As aggressive as the damaging zebra mussel is, it hasn't wiped out boat fishing at Piney Run Reservoir and can't stop the 10th annual $20,000 Early Bird Fishing Tournament scheduled for March 28.
Piney Run's boat fishing program will continue, despite bans on visiting boats by the Baltimore City Water Department for Liberty, Prettyboy and Loch Raven reservoirs.
And kicking off Piney Run's season will be the popular contest, which also offers a pocketful of cash for anglers lucky enough to catch one of three top-money fish tagged for the competition.
A $10,000 bounty awaits the one who catches a landlocked rockfish tagged for the affair sponsored by the non-profit Maryland Recreation and Parks Association.
Ugly catfish might be frowned upon, and bluegills considered too small, but there will be one of each carrying a $1,000 tag. Fifty other tagged fish of various species will be worth $100 each.
There are many other prizes for both shoreside and boat anglers.The largest yellow perch, trout, crappie and rock are each worth $250. Among shore anglers, the largest fish of any species is $600; second best, $200; and third best, $100. With boat fishermen, top fish ofany species wins $700; second best, $300; third, $150.
In the past, overall big fish prizes have mostly involved catfish and carp, butthis year stripers could figure prominently in the payoff. They growbig in Liberty -- some better than 20 pounds -- and it's getting to the time when they start feeding.
Don't write off chances for catching one of the tagged fish. This was done in the second annual tournament to the tune of $10,000 for a bass. Incidentally, any fish tagged in previous years caught this time around will be worth $100.
The entry fee for shore anglers is $30, and $35 for boatmen. The competition will be limited to a field of 600. The cap for the number of boats allowed is 219 on the 300-acre lake.
Competition hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Boaters (no gas motors allowed) can launch earlier. A limited number of boat rentals are available at $15. Pontoon boat service will be available to carry shore-siders to their locations.
For further information, call MRPA in Baltimore at 1-410-536-4400, or Piney Run at 795-3274. Or, write the Maryland Recreation & Parks Association, 201 Gun Road, Baltimore, Md. 21227.
Tidewater anglersare shocked to learn the upper Chesapeake Bay also could become infested with the zebra mussel, whose wildfire growth clogs municipal water supply and power company pipes and boat locks.
The mussels foulwaters with their droppings, have no natural enemies and can pile several feet high to disrupt spawning areas.
Now we're told zebras can tolerate salinity equal or greater to that endured by largemouth bass -- possibly 10- to 12 parts per thousand -- enough to threaten the upper bay. Zebras could one day -- and possibly within the decade -- become a disastrous tidewater problem.
Last summer, there were two reported incidents involving zebra larvae in New York's sector of the Susquehanna. That's a long way from the upper Chesapeake complex that is fed by the river, but these miniature mussels move fast.
Little is known to indicate how fast they could come down the Susquehanna, but Ron Karuda of the Department of Natural Resources admits great concern. Eyes of the scientific community are on the Hudson, also a tidal river, where the mussel appears on the rampage.
Meanwhile,developments at Liberty, Prettyboy and Loch Raven appear to be taking an ugly turn as frustrated boaters plan strategy to put their craftback on the reservoirs. Some think they can intimidate the BaltimoreCity Department of Public Works, which controls the water supplies.
Boaters have big investments in craft designed to fish reservoirs,so their shock and anger is understandable.
But what is absurd, is talk of going to the Great Lakes to obtain zebra life and stock it here on the ridiculous assumption that once it is established, there will no longer be need for a boat ban.
Equally disturbing is talk of intimidating shore anglers simply because the ban does not apply to them.
Maryland BASS Federation and American Bass Association have combined to form the Maryland Aquatic Resources Coalition to work out a solution with the city. Duke Nohe, a reservoir regular, is director. His team includes Bruce Jones, Ed Lohr, Clem Luberecki, Don Roberts and Jim Scarborough.
"Herds" is not as inflammatory as the zebra mussel issue is among reservoir boat anglers, some of whom have threatened to retaliate by harassing shore fishermen or importing the dreaded mussel on their own -- on the assumption that once the lakes are contaminated with zebras there will no longer be a need for aboat ban.
Baltimore City's Department of Public Works objects to the use of the word "ban," insisting it's premature. But let's face it, when you decline to issue permits, a ban is in existence.