Bridge over Liberty reopens for anglers

ON THE OUTDOORS

March 04, 2001|By CANDUS THOMSON

Mayor Martin O'Malley's folks have issued the 2001 "Pocket Guide to Boating and Fishing," and one sentence on Page 8 makes me smile.

And I quote: "No fishing from bridges (except designated platforms on Dulaney Valley Road Bridge at Loch Raven and on Nicodemus Road Bridge)."

It's official. Fishing from the bridge over Liberty Reservoir is legal.

About a year ago, Baltimore Watershed Police officers began following the letter of the law instead of common-sense tradition. They ran anglers off the Nicodemus Bridge, threatening tickets and fines and other horrible things.

The official position was that the bridge was unsafe for anglers. Cars might hit them; anglers in boats underneath could get tangled in lines.

Folks who fished off the bridge for nearly a half-century snorted that the explanation was a bunch of bunk. The owner of Old Reisterstown Bait and Tackle lost a boatload of business.

Local anglers, especially the elderly with grandkids and the disabled, lost a terrific place to wet a line without having to navigate the steep banks to the water's edge.

Tempers flared, fingers pointed, stuff got said.

Then O'Malley told George Winfield, the acting director of the Department of Public Works: "Let them fish."

Winfield decided that with a few safety modifications, the anglers could have their spot back. He ironed out the details, and his crews are working to complete things by April 1. Traffic will be shifted toward the upstream side of the bridge to create a wider platform for anglers on the other side, disabled-accessible decking will replace the crumbling walkway, and the bridge speed limit will drop to 30 mph.

Baltimore County chipped in with engineering and financial help.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Other things to note in the guide:

The boating season on Loch Raven Reservoir begins April 6. The season on Liberty and Prettyboy reservoirs started Thursday. Boat permits cost $50.

Permits and copies of the 30-page fishing, and boating rules are available from the city Department of Public Works by calling 410-795-6150.

My first fish

Do you remember the first fish you caught?

I do. A wide-eyed 5-year-old with my dad and granddad on the Susquehanna River near Vosburg, Pa., Lehigh Valley Railroad cap on my head. Brand-new Keds on my feet. Live bait -- a hellgrammite -- that I was sure had it out for me.

It seemed like forever waiting for that tug on my line. And then it happened. A bass, not large by grown-ups' standards, but a whale to me.

We kept it so I could show my mom and grandma back at the cabin. Everyone said the appropriate oohs and ahhhs and told me I was a fisherman. I'm pretty sure my catch ended up as fertilizer in the garden, but I had bragging rights for the whole week.

The cabin's gone. The river took it awhile back. My dad died three years ago. And I don't go a week without wishing I had a picture of me and my dad and that fish.

Do yourself a favor this season. When you take someone out on their first fishing trip, bring along a camera. If they catch a fish, snap a picture.

Then go to any Maryland Sport Fishing Tournament Citation Center (most tackle shops are centers) for a "My First Fish" application. The form and directions also are online at www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries.

The form will ask for specifics: angler's name, date of catch, lure or bait used, species caught and length, and the angler's fishing buddy or captain. Send or e-mail the form and the photo to the Department of Natural Resources.

Angel Bolinger, a DNR biologist, will create a "My First Fish" certificate to document the angler's accomplishment. Last year, the inaugural season for the program, Bolinger sent out 129 certificates. The most catchable fish was the striped bass.

Not bad for a program with no promotional budget and two mentions in the media.

Some odds ...

Last year, the state's catch-and-release program showed a slight increase in participation. DNR sent out 328 citations and patches to anglers who released "keepers."

This year, to further promote conservation, the department has relaxed the standards to receive a catch-and-release citation and patch. Anglers can receive an award for releasing any sport fish that meets the minimum federal or state size limit.

The Maryland Sport Fishing Tournament showed a slight decrease in participation last year from the 1999 level of 6,451 entries.

DNR issued 3,532 citations and 2,404 of the coveted patches for a total of 5,936. A patch, along with a cloth bar noting the year, indicates a larger fish or that the species is tougher to hook.

"Anglers sew it on their jackets along with their year bars," says Bolinger. "It's bragging rights."

In the Chesapeake Bay division, striped bass accounted for 2,053 entries; in the freshwater division, crappie proved most popular, with 145 entries; and in the Atlantic division, flounder led the way with 249 entries.

"I'm happy with the results," Bolinger says. "I like hearing from the anglers and hearing their stories."

Check out this year's tournament online at the above-mentioned address.

... and ends

Pssst.

Trout.

Little Patuxent at Savage Mill.

Wet flies.

Don't say I never told ya nuthin'.

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