Need to beat the heat? Take a fishing trip to cool off

OUTDOORS

June 19, 1994|By GARY DIAMOND

When the mercury climbs above 90 and the humidity exceeds the temperature, there's only one thing to do -- go fishing. And, the way things are going this year, you'll find plenty of action close to home.

Harford County anglers have lots of summer fishing opportunities as well as species of fish to select from in both fresh and salt water. However, before you can make that first cast, you'll need to procure a fishing license and the appropriate stamps.

If you're an avid freshwater angler, the relatively cool waters of Deer Creek offer non-boating anglers a chance to cool off while pursuing their favorite fish. The stream begins just over the Baltimore County line near Greene Road, courses through the entire width of Harford County, eventually emptying into the surging currents of the Susquehanna River three miles below Conowingo Dam.

The creek offers excellent fishing opportunities for rainbow and brown trout throughout the year, with the best action taking place during spring and fall. Although the stream's brook trout population is small, this time of year a few usually can be found taking refuge in tiny, spring-fed tributaries situated near Rocks State Park.

Excellent numbers of mid-sized smallmouth bass can be taken in the stretch between Eden Mill Dam, downstream to the creeks mouth, a distance of nearly 17 miles. These fish usually are found at the heads of deeper pools where they will aggressively feed on small minnows, worms and insects drifting with the currents.

One of the best methods of fishing Deer Creek is wet-wading, a technique that requires nothing more than an old pair of sneakers and a good quality personal flotation device (PFD). Sure, you'll see folks fishing the stream wearing nothing more than sneakers and a swimsuit, however, each year someone loses his life while enjoying a cool dip in these waters. Most of the fatalities could have been prevented if the person was wearing a PFD.

The secret to success is to use natural baits, worms, grasshoppers, hellgrammites, crickets and salamanders. The use of live minnows is prohibited in Deer Creek. This is to protect the habitat of the Maryland darter, a species that's nearly extinct.

The baits should be cast upstream at a 45-degree angle and allowed to drift naturally with the currents. Take up any slack by slowly mending your line, and at the slightest indication of a strike, gently set the hook. Six chances out of 10 a hefty bluegill, fallfish or chub inhales your bait, but, on ultra-lite spinning and fly fishing gear, these species put up an admirable battle.

On the off-chance you hook up with a broad-shouldered bronze-back or sleek rainbow trout, be prepared for a relatively tough fight. Although both species rarely exceed 12 inches, they're quite aggressive and frequently use the stream's currents to their advantage.

After landing, grasp the fish by the tail, slowly move it back and forth until it revives and gently release it to fight another day. If you want fish to eat, take a short drive to Susquehanna State Park and park near the mouth of Deer Creek, a location that currently holds one of the best-tasting fish in freshwater -- channel catfish. Although the water's fresh, you'll need a Chesapeake Bay Sportfishing License to fish the river.

The Susquehanna's channel catfish range in size from pesky 10-inchers to hefty 15-pounders. They're a highly aggressive species that's usually not too particular about what they eat, however, the larger fish can be somewhat finicky. The secret to ** success is being in the right place at the right time.

Although tidal conditions play a minor role in their feeding activity, channel catfish usually are affected more by light intensity. Consequently, early morning and late evening are the most productive times to fish for the largest catties. During these periods, they're usually foraging in deep pools, looking for crawfish, small minnows and worms.

A medium-action spinning outfit, rigged 10-pound test and premium-grade monofilament line is all that's necessary to land big channel cats. Using a Palomar knot, tie a size No. 2 hook to the end of your line, measure up approximately 12 inches and attach one or two split shot. Use just enough weight to hold your bait on bottom -- no more.

Next, bait up with a large, live crawfish or minnow. Both are quite effective in luring even the most temperamental catfish. Cast your offering to the head of a deep pool and allow it to drift naturally with the currents to the pool's center. If the fish are

actively feeding, you'll get a strike within a few minutes. If conditions are poor, low water and bright sunlight, the wait may be longer.

Pan-fried catfish fillets are prepared by dipping the fillets in an egg/milk mixture then dredging in cracker crumbs. Fry them in vegetable oil until golden brown and serve hot with ketchup or tartar sauce.

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