Sodden Fran muddies fall fishing on Potomac


September 08, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Just when the upper Potomac River seemed to be rounding into shape for fall fishing after a spring and summer of unusually frequent and heavy rainfalls, remnants of Hurricane Fran swept across the watershed.

Fran, which came ashore in the Carolinas as a strong hurricane, passed through Maryland with 40 mph winds and, in some areas, torrential rains.

For bay fishermen, Fran was a short-lived inconvenience causing high tides and, for about 24 hours, stormy seas -- both of which abated quickly and caused little damage.

For river fishermen, however, Fran compounds the frustration of a year in which the state's best smallmouth bass waters have been largely unfishable -- and again are unsafe for recreational activity.

On Friday, the Department of Natural Resources issued an advisory to boaters and fishermen to stay off the river at least through the weekend and possibly longer.

The National Park Service closed the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal campgrounds along the 184 miles of canal from Washington to Cumberland in anticipation of unsafe conditions as the Potomac rises.

Rainfall estimates ranged from 6 to 8 inches in the western part of the state to 3 to 5 inches farther east.

"What has happened is that the west got more rain than the east, and it is going to take a while for it to work its way down to us -- and the river can get real ugly when that happens," said John Zeigler of the Rod Rack in Frederick. Zeigler said he, too, is advising that anglers stay way from the river until it drops to safe levels.

The National Hydrologic Office in Sterling, Va., forecast the Potomac to go over its banks in virtually all areas from Luke in Garrett County to tidal areas near Fredericksburg, Va.

Tributaries of the Potomac also were expected to go over their banks -- and the Shenandoah River crested at a record height of 30.7 feet yesterday morning at Lynwood. Maximum height there before flooding is 16 feet, the Hydrologic Office reported.

As the rain runs off the Potomac's watershed, the Hydrologic Office forecast the following flood stages on the main Potomac through Sunday night:

Paw Paw, W. Va. -- flood stage 25 feet, expected to crest at 40 to 42 feet last night.

Hancock -- flood stage 30 feet, expected to crest at 37 to 39 feet early this morning.

Williamsport -- flood stage 23 feet, expected to crest 30 to 32 feet this afternoon or evening.

Shepherdstown, W. Va. -- flood stage 15 feet, expected to crest at 28 to 30 feet this afternoon or evening.

Harpers Ferry, W. Va. -- flood stage 18 feet, expected to crest at 32 to 34 feet this afternoon or evening.

Point of Rocks -- Flood stage 16 feet, expected to crest at 38 to 40 feet this afternoon or evening.

Little Falls -- flood stage 10 feet, expected to crest at 18 to 20 feet this afternoon or evening.

Pub Date: 9/08/96

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