Now that your taxes are done, it's time to hook up those cheese-flavored marshmallows and head for the water.
Since 1980, the state Department of Natural Resources has stocked trout in Columbia's Wilde Lake and Lake Elkhorn, making them easy prey for anyone with some line, a hook and bait that smells like state-procured fish chow.
This year, however, the state stocked Centennial Lake instead of Wilde Lake because of residents' complaints that crowds of fisher-folk were not respecting private property, were hogging parking and littering up a storm, says Chick Rhodehamel, the Columbia Association's ecologist.
Natural resources workers last week finished stocking the last of about 1,500 10- to 14-inch trout into Lake Elkhorn and about 1,000 into Centennial Lake.
The fish were raised in the sluices and ponds of state hatcheries near the Catoctin Mountains, put into tank trucks and driven to Howard County, where they were dipped out, put into five-gallon buckets and unceremoniously dumped into their assigned lake.
After that, it's every fish for itself.
Rhodehamel says the lakes are usually fished out by the middle of May. Because the fish are used to cool running water, they cannot tolerate the warmlakes during the summer anyway.
To catch them, Rhodehamel says, savvy fishers of domesticated trout use something akin to home cookin'.
The fish are raised on fish chow, which includes grain products,egg whites, fish oil and fish meal pressed into bite-sized pellets.
Thus fishermen use marshmallows, which have egg whites, canned salmon eggs, which have fish oil, and other items that smell like fish chow.
"They hone in on those particular flavors," Rhodehamel says, adding that if you decide to go with marshmallows, "you can get them cheese-flavored to double their effect."
Customer satisfaction these days involves quality and convenience -- witnessdrive-through banking, drive-through fast-food and drive-through liquor stores.
And now, from the Office of Animal Control, a drive-through clinic for pet owners to bring their doggies and kitties for rabies shots.
The drive-through clinic does an average 300-cars' of business every year and is now in its fourth year.
No pet owners have dogged it yet -- or at least, not many.
"Only two complaints,"according to Joann Stock, kennel supervisor: one for poor advertising and the other for confusion.
Pet owners who go to Saturday's clinic -- from noon to 4 p.m. at Pointers Run Elementary School -- will have a choice of two lines and two veterinarians to administer the shots.
In past years, drivers seemed to be glad of the convenience and veterinarians of the change.
"They sometimes climb in the car with the animals or jump in the back of pickup trucks to give them their shots," Stock said.
The drive-through idea is the brainchild ofpound warden Tim Grove and pound administrator Tahira Williams, who sought a faster and easier way of administering rabies shots to pets.
"We get a lot of positive feedback," Stock said.
"Owners don'tseem to have to wait as long and their animals are not as stressed."
ICE AGE ALL OVER AGAIN
Not that Melanie Corbett didn't give it her best effort.
But for now, Astrodon johnstoni, Maryland's might-have-been official dinosaur, is as dead as, well . . .
Melanie, 8, the daughter of Michael and Shirley Corbett of Jessup and a third-grader at Guilford Elementary School, did her homework on Astrodon before going to Annapolis to testify in the dinosaur's favor.
Astrodon would be a good state dinosaur "because it was found in Maryland, so that would be better for Maryland than Tyrannosaurus rex," Melanie said.
She learned that the animal was a plant-eater with a very longneck.
"Its body wasn't as big as its neck," she said. Paleontologists estimate its length at 50 to 60 feet.
A 4-foot leg bone was found in Beltsville, other Astrodon body parts in Bladensburg. The dinosaur was one of several species that lived and died in what is now Maryland from 130 million to 70 million years ago.
Melanie got involved when she was researching the dinosaur for a school project, and her teacher suggested she testify before the House Constitutional andAdministrative Law Committee, which heard the bill after the Senate passed it.
Although it was her first committee hearing, Melanie said she wasn't nervous.
"I thought it was exciting, the way they passed the bills and how many steps they had," she said.
Perhaps it's just as well that the General Assembly, preoccupied with its inability to put together a budget or the taxes needed to support one, killed the dinosaur bill early this month.
Michael Brett-Surman says the legislators would have had the name wrong.
Astrodon johnstoni is an outdated name given to the dinosaur by its discoverer in the 19th century, says the Smithsonian Institution museum specialist. The correct name now is Pleurocoelus altus.
By whatever name, the dinosaur may be Maryland's best shot at an exclusive official representative. Pleurocoelus altus was native to Maryland, and its remains have been found only in this state.
The dinosaur did have cousins (other species of the same genus) in Texas and Utah, Brett-Surman said.