleseed-types caught the fish elsewhere and introduced them on their own -- and Enamait isn't too happy about it. Some of the perch have reached 10 or 11 inches, but they need larger bodies of water.
As for fishing now, the rockfish appear a good bet, and this time of year some can be taken from shore or the docks. Some of the best catches are madewith top-water lures and shiners, with chicken livers scoring occasionally.
Boat and canoe rentals, as well as launching, cease for the season Thursday at Piney Run, but shore fishing continues.
The remainder of the 800-acre park also will be open, including the hikingtrails.