`No Fishing' on Nicodemus roils waters


May 21, 2000|By CANDUS THOMSON

Fishing poles have hung from the sides of Nicodemus Bridge since Howdy Doody was a 2-by-4.

The span across Liberty Reservoir is where countless parents learned to catch pan fish from their parents and then passed along that knowledge to their own youngsters. You didn't need a boat, didn't need a fancy rod and reel, didn't need all day. Someone even hung lights from the bridge to allow night fishing.

No one ever said it was legal, but no one ever said it wasn't."They've been letting folks fish off the bridge for 35, 40, 50 years," said Doug Gies, owner of Old Reisterstown Bait and Tackle. "I've got grandchildren, crippled people, old people who fish off it."

So it seems particularly cruel that just as the fishing is heating up and school will soon be letting out, the City of Baltimore has decided to stop looking the other way. As early as next week, "No Fishing" signs will be where the fishermen used to be.

The Department of Public Works, which oversees Liberty, Loch Raven and Prettyboy reservoirs, said it can understand why folks would be upset with the loss of what longtime anglers consider one of the most popular fishing bridges in Maryland."We don't mean to harm the fishermen," said Capt. Sheila Riley of the watershed police, which patrols the reservoirs. "It's a matter of safety."

Riley, a 39-year city employee who also supervises traffic enforcement in the downtown, said drivers along Nicodemus Road speed and an angler standing on the bridge's narrow sidewalk could be struck. And, she said, people fishing below the bridge can become entangled in lines dangling from above.

The Baltimore City Watershed Police patrols 17,000 acres in and around the reservoirs with a handful of officers. The unit is part of the Department of Public Works.

She said officers have investigated complaints of trash dumping - including a washing machine - and noise and parking problems.

The city put up guardrails on the Baltimore County side of the bridge to eliminate 10 parking spaces, but has not taken action on the Carroll side.

Riley said she hopes that by limiting foot traffic on the bridge, officers will be better able to prevent youngsters from leaping into the water below - a daredevil stunt often performed by graduating high school seniors.

The rules, she said, are clearly spelled out in the new, 30-page publication, "2000 Pocket Guide to Boating and Fishing" being distributed by the city. (The guide can be picked up at selected tackle shops or by calling 410-545-6541.)

Riley noted that anglers who want to fish from a bridge can still do so at the No.2 bridge at Loch Raven and "there's still plenty of shoreline to fish from" at Liberty."Nobody likes change," Riley said, "especially when they've been doing something for a long time."

But Gies said there ought to be room for compromise. Perhaps the city could allow bridge fishing on weekends to accommodate children and their parents."This is a shame," he said. "This was a place of real significance. It is the end of an era."

Even those who don't fish call the city's actions heavy-handed.

Bobby Knatz, a 70-year resident of the Reisterstown area and a Baltimore County employee, said the city has a responsibility to keep its property safe, but he doesn't understand how taking away a cherished fishing spot helps anyone.

He said small children, senior citizens and handicapped people will have trouble scrambling down the steep bank to the reservoir's edge. And, he noted, it seems ironic that a city that is struggling to keep kids off the street would close a recreational outlet to them."They've gone overboard," he said of Baltimore officials. "I'm not a big reader of the Bible, but weren't all the disciples fishermen? I guess they'd be arrested today if they tried to fish off the Nicodemus Bridge."

Dinner with a splash

The buzzing sound in the woods means the fish candy is almost ready to be served.

Cicadas are beginning to show their ugly faces after a decade-long nap. The orange and black bugs emerge from the ground in the evening and make their way up tree trunks.

The girls lay their eggs on small twigs, which sometimes snap under the weight and plop into the water.

The sound and ripple is like a dinner bell, said noted fly fishing guide Jay Sheppard."The bass and trout will take these with wild abandon, once they realize what they are," he explained. "It is one of the few times where a black and orange popper will take a trout if it is made to go splat on the water."

These ugly bugs are 17-year cicadas that jumped the gun by four years. No one knows why they emerged so early, but chances are most will be picked off by birds, which also enjoy their crunchy flavor, said Gay Williams of the state Department of Agriculture. The emergence has been documented so far in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Cecil and Montgomery counties.

How can you tell the difference between the periodic cicadas and the annuals?

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