It was 650 hardy and hopeful fishermen against the fish, and for themost part, the fish won. And a few anglers inadvertently joined themin the drink.
That's how things went at the 10th annual Early Bird Fishing Tournament at Piney Run Reservoir last Sunday. A few anglers walked away with a lot of money, but most departed chilled, withoutany fish, and some were wet.
Without a doubt it was the worst weather for fishing in the competition's history. Northwest winds whipped across the 300-acre lake with gusts topping 30 knots, forcing most contestants to call it quits in midday.
However, for the most part, the fish called it quits long before then. The catches were the worst ever as roiled waters had whitecaps blowing off the top of them. It was fitting for neither mannor fish.
When it was all over, less than a third of the competitors were on hand to see William Ilgenfritz of Finksburg pick up the top check of a $700 for a 1.03-pound trout of 14.25 inches taken from a boat. It was the smallest winning fish ever, and barely beat out the catch of Bill Sheckells, whose boat catch of a 1.03-pound trout waswas a quarter of an inch shorter. Sheckells, also of Westminster, won $300.
In third place in the boat division was Baltimorean James Hitt with a trout of .80 pounds and 12.75 inches.
Among shore fishermen, Arthur Cristino won $600 for a 1.02-pound trout of 13.5 inches; Joseph Brooks was second with a .93-pound trout of 14.4 inches worth $200, and Virgil Hugh with a .67-pound trout of 12 inches was third, winning $100.
Stripers knew when to lie low. Not a single landlocked rockfish was checked in during the rough and tumble day, during which at least one boat capsized. Nor were any catfish, though they have a reputation for favoring dingy waters.
None of the tagged fish -- including a $10,000 rock -- were caught, nor were any tagged fish from previous years. Most anglers caught nothing.
Gene Knapp won$250 for the largest yellow perch, a .37-pounder of 9.75 inches; Robert Tabor's .84-pound crappie of 11.5 inches took $250, and Randy Barra also won $250 for a 1.02-pound trout of 13.5 inches. Contest rulesstipulated no fish could win more than one prize.
The Early Bird Tournament is traditionally held the weekend before Piney Run's formal opening. The park opened to the public on a regular basis Wednesday; hours are 6 a.m. to sunset.
The entry fee for cars is $3 for county residents; $4 for non-county residents. Boat launching is $2. Canoe and rowboat rentals are $4 an hour; $12 a day on weekdays, but on weekends the $4 an hour price is in effect. Life preservers are included with rentals, night crawler baits are available.
In addition to fishing other park recreational opportunities include five miles ofnature trails, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a nature center. Information: Call 795-3274.
As the weather warms, landlocked rockshould become more hungry, and among the most promising artificial lures for them should be the Silver Lucky, a weighted spoon that divesdeep.
This bait -- available in several sizes -- has the life-like appearance of a darting live minnow, and is also good for bass, yellow perch, crappies and members of the pike family. Cast it out, allow it to drop to the bottom, then retrieve it in short jerks of the rod. Allow it to fall back to the bottom between jerks. Often the fish strike as it falls back.
This was the lure President Bush and I used last Saturday -- my apologies for not being at Piney Run's tournament -- on the Potomac at Washington, where waters were equally roiledand wind swept. We lasted five hours in a bass boat continually buffeted by the breeze, and ended up with one small largemouth bass each.I also took a small shad.
It was a day when most fishermen stayedhome, but a president in the midst of a campaign has an exceptionally tight schedule, so it was then or not at all, and we chose to fish.He was a good sport despite the discomforts, and it took a lot of work to hook those bass in waters as thick as pea soup.