Drought creates photo opportunity for wily fisherman

On The Outdoors

August 12, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The drought that has gripped Maryland for more than a year has lowered levels in nearly all rivers, streams, lakes and ponds across the state, limiting access for boaters to favorite fishing waters but also opening new territory to waders and shoreline anglers.

And anglers who take cameras with them while waters are low can map out a plan for improved fishing once rivers, streams and lakes return to normal levels.

Sound fishy? Not really.

Duke Nohe, head of the Maryland Aquatic Resources Coalition and a top notch fisherman, has had great success going for bass and white perch on Prettyboy Reservoir for years.

On a trip with Nohe a couple of years ago, while he was steadily reeling in 3- to 5-pound bass, he explained he knew where to fish because he knew the bottom contours.

"I photographed it when you could see what was here," he said. "I know every inch of the bottom -- road beds, stone foundations, flats and steep drop-offs.

"And if you know that, you have a better chance of knowing where the fish are."

Levels at Prettyboy, Liberty and Loch Raven reservoirs are low enough to reveal extended bottom contours, and photographs matched with topographic maps can result in a personalized chart of fishing areas with potential.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, most stream gauging stations in the Youghiogheny, Potomac, Monocacy and Patuxent river basins have measured record low flows. Eastern Shore rivers, too, are at or near record lows.

Take the opportunity to photograph or map the watercourses, using landmarks above the normal high water mark to locate exposed ledges, downed trees or other structure that will create current breaks once water levels rise.

And note where the deeper runs and pools are now, because once the waters rise again these same areas may be the prime holding areas for fish during a normal long, hot summer.

Fisheries Service biologists report that freshwater fishing is holding up well despite the drought -- although anglers must "be adaptive to the new profile of the structure."

Baltimore is drawing water from the Susquehanna River to offset the drain on Prettyboy, Liberty and Loch Raven.

On the Gunpowder, where a trophy-trout fishery has been built in the tail race below Prettyboy dam, flow rates have been maintained and colder water drawn from the lower layers of the reservoir has maintained suitable temperatures.

Blue catfish record

Don Wilson, a 16-year-old Fort Washington high school student, set a state record for blue catfish with a catch weighing 39 pounds, 4 ounces. The previous mark was 36 pounds, 12 ounces.

Wilson was fishing with his father, Mike Alexander, on Aug. 4 when the big cat hit a piece of herring on Swan Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River near Fort Washington Park.

Wilson, using 10-pound test line, said boating the record fish took 25 minutes.

"I just couldn't believe it," said Wilson, whose largest previous catch was 12 pounds. "This is something I never thought would happen to me. We were just out there at the right time."

The record catch was first checked at Holiday Sports in Temple Hills, but its scales went only to 28 pounds, and Wilson and his dad had to go to Gray's Market in Marbury to find a suitable scale.

Fisheries Service biologist Tim Groves certified the catch at Grays and measured it as 41.63 inches long and 25.75 inches around.

The fish will be mounted and displayed in the family's living room.

White Marlin payouts

Richard Benn, the Great Falls, Va., angler, received $685,373 for the 81.5-pound white marlin that won the White Marlin Open in Ocean City last Friday.

Germantown's Ben Moses, who was fishing with Benn aboard the Anticipation, received $124,581 for his 65.5-pound white, which took second place.

The doubleheader hook-up, which was unprecedented in the WMO, occurred at Norfolk Canyon, well south of where most of the tournament field was fishing.

The top blue marlin (578 pounds) in the tournament paid Stan Shapiro of Cherry Hill, N.J., $297,107.

The overall tournament payout, for marlins, tuna, wahoo, dolphin and shark, was a record $1.2 million.

The fishing report

Salt water

Upper Chesapeake Bay: Snake Reef, Bodkin Point, Seven-Foot Knoll, Hodges Bar and the Chester River north of Kent Narrows all are good choices for white perch to 11 inches, some spot and a few croaker. Chummers are having fair success for rockfish at Swan Point and the LP buoys, and occasional breaking stripers have been reported near Poole's Island. Spot, croaker, bluefish and sea trout have been caught in the Turkey Point area.

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