Fran flooding turned canal into death trap

On the Outdoors

September 26, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The upper Potomac River, in most years very good habitat for smallmouth bass, tiger muskie, walleye, sunfish and catfish, has been battered by floods this year. And while river levels are now returning to near normal, the impact of this year of floods apparently has been enormous.

Ken Penrod, whose Life Outdoors Unlimited fishing and hunting guide service normally spends hundreds of days along the river each year, accompanied National Park Service and Department of Natural Resources personnel during fish rescue missions along 20 miles of the C&O Canal, which runs close to the river for 185 miles from Washington to Cumberland.

Penrod reports that, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Fran, the Potomac crested as much as 40 feet above normal summer pool in the river basin.

As a result, the current ditch that once was a canal flooded through almost its entire length -- and, for the second time this year, trapped game and forage fish, which had ridden the high water into the canal.

In the days since Fran passed, Park Service and DNR personnel and volunteers from MBF and other groups around the state have pulled seine nets through flooded areas of the canal and transported the fish caught back to the river.

But despite those efforts, many thousands of trapped fish have died.

Ed Enamaite, DNR's chief fisheries biologist for the area, could not be reached for comment this week. His office reported he still is in the field daily, rescuing trapped fish and assessing the damage caused by the latest catastrophe in this year of storms.

Bass pros compete

Big-time bass fishing comes to Maryland this week as the BASS Top 100 TX opens today at Smallwood State Park in Charles County. The tournament ends Saturday afternoon, and weigh-ins will be held each afternoon at Sweden Point Marina in the park.

Fishing conditions for the tournament, which always draws a strong field of national and regional anglers, are better than they have been in weeks.

After several weeks of heavy runoff from tropical storms and thunderstorms, the upper stretches of the tidal Potomac are clearing and producing the excellent largemouth bass fishing anglers have come to expect there.

Admission to the weigh-ins is free. Weigh-ins normally start about 3 p.m.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake Bay: Bay bridge pilings, the lumps off the western shore from the mouth of the Magothy River to Bodkin Point and into the mouth of the Patapsco River all have been very good for white perch on grass shrimp or crab baits. Oyster rocks in lower Chester River also are good bets. Chumming for rockfish continues to be steady at Love and Swan points, but evening hours when the tide is running might be a better bet for anglers casting plugs over the holes and dropoffs near shallow flats. Middle Chesapeake Bay: Trolling and chumming are working well for rockfish, with trollers along the 35-foot contours doing best for larger fish. Chummers at the Stone Rock and the Hill have been taking 18- to 24-inch stripers. Sea trout in large numbers in the Choptank up to Cambridge, and along western side of bay channel from Flag Pond to Deale, often closely associated with breaking schools of bluefish.

Lower Chesapeake Bay: Hooper Island Straits, mouth of the Potomac and Tangier Sound all are very good for sea trout, with bluefish from 1 to 4 pounds breaking throughout the area.

Ocean City: Fair flounder action from 10th Street to Buoy 13 behind Assateague. Spot and small bluefish in back bays. Tautog and rockfish at jetties and small blues and rockfish in surf.

Susquehanna River: Catfishing still great, with many catches 8 to 12 pounds. White perch action good on nightcrawlers and bloodworms in lower river. Smallmouth bass doing well for anglers with crayfish or crankbaits.

Upper Potomac River: Levels are closer to normal, and smallmouth-bass fishing has been good, although most catch reports indicate smaller fish.

Loch Raven Reservoir: Largemouth bass and pickerel catches increasing over dropoffs in School House and Peerces coves.

Liberty Reservoir -- Bass on crayfish and crankbaits off points in 12 to 15 feet of water. Crappie around beaver huts and brush piles.

Pub Date: 9/26/96

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