"Life is precious."
The fisherman, who introduced himself as Gino, offered this reflection as I walked with him back to his car to ask how his fishing was going.
I'd seen him fishing the swinging bridge section of the Patapsco River with his distinctive yellow, Eagle Claw fly rod earlier that day and in prior years. He'd just broken that rod and was going to his car for a replacement rod. Gino was philosophical about losing the rod.
"I had a heart attack just before Christmas. I'm just happy to be out here," he expanded on his earlier statement.
But it seemed to summarize the feelings of hundreds of people enjoying this area of Patapsco Valley State Park (PVSP) the day before Easter.
March 30 was the unofficial opening day of trout season in Maryland, and the fishermen were out in force. Still, they were in the minority. In this rare day of pleasant spring weather people were biking, hiking, walking dogs, riding scooters and skateboards, having picnics and cookouts, jogging, sun bathing, even engaging in PDAs (public displays of affection).
Patapsco Valley State Park is a gem. It is easy to ignore such a multifaceted and close by resource. Likewise it is easy to denigrate its fishing. Some of my friends denigrate the easily caught (usually) stocked trout as SNITs (standard nine-inch trout.) Well maybe it ain't Montana, but it's nearby and it's ours. I usually devote opening day to take pictures and enjoy others enjoying the fishing. (I fish later here and at other places.)
I wasn't disappointed. In fact, what I observed was what I expected. Fishermen of various skill levels and ages - with younger and older fishermen in the majority - were enjoying catching stocked trout. Gino's comments reminded me of those of a fisherman named Charlie a few years before. I saw him taking trout regularly at the Daniels area. We fell into conversation, as he fished, and I took pictures. He told me his unit was shipping out to Iraq in a few days. These guys appreciated their time on the water.
There did seem to be a pattern of success this day - drifting some kind of scented bait through riffles into pools. Anglers scored with night crawlers, Berkley PowerBait paste and Berkley Trout Worms. One man had some success with lures. Anglers working long, quiet pools seemed to be having little success.
Later that day Alan Feiken reported, with pictures, a good day at a Delaware pond with crappies, pickerel and bass fishing Bullethead Darter flies. So, maybe, I thought for one day, slowly spring is coming.
And maybe not. I fished the Daniels area three days later. The morning temperatures was 30 degrees, and the guides of my fly rod kept icing up. I finally switched to a spinning rod to take trout, but even the top guide on that rod iced up. So I packed it in for another day.
There will be more stocking and other waters. (See
for the printable entire spring stocking schedule and http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/stocking for daily updated stocking information.)
So there's plenty of trout fishing ahead with options for put-and-take fishing, delayed harvest and catch-and-release with any tackle, with artificial lures and flies only and for fly fishing only. The rules are spelled out in the 2013 Maryland Fishing Guide, available in print or on line at http://www.eregulations.com/maryland/fishing. Choose your waters and skill level.
The put-and-take waters may be the best choice for introducing kids to fishing. An ideal simple choice of tackle is a light spinning outfit with 6 to 8-pound test monofilament. Tie on a size 6 or 8 hook and thread on a Berkley Power Trout Worm. Clamp on one or two split shot 10 inches above the hook. Make a short, upstream cast and let the work drift along bottom into a hole. You may snag and lose a few rigs, but you will catch trout. Spinners like the size 1 Mepps with a silver blade or the 1/16th-ounce Panther Martin with a silver or gold blade are other good lures.
In the next few weeks Maryland fishing options will expand to bass, pickerel, panfish, catfish, carp, shad, stripers and other species. Get ready. In the meantime, now's the time to get ready to get outdoors with the activities mentioned above or a lot of other sports and activities. One you might consider is viewing the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. The blossoms are at their peak right now and Cherry Blossom Festival events run through next Sunday. See http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.
Looking further ahead, a Brood II emergence of cicadas in the coastal plain of Maryland is expected; it actually extends south through the Blue Ridge and north through eastern Pennsylvania into New Jersey, etc. This hatch is expected to begin in May, but it's not clear which Maryland waters will be blessed with the frantic surface fishing the cicadas provide.
A more certain boon will be the annual sulfur hatch on the Gunpowder River, which usually begins also in May and lasts through early June.
Help Needed: City Catch 2013
Help some kids from Baltimore City by volunteering for Maryland Trout Unlimited's "City Catch." This annual event gives approximately 100 city children, who may not otherwise get the chance, the opportunity to spend a day fishing. You don't need any fishing experience; you just need to bring a smile and a great attitude. Volunteers are needed on April 12 to help stock fish and on April 13 to act as guides.
See the club's web site at mdtu.org for more information and a sign up form.