Opening day: Popular places count with DNR



March 30, 2003|By CANDUS THOMSON

It's a pretty safe bet that anglers are going to be standing shoulder to shoulder for the chance to limit out on hatchery fish come opening day of trout season.

The gang has been cooped up all winter. The gear they got at Christmas still has that factory-new smell. Untouched chores and other honey-dos are stacked like cordwood at home. The boob tube offers no respite, unless you're a fan of (and I'm not making this up) "RV Today" or "Crappie University."

So in the wee hours of that first Saturday of the season, Maryland freshwater anglers jockey for a prime piece of waterfront property in the piscatorial version of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.

That guaranteed concentration of fishermen explains why Department of Natural Resources biologists and volunteers staked out at more than 30 places across Maryland yesterday to count cars and anglers and ask folks about their fishing experience. The angler survey information will be used when department managers make decisions about how hatchery fish are distributed.

At Adelphi Mill, a pretty little park in Prince George's County, men on mountain bikes rode the path along Northwest Branch to help biologist Bob Lunsford gather numbers.

Alex Torres and Matt Lamoreaux of Annapolis and Army Lt. Col. Norman Cotton, stationed at the Pentagon, drew the early shift. For Cotton, it was a chance to break out his new fly rod and take a breather from war-related duties.

"I've been stationed a lot of places, but never made time for fishing," said Cotton, who fished as a boy in his native Alabama. "I've been wanting to learn how to fly fish, and this sounded like a good start."

Across the parking lot by the water's edge, nine buddies continued their nearly 30-year tradition of fishing opening day. Over the years, some of them have moved from the Landover neighborhood where they all met but they always find time to wet a line in late March.

"When you get older and you have a family and responsibilities and you can't hang out together," said Tino Seppi.

"So this is the only time some of us get to see each other," said Mark Mann, finishing the thought.

Two hours of casting and reeling netted 16 trout, satisfying enough to allow the group to head for a nearby diner "for a cup of coffee and some fat," said Tim Keily with a wink.

As the buddies left, two boys climbed the stream bank, each holding a purple rod with a spin casting reel in one hand and a plastic bag of fish in the other.

Shawn Nichols, 10, and his 12-year-old brother, Derrick, were working on huge grins and a fishing tradition of their own.

"Excited? Yeah," said Shawn of an opening day - his second - that couldn't come soon enough. "I found out two days ago that I was going fishing and it seemed like a week."

Spoken like a true fisherman.

Fish food

The Sanders family has run a business at the intersection of Loch Raven Drive and Cromwell Bridge Road since 1956, first as a convenience store and now as a popular restaurant.

It's a busy place, but over the past two weekends it's been busy for the wrong reason.

An oddly worded paragraph on page 21 of the City of Baltimore 2003 Pocket Guide to Boating and Fishing led lots of folks (me included) to assume that the city was making available parking at Sander's Corner to compensate for the closing of a large chunk of Loch Raven Drive. Several roads near Loch Raven Reservoir will be closed during a three-year dam restoration project.

Great gesture, except city officials didn't make it.

That didn't stop a legion of outdoors lovers heading to the reservoir from trying to use the restaurant parking lot.

"I had 10 tables open, but customers had no place to park," said Ron Sanders, restaurant owner and retired Baltimore County school principal. "The project has to be done, but it's causing me nightmares."

Sanders had to hire someone last weekend to shoo people away from the lot.

Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works, said the agency was "trying to help [Sanders] by noting that his lot remains accessible during dam reconstruction" but didn't intend to issue an open invitation.

Now, watershed police officers will increase enforcement against trespassers and will put up fencing and additional "no parking" signs, Kocher said.

So, please, don't park there unless it's to patronize the restaurant.

"Great food, nice people," said Kocher.

I agree.

Golden book

In 1953 the Nobel Prize for literature went to Winston Churchill, and Ernest Hemingway picked up the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Old Man and the Sea.

Locally, outdoors literature also improved a notch with the inaugural issue of Fishing in Maryland.

Churchill and Hemingway are past deadline, but the Maryland magazine founded by Baltimore County's Burt Dillon still makes its appearance each spring.

Publisher Cary deRussy, who has owned it for 29 of the 50 years, said he never thought the run would last this long.

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