Fishing spirits won't lag when temperatures rise

OUTDOORS

Outdoors

March 16, 2003|By CANDUS THOMSON

The yellow perch run was pretty much a bust. The Susquehanna Flats is colder than my ex-mother-in-law's heart. And the Potomac is high and muddy.

Good thing St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow and spring begins Thursday.

Looking for a little cheering up, I called Kevin McComas at the Loch Raven Fishing Center.

"We're waking up, stretching out and knocking the ice off things," he said. "There's 4 inches of ice in the coves, but it's spongy. A couple of warm days and it should be gone. The main lake opened up last week."

Water levels at all three reservoirs are inching toward capacity. In short, things are looking good for the center's opening day on April 4, he said.

McComas thinks Loch Raven will have a terrific season, perhaps at the expense of Prettyboy Reservoir upstream.

"We went up to the dam in September and Prettyboy was just a mud puddle," he said. "Every fish in that reservoir's got to be in here now. They've got to have come down as Prettyboy was drawn down."

The Loch Raven dam rehabilitation project will put a crimp in access and parking.

Loch Raven Drive will be closed for the length of the job, about three years, as will the fire trail that links the road to Cromwell Valley Park. The Sander's Corner parking lot will remain open.

Baltimore officials have released the 2003 Pocket Guide to Boating and Fishing that covers closures and restrictions and the fishing regulations for the three reservoirs.

To get a copy, call 410-795-6150.

The fishing center will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., adding an hour on the end after Memorial Day.

Rowboats and canoes rent for $14 a day, motor boats are $25 and bass boats are $50.

"A dozen worms and I'm in business," McComas said with a laugh.

No fishing

Security concerns have forced the utility that owns Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia reservoirs to place them off limits to fishing, boating and picnicking.

The two massive manmade lakes on the Howard-Montgomery County line have been anglers' favorites for a long time. And the azalea gardens at Brighton Dam always attract a massive crowd when they blossom in spring.

The reservoirs are still ice-covered in many spots, so the opening had already been delayed once. A serious post-thaw mud season was also expected to keep anglers away.

The potential for war caused the utility's security staff to recommend closure, even though the federal government recently downgraded the terrorism threat from orange to yellow.

"It's a delicate balance between recreational uses - which we want and promote - and security," said Chuck Brown, a spokesman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. "Believe me, we want to open these back up."

Brown said there's no timetable for reopening the reservoirs.

"What we don't want to have is a yo-yo effect, where we're open, closed, open, closed," he said.

In the case of the azalea viewing this spring, blame the deer, not the terrorists. The tough winter forced the watershed's large deer population to forage amid the acres of bushes.

"They really did a number on the azaleas," Brown said.

Crossbow conversation

Representatives of bow-and-arrow hunting groups will meet with Department of Natural Resources officials April 1 to work out the details of Maryland's first open crossbow season.

Expect the final version to allow crossbow hunting during archery season but limit users to private land.

Paul Peditto, head of the Wildlife and Heritage Division, said the regulation must be ready by April 29 to allow it to be included in next season's Guide to Hunting and Trapping and so that license vendors can be notified.

Leaping lizards

Western Maryland's down-home delegate, George Edwards, has finally found the woodsy counterpart to the urban legend.

Call it the rural rumor.

Much like the fable of city dwellers who have created a colony of sewer lizards by flushing pet alligators down toilets, Edwards has conjured up an image of Western Marylanders who are so fed up with bears that they've taken to torturing them.

During testimony two weeks ago on a bill to ban black bear hunting until 2009, Edwards told fellow delegates tales of rural residents run amok: feeding bears honey-drenched sponges to make their stomachs explode; chaining bruins to trees to starve them; gut-shooting bears to ensure a slow death.

Pass this bill and there will be more of the same, seemed to be Edwards' message.

Horrible stories. Certainly not the kind your tourism council wants floating around.

But most likely they're as real as the sewer lizards.

Peditto said his biologists work closely with farmers and landowners who have filed bear nuisance complaints "and we would know specific incidents if they were occurring."

He continued, "We've heard the same rumors of shoot, shovel and shut up. We had one incident this past year of a man illegally shooting a bear, but it wasn't a revenge-oriented event that Del. Edwards alluded to."

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