Down the Patapsco there's wildlife and good memories

OUTDOORS

May 29, 1994|By PETER BAKER

The temperature was headed toward 90 degrees, and so, as any other kid 25 years or more past adolescence might do, the way was made to the river, where wet wading would take the edge off the heat, and there was the promise of catching bass on the fly rod.

The humidity was oppressive for so early in the season -- almost as if August had come a couple of months early.

On the Patapsco below Johnnycake Road, the river was down, the riffles easy to wade, the slow runs and pools reasonably clear.

The rod would send the small popper into the shaded eddies along the Howard County shoreline, and now and again a rock bass or a bluegill would hit the lure eagerly, struggle at the end of the leader, be brought to hand and sent along its way.

It was not the stuff of sagas, but it was fun and the river was blessedly cool.

On the Baltimore County shoreline is a part of Patapsco State Park. On the Howard County shoreline, a railroad right of way runs atop the high bluff. But down along the river, the world is largely wild and wonderful.

It is a place where the young and the young at heart come to play. Canoeists. Fishermen. Hikers. Bird watchers, wildlife photographers and turtle hunters.

Here and there, the river, when swollen and running fast in the spring, had stranded man-made debris. A rusted-out metal cabinet. Tires. A shopping cart.

The downstream edge of the cabinet turned up a rock bass on the first cast. The tires provided shelter for fry. The shopping cart snagged a popper and cut the leader.

A new leader and popper were tied on, while an Eastern box

turtle struggled from the ground cover above the high water mark and began a slow parade along the water's edge.

Atop the turtle's shell, in child's hand, was printed in pink letters, "Chris 5-4-94," and the evidence of a youngster's catch-and-release caused more than three decades of memory to peel away in an instant. I, too, had caught and released box turtles, marking them with nail polish.

I suppose I, too, wanted to know if what goes around really does come around. In the years since that question has been asked and answered many times. Especially in the natural world, for every effect, positive or negative, there is a cause.

And along the Patapsco, on a day when thunderheads were building through the afternoon and the bluegills and rock bass were hitting regularly until violent thunderstorms forced a retreat from the river, it was good to know that others have the opportunity to ask the question and hope for answers.

But there are many kids, whether they are six or 46, who never -- or rarely -- have the opportunity to wade a river or hunt turtles, to follow deer tracks to the natural fords or to dunk a worm, cast a spinner or send a popper in tight to the cover along a shoreline.

The first day of the Governor's Youth Fishing Derby -- Get Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs -- will be held at nine sites around the state on Saturday. On June 11, the derby will be held at 13 other sites. The derby0will conclude on June 18.

June 4 and 11 also are free fishing days in the state, when adults may fish without a license.

The derby is non-competitive. It combines fishing with instruction related to aquatic resource education and sensible use of the state's natural resources.

It is a chance to get your kids to shoreside, to let them learn something more about the state of our environment and the recreational possibilities it can provide.

To learn that, yes, what goes around comes around. Take a day with the kids and learn something more of natural causes and effects.

YOUTH FISHING DERBY SITES

Sites, dates, and phone numbers for the Governor's Youth Fishing Derby:

JUNE 4

Location, County, Information

Lake Waterford Park, Anne Arundel, 410-222-6248

North Beach Town Pier, Calvert, 410-257-2554

Piney Run, Carroll, 410-795-3274

Herrington Manor, Garrett, 301-334-9180

Friends Park, Harford, 410-273-5623

Seneca Creek, Montgomery, 301-217-6805

Patuxent River Park, Prince George's, 301-627-6074

Terrapin Park, Queen Anne's, 410-758-0835

Salisbury City Park, Wicomico, 410-548-4900

JUNE 11

County Fairgrounds, Anne Arundel, 1-800-688-FINS

Middle Branch Park, Baltimore City, 410-396-3838

County Home Park, Baltimore, 410-887-1240

Golden Ring Park, Baltimore, 410-887-0294

Gwynn Oak Park, Baltimore, 410-887-1239

Stansbury Park, Baltimore, 410-887-7180

Martinak State Park, Caroline, 410-479-3721

Gilbert Run Park, Charles, 410-870-2778

Cunningham Falls, Frederick, 301-694-1684

Centennial Park, Howard, 410-313-2762

Turner's Creek Park, Kent, 410-778-1948

Greenbrier State Park, Washington, 301-791-3187

Assateague State Park, Worcester, 410-641-2120

JUNE 18

Rocky Gap State Park, Allegany, 301-777-2139

Point Lookout, St. Mary's, 301-475-4637

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