No news is not necessarily good news -- not when hundreds of impatient reservoir fishermen have their bass boat rigs ready, but still no word on when and if they can use them on Liberty, Prettyboy and Loch Raven reservoirs.
What a mess this zebra mussel ban has become. Asfish are beginning to bite, the Baltimore City Water Department is still holding $50 boat registration fee deposits pending a final decision, and business associated with reservoir fishing is going to pot.
We hope within the week the stalemate will be broken. Fishermen are entitled to a prompt decision, good or bad, so they can plan theirseasons accordingly. The same for tackle shops and other businesses that serve reservoir boat fishermen.
Typical of those caught in the middle of the controversy is Mike Beck of Parkton, whose Beck's Gunsmithing caters primarily to anglers at Prettyboy Reservoir, just over the line in Baltimore County. The ban came without warning; he had stocked up with electric motors anticipating another good season, only to hear the bad news in late February.
He said he would normallybe selling a dozen electric motors a week. He now sells one. He estimates his overall business is down 80 percent. Who wants a small electric motor if there are no appropriate and convenient
waters to fish?
The ban doesn't have many loopholes. Fishermen who bring theirown electric motors to Loch Raven Fishing Center are informed they can't use them on the fleet of 40 rental boats available. This is a precautionary move to insure that zebras don't hitchhike from contaminated waters on motors to the reservoir.
Only at Loch Raven in Baltimore County are boats allowed, and they are restricted to the rental rowboats that never leave the reservoir for other waters, where they could be contaminated with some form of zebra life. Curiously, a fisherman stands a good chance of renting a Loch Raven boat on weekdays, though on weekends he might have to arrive early to ensure availability.
Beck reported a 12 1/2-pound hybrid taken on a crank bait fromthe shore at Prettyboy, where bank fishing access is improved because water levels are down 1 foot. Still, there is only a slight
increase in the number of shore fishermen, added Beck.
"Boat fishermendon't want to fish from shore," he said "That's not their style."
The ban has also just about wiped out the boom in big white perch fishing at Prettyboy, said Beck, who explained that boats are needed for the best perch fishing.
Larry Dobrovolny, proprietor of Fish Maryland Bait and Tackle said the opening of the Maryland trophy rockfish season Friday is helping a bit in sales at his Eldersburg location,but not nearly enough to offset losses in reservoir baits, and custom boat equipment and sales.
As an example, on weekends there were always 10 to 15 boat fishermen at his shop in the morning, each to buy at least $10 to $15 in baits. Now there are none.
His bait business is down by at least one-third, and would be off even more if someof the slack wasn't being picked up by sales for rockfish lures.
Overall, sales are off about 40 percent, with the biggest drops in electric motors, rods and reels. Even the recent catch of a 25-pound landlocked striper at Triadelphia Reservoir in Howard County has failedto give reservoir business much of a boost.
Dobrovolny usually sells 60 motors in March and April.
"This year, it will be 10 if I'mlucky," he said.