Prettyboy, fishery are sinking low


September 15, 2002|By CANDUS THOMSON

Let's hope today's a washout. Tomorrow, too.

Heck, it could rain from now until the end of the mourning dove season's first split on Oct. 19 as far as I'm concerned.

That's what we need to help keep Prettyboy Reservoir afloat, put water back into the Gunpowder River tributaries and perk up the trout stock.

To look at the Gunpowder right now, you'd swear things were hunky dory. Water gushes over rocks and races downstream. Wading fly fishermen need stout hiking sticks to fight the current. From the roadside, the river appears to be the picture of health and worthy of its reputation as one of the East Coast's premier trout streams.

But the picture is deceptive. The Gunpowder's lifeblood is rapidly draining away.

Baltimore officials, desperate to keep Loch Raven Reservoir as full as possible, are drawing down Prettyboy, which last week was at 21 percent capacity. The Gunpowder is the pipeline.

You don't have to be a math whiz to see that water demand and the dry fall forecast don't add up in Prettyboy's favor.

"She's down 41 feet and she's not looking good," says Duke Nohe, president of the Maryland Aquatic Resource Coalition and long-time reservoir angler. "If it's drinking water vs. fishing water, fish and fishermen lose."

Says Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works: "Prettyboy was built to do just what it's doing, to be drained down as much as possible. In a perfect world, we'd like to make sure the fishery is perfect. But it's not perfect weather. It's far from perfect."

Conditions are more dismal in Gunpowder tributaries. Mingo Branch, a brown trout gem, is dry. Charles Run is down to isolated pools.

"I don't know what these fish are doing," says Charlie Gougeon, a fisheries manager for the Department of Natural Resources. "They either find themselves unable to swim from riffle to riffle or they're sitting tight in their own home pools and waiting for the inevitable."

Heron sitting on rocks have easy pickings, and the raccoon tracks surrounding many remaining pools signal fishing activity of another sort.

It doesn't appear there will be any relief soon from the Susquehanna River.

Last month, the city cut its withdrawals from the river from 137.5 million gallons to 64 million after flow rates at Marietta, Pa., fell below 5,000 cubic feet per second.

Under its agreement with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Baltimore could resume pumping at the higher level today if the flow rose above 3,500 cubic feet per second. But as of Friday, the number was 2,320.

Says Kocher, "If citizens are concerned about the fishery, the best thing they can do is conserve every drop."

Over the last 16 years, the state and Trout Unlimited worked together to build the Gunpowder into an angler's dream.

"We could do it again, get it fired up in a few years," says Gougeon. "It doesn't take but a couple of good hatches and then, bingo, you're back in business."

Deer flies

Tom Thompson has been turning deer into steaks and chops at his Jarrettsville butcher shop for almost a decade, but it never ceases to amaze him how badly some hunters treat their kill.

"They take the deer and show it off to their friends or they leave it in their truck for a half day or they hang it in their shed to age it," he says. "The carcass gets covered in flies and they lay their eggs or the meat turns green. Then there's nothing I can do."

Thompson's advice is simple: "Don't wait, refrigerate."

He has several suggestions for hunters in the bow and early muzzleloader seasons, when the temperatures are still more summer than fall-like.

First, remove the organs and wash the cavity out with water. Split the pelvis bone to allow the meat to cool evenly. Place ice, double bagged, in the body cavity. If possible, slide the carcass into a cheesecloth-type bag to keep the flies away.

"It's meat. It's perishable. Your family's going to eat it and you're going to make them sick if you're not careful," says Thompson, whose day job is working as a butcher for Giant.

Don't bring him road kill or something you've left unrefrigerated for days.

"We come close to working miracles, but you've got to give us something to work with," he says.

Anti-tree hugger

As if you didn't have enough to worry about this deer-hunting season, Bass Pro Shops has announced a recall of three brands of tree stands it sold in 2001 because the ratchet straps can break and cause falls.

The three brands - Bighorn Ram, Timber Ghost and Hoot Owl - are manufactured by Hunter's View Ltd.

Ratchet straps have failed five times, including one case in which a hunter fell and was injured.

The Bighorn Ram model number is HVTS-400 and the Bass Pro Shop number is 86697900. The Timber Ghost number is HVTS-500 and the Bass Pro number is 86698100. The Hoot Owl number is HVTS-402 and the Bass Pro number is 86698000.

Last fall, after being prodded by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Hunter's View voluntarily recalled 30,000 tree stands when a different portion of the cables and strap system failed.

Bass Pro Shops is urging customers to stop using the stands and call Hunter's View at 1-888-878-0440. The manufacturer has agreed to replace the stand or refund the purchase price.

Classic decision

If next year is an odd-numbered year, it must be time for New Orleans to play host to the Citgo BASS Masters Classic again.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blano and B.A.S.S. officials announced the deal Thursday. State officials hope to tie the event to the festivities marking the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. (I'll bet Hallmark doesn't have a card for that.)

Next year's Classic will run Aug. 1-3, with all weigh-ins at the Superdome. In a change for the tournament, the final weigh-in will be on Sunday rather than Saturday.

New Orleans was the site of the 1999 and 2001 Classics, with Chicago and Birmingham, Ala., providing the backdrop in the even-numbered years.

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