Casting call lures anglers Trout: Fishing enthusiasts from Maryland and Pennsylvania descended on Gunpowder Falls yesterday for the official beginning of the spring season.

March 30, 1997|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

Kenneth Poff was among the first to hit the Gunpowder Falls and cast a line yesterday in what has become as much a rite of spring in Maryland as the first pitch at Opening Day for the Orioles: the official reopening of the trout season in Maryland.

"Nothing could stop me from being here. I've fished on this day in the past in rain, snow and muddy water," said Poff.

"I just love to be outdoors, and this is a really fine river to fish."

The York, Pa., resident arrived at the Gunpowder, considered one of the best trout-fishing rivers in the country, at 5: 15 a.m., 15 minutes before the official opening of the season.

Poff and two fellow anglers' lines were cast not long after the appointed hour.

They had staked out a favored fishing hole within a short walk of Phoenix Road north of Hunt Valley.

But it was not long before they and other early rising anglers were joined by a throng, hiking down from nearby roads and across the river banks to cast a line. Within a few hours, many accessible spots of the Gunpowder were lined with anglers gingerly vying for space to cast -- no one wanted to get tangled with a neighbor's line.

This happy madness is driven annually on many rivers in Maryland by the convergence of a couple of events, say seasoned anglers.

The first is the official arrival of spring, which does not necessarily mean the weather will be good for outdoor activity.

And then there is the fact that the state stocks portions of more than 100 freshwater rivers, streams and ponds with thousands of rainbow trout raised in hatcheries. Rainbow trout, unlike the "wild" brown trout found in other areas of these same rivers, are there for the taking by licensed anglers. On these designated "put-and-take" areas, anglers may keep up to five trout each.

When the state opens these areas on the last Saturday in March, it lures anglers like bread crumbs draw pigeons. Trout fishing is banned twice a year so the state can restock Maryland's rivers, ** with the next closure on April 20 for 7 days. The last closure began March 9 and ended yesterday.

"This is Opening Day and I look forward to it all year," said Keith Boyce, of Red Lion, Pa. He was not going home disappointed either. Tethered to his waist were five pan-sized trout.

Most of the anglers who ventured out yesterday did not use traditional fly rods. Spinning rods, hooked with all manner of bait from salmon eggs to canned corn, were the most common equipment of the day.

Fly rods require a good deal of space to cast and there is no assurance of that in the put-and-take areas on opening day, say seasoned anglers like Steve Hossbach of Hunt Valley, who with his son, Andy, hit the river early yesterday and headed home by 10 a.m. with a full limit of fish each.

Bob Lunsford, director of the Department of Natural Resources Freshwater Fisheries Division, estimated that half of the 75,000 licensed anglers fished yesterday.

"Almost everybody gets out opening day. It's a fever."

Indeed. Pat Chelton of Edgewood said he and his wife and son made it to Deer Creek in Harford County before sunrise yesterday. But the river was so packed with anglers that they high-tailed it to the Gunpowder.

A particularly popular area of the Gunpowder yesterday was a mile stretch of river north and south of the Sparks Road bridge.

That was the spot where Ed Spicer of Glen Rock, Pa. and his grandson, Joseph Eckard, 13, of York, Pa., chose to fish yesterday.

A state park service parking lot near the bridge was jammed yesterday morning with cars, trucks, and anglers old and young swapping tall tales.

And the river as far as the eye could see was peppered with anglers wading in the water and lining the east and west banks.

This was Spicer's first trip to the Gunpowder on opening day. He was drawn to the river for the same reason many from Pennsylvania said they had come: Maryland's spring put-and-take season opens a full two weeks ahead of Pennsylvania's, and well, "Why wait?" asked Spicer.

"Crowds or no crowds I really like this river. It's wide. You can get a good cast," he said.

That seemed to be the viewpoint of many Pennsylvania anglers yesterday, so much so that they seemed to dominate the river. The rush across the border has driven some seasoned Maryland anglers to pass up opening day to wait for the Pennsylvania crowd to thin out before hitting the river.

Still, the crowding on the four-mile portion of the Gunpowder Falls which the state stocks with trout has been known in the past to lead to sharp words among some, say seasoned anglers.

"I've never heard of anyone actually getting in a fight because someone moved in on their territory," said Lunsford, the state fisheries expert. "Some anglers do give each other grief when it gets a bit crowded. Most of it is good natured, though."

Few anglers had anything to complain about yesterday despite crowded fishing holes.

For many, such as Poff, it was a fine day's catch. Others, including Alfonso Te Rodriguez of Baltimore, were not so lucky.

"I've had only four bites and no fish yet," he said.

However, the day was not all lost, he said. "I've seen two hawks, many geese and the river is beautiful to watch." Beside he said, he had come for something far more elusive than a trout. "I'm here for some peace and quiet."

Pub Date: 3/30/97

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