This weekend ...
* Look for good catches in the ninth annual $20,000 Early Bird Open sponsored by the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association Saturday at Piney Run Reservoir in Carroll County. Among the many prizes is $600 for the largest fish taken from shore and $700 for the best from a boat.
In addition, one crappie bears a tag worth $10,000, and more than 100 other tagged fish are worth from $100 to $1,000. This is the time when landlocked rockfish also get hungry, and they grow big in Piney Run. The entry fee is $30 for shoresiders, $35 for boaters. Late registrations will be accepted at the site. Fishing is from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information, call 1-301-992-8944 or 1-301-795-3274.
* Tomorrow: Last DNR public hearing on hunting regulations, 7 p.m., Tawes State Office Building, Annapolis. Call 974-3195.
* Saturday: Bike tour of Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also, Easter egg-making program, 1 to 3 p.m. Call 1-301-888-1410.
* Saturday: If you plan on crappie fishing on the Pocomoke, bring the family along. An Easter egg hunt will keep them occupied at Shad Landing State Park, starting at 10 a.m. Call 1-301-632-2566.
* Saturday: Junior Naturalist program, children 9 to 11, 9 a.m. Oregon Ridge Nature Center. Call 887-1815.
* Saturday: Fishbusters Freshwater Fishing Contest open to all at Fletcher's Landing on the Potomac near Chain Bridge, where the perch are running. Call 1-301-292-8377.
* Saturday: Mountain Club of Maryland hike in Black Rock area of Appalachian Trail. Call 647-0734.
* Saturday: Free flycasting demonstrations and instructions, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tochterman's of Timonium, Galleria Shopping Center, York Road and Seminary Avenue. Call 583-7583.
* Saturday/Sunday: Beretta Shell Trap shoot, 9 a.m. both days, Prince George's Shooting Center near Greenbelt. Call John Stevens, 679-4199.
* Saturday/Sunday: Milford wildlife artist Richard Clifton will exhibit his work, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Smyrna, Del. Call 1-302-653-6872.
* Sunday: Wildflower hike, 1 p.m., Brandywine Creek State Park, Greenville, Del. Call 1-302-655-5740.
* Sunday: MCM hike of about 10 miles at Herring Run Park. Call 485-4584.
* Wednesday: Potomac River outfitter Mark Kovach will speak on fly fishing in the upper part of the river at a 7:30 public meeting of Maryland Fly Anglers at Community Hall of Ridge Garden Apartments, 8509 Old Harford Road. Call 381-5436.
* Wednesday: MCM neighborhood hike. Meet at 10 a.m. at Woodmoor Shopping Center area off Liberty Road.
Planning ahead ...
* March 27: DNR hearing, 6 p.m., Harford County Library, Bel Air, on allowable baits, rockfish mortality, snagging, dip-netting and closed fishing area, all in the Susquehanna River. Call Frances McFaden, 974-3365.
* March 29: Deadline for written comments on DNR hunting proposals. Write Don MacLauchlan, DNR, Tawes State Office Building, Annapolis, Md. 21401.
Names and places ...
* Pennsylvania Game Commission has obtained 100 pure-bred Sichuan pheasants from Michigan in an attempt to develop breeding stock of these exceptional wary Chinese birds, of which Maryland's DNR also is interested.
* Rumors have it that Senate Bill 575 to designate rockfish as gamefish might not even get a vote in committee. And if it does, chances for passage are considered slim.
* Tom Goettel, who served in management positions at Maine's Moosehorn and Petit Manan refuges, is the new manager of Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Kent County.
* Delaware has increased its camping fees by $1 in state parks with the exception of Delaware Seashore Park, where a $2 increase has been ordered.
* Nick Breeder and Jimmy Costner got 23 yellow perch on minnows at Deep Creek Lake. Deep Creek Outfitters is now open, and Johnny's Bait House opens March 30.
* Mackerel aren't getting much attention off the mouth of the Chesapeake because of hot tautog action thereabouts, reports Capt. Monty Webb of Cape Charles. The blues haven't moved in yet, but rockfish are everywhere -- and are being released.
* Delaware DNR chief Edwin Clark signed emergency regulations to prohibit commercial fishermen from "trimming" the tails of rockfish before measuring them to ensure they will not be over the maximum length of 28 inches. Minimum size is 18 inches.
Question box ...
* Below are three questions, all of which are timely and worthy of response because of their general interest.
* Why does DNR want the May 11-27 season for big rockfish, when many of these fish will be killed?
* Why didn't DNR delay the opening yellow perch netting until April 1 to spare spawning yellow perch? "The first of March I saw retail fish markets loaded with perch filled with roe," one fisherman asked.
* Why in the last 10 years did we get such a large charterboat fleet?
Our answers: No. 1: There has been considerable pressure on DNR to open a season. Also, DNR claims we will be working on a year class of large fish unavailable at other times of the year. In addition, it is proposed that fishing be restricted to the bay proper below the Bay Bridge, where salinity is higher and thus poses considerably less of a chance of killing undersized fish that must be released.
Then, too, there is the claim of many that if we don't catch them, others will later once they leave the bay and head up the coast, a selfish argument this writer finds repugnant. Personally, I have reservations about putting fishing pressure on female rock when vulnerable, but DNR has assured us the resource will not suffer, and at times we must trust our professional resource managers and scientists.
No. 2: Delaying perch netting until April would cause netters to miss the spawning runs. Also, commercial fishing is restricted to areas where the species does not appear to be in trouble. To spare fish in a healthy watershed won't help bolster stocks in another where perch are in trouble.
No. 3: That segment of the charterboat industry that fishes professionally full time or much of the time is probably decreasing because of deteriorating runs of fish. Then, too, some fishermen get into the field in hopes of carrying a party or two for a few extra bucks or to pay the fuel bill now and then, although they often don't follow through upon learning of the high cost of insurance.
Also, last year many others got their charter licenses in an attempt to take advantage of larger creel limits of rockfish, which was five a day (while also getting their own recreational limit of two a day). A selfish motive indeed, but one practically impossible to control.
* NOTE: To have an item or question included in the Outdoor Journal, write Bill Burton, The Evening Sun Sports Dept., 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278-0001.
Bill Burton's best bets
* OCEAN CITY: Mackerel run is excellent, but don't wait. They can move farther up the coast quickly.
* WICOMICO: Good bass fishing on plastic worms.
POTOMAC: Pig 'n Jigs, Gitzits and plastic worms take bass.
* NANTICOKE: Good for white perch and crappies.
ROCKY GORGE: Shore anglers taking crappies.