This is the third year of catch-and-release bass regulations in Maryland's fresh water from March 1 to June 15, and Dr. Robert Bachman of the Department of Natural Resources says the program is working splendidly.
"One thing we do know from the [catch-and-release] season is that the Potomac River already seems to be producing bigger fish," Bachman said recently. "But one thing we still would like to find out is just how much impact does angling pressure have on size distribution of smallmouth bass in the river."
The catch-and-release regulations, which protect the larger fish during the spring spawning season, have shown a tendency to larger fish, but Bachman and some area fishermen, including Potomac River bass guide Ken Penrod, wonder whether the spring restrictions are masking what is really going on in the river.
Bass take about four years to grow to 12 inches or longer, so it may be another year or more before the full impact of catch and release is felt.
Penrod has suggested to Bachman that a group of biologists and fishermen might discuss adding areas of the Potomac where special size limits would be in effect year-round, as is now the case in a 22-mile stretch of the river from dam 3 to dam 4 that is designated a trophy bass area.
"We want to find out if there are more places where we might be able to have an even better quality size," Bachman said.
Data comparing 1989 with 1991 shows that the trophy area has produced more and bigger fish than in recent years before the restrictions took effect. But the catch and release season went into effect at the same time.
"And it appears that [catch and release] has had such a profound effect that it would mask any effect that the slot limit would have so far," Bachman said.
Temperatures are forecast to be below normal through the weekend, with the possibility of snow flurries today and highs in the 40s.
As a result, pond fishing will be best for crappie, which are fairly active in cooler waters. Some good places to try, using minnows or wax worms, are Loch Raven (Goetze's Cove, Dulaney Valley bridge), Prettyboy and Liberty reservoirs, and the Belle Grove and Patapsco Valley ponds. The upper Potomac also will produce some catches of crappie, as will Tuckahoe Creek.
White perch fishing should be improving as water levels in river heads continue to recede from heavy rains. Try the Millington area of the Chester River or Red Bridges on the Choptank. The Patuxent River in the Jug Bay area and even as far up river as Governor's Bridge might also turn up some perch. Try bloodworms or grass shrimp for bait on shad darts.
Mackerel are still running off Ocean City.
If you prefer to stay indoors, the Fly Fishing Expo runs from noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Union Building at Towson State University.
The expo, which is free and open to the public, is a great place to learn about fly fishing, with more than 25 commercial exhibitors of tackle, artwork, books and gear. The program also includes fly tying and casting demonstrations and lectures by some of the top people in the field, including Gary Borger, a fly fisherman and author.
If fishing isn't in your plans, Sunday is Take a Hike Day in Maryland's state forests and parks, with many facilities offering walking tours of our public lands.
Saturday: Maryland Fly Anglers annual Gurney Godfrey Dinner at Towson State University. The program begins at noon with exhibits, demonstrations and photo and fly-tying competitions. Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. The keynote speaker is scheduled to be Gary Borger, who will present a program on the four seasons of fly fishing.
Saturday: Spring Thunder, a comprehensive program dealing with turkey hunting in Maryland, sponsored by the Cumberland Valley Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Foundation Federation and the North American Rod and Gun Club, 10 p.m., at the club on Belvedere Road Extended in Hagerstown. Hunting and safety seminar featuring state turkey calling champion and guide Ron Bohn, DNR update on the state of Maryland's turkey management program, shotgun patterning clinic and turkey shoot in open and junior classes. Admission is free. Call (301) 824-2625 or (301) 473-8104.
Saturday: Spring Marine Swap Meet and Flea Market to benefit the Maryland Food Bank, sponsored by Sunshine Yachts and the Pasadena Boatel. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 2010 Knollview Road in Pasadena. Call (410) 437-6200.
April 10-12: Baltimore County Marine Trades Boat Show and Water Festival at Martin State Airport, Middle River. New and used boats, boating and fishing equipment, RV and boat towing vehicles. Displays of antique cars, race boats, fire and water rescue equipment and demonstrations of boat docking, wind surfing, small-boat racing. Admission is $3 per person or $5 per family. Show opens at 10 a.m. Call (410) 335-7000.