At 5:30 a.m. Saturday, March 28, thousands of avid Harford County trout fishermen will gather along the banks of Deer Creek and the Little Gunpowder River for the opening of trout season -- and the first real chance for anglers to combat the cabin fever that has gripped so many of them.
During the next three months, more than 17,000 catch-sized rainbow trout will be stocked in county streams and Forest HillPond. Although these fish rarely exceed 12 inches, they're considered real trophies to local anglers who suffered through winter.
Readers who know absolutely nothing about the fever obviously enjoy more sedentary forms of recreation, such as basket-weaving or watching golf on TV. The dreaded malady only strikes fishermen and boaters during the winter months.
Symptoms of cabin fever frequently arefirst observed by the victim's spouse. They include hysterical laughter (when a postcard is received from a close friend fishing near KeyWest) and convulsions (usually during during Saturday morning fishing shows on cable TV), sometimes accompanied by a mild coma (blank stares at the boat sitting at the end of the driveway) and violent fits (usually when a TV newscaster says "Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow, indicating six additional weeks of winter).
There are only two known cures for cabin fever. The first and most expensive involves jumping on the next plane and flying to Key West. The weather's always warm, and if you can't catch fish in the Florida Keys, stay home and work on your basket-weaving skills. The second method is far less expensive: trout fishing at Rocks or Gunpowder state parks.
Obviously, most anglers opt for the second cure, which explains the huge crowds at both streams.
Contrary to popular belief, trout, especially those recently stocked from state hatcheries, are not super-intelligent. In fact, they, along with most other species of fish, are dumb as dirt. They only reason some folks have trouble catching trout is becausepeople have the tendency to get too sophisticated in fishing techniques.
Most successful anglers fishing Deer Creek and Little Gunpowder River use fishing methods developed more than three centuries ago.The technique has withstood the test of time, rarely failing to produce fat catches.
Remember: Most successful trout fishermen use worms, not artificial flies. Face it, although a trout's considered somewhat stupid, no fish in its right mind would go out of its way to eata concoction constructed from pieces of fur, feathers and strands ofanimal hair wrapped around a tiny hook. This especially holds true when there's a glob of fat, juicy garden worm tumbling past it's nose.
If the fish were stocked less than a week before opening day, there's an even chance they'll vividly remember delicacies fed to them at the state's hatchery, where their diet consisted mainly of high-protein pellets comprised of dried cheese, fish meal and corn. If worms fail to produce, switch to whole kernel corn or small morsels of Velveeta cheese.
Rocks State Park manager David Cooper says there's ample parking for the onslaught of trout fishermen expected the morningof March 28. Opening-day anglers shouldn't have difficulty finding aspot at one of the more than 250 sites close to the stream.
"We'll be opening additional parking spaces at gated picnic areas about 4 a.m.," Cooper added.
Ironically, the dreaded cabin fever disappears when that first trout enters the angler's landing net, regardless of the method used to catch it. By day's end, a fair number of successful trout fishermen will likely catch their legal limit of five fish,thus placing them in the highly skilled category.
If they opt to keep more than five, they'll be placed in another, but less prestigious, classification, the summons and district court category.