This weekend ...

* Before winter blew into the area at midweek, bass fishing was good on the tidal Potomac River and trout fishing was productive on the Gunpowder River. Given the forecast for cold weather through the weekend, however, fishing will be limited and wading or running a boat could be dangerous.

The major danger, of course, is hypothermia, an equal opportunity killer that can put the big chill on fishermen, hunters, hikers and skiiers alike.

Those at greatest risk are hunters shoot over water and fishermen. The reason is that getting wet presents the highest risk of hypothermia.

Tuesday morning, for example, waterfowl guide Columbus "Dutch" Swonger had a party of four hunters out on Eastern Bay for a day of shooting, an undertaking he has organized many times before.

On Tuesday at about 7:15 p.m., however, Swonger's 23-foot boat capsized after running over its anchor line and taking water over the stern, according to Natural Resources Police. All five aboard were thrown into the water and one man, Thomas Mitchell of Baltimore, is believed to have drowned as a result.

Of the others aboard, all of whom were in the water for more than two hours alongside the capsized boat, two were later treated for hypothermia at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. Two others were treated at the scene.

So, accidents in cold water are a clear and present danger -- even when with experienced skippers. Swonger is an officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine.

Hypothermia is a condition of abnormally low body temperature, and when the body core temperature drops far enough the heart stops working.

Warning signs of hypothermia are subtle at first, as the body drops to between 95 and 87 degrees, with a decrease in heart vTC rate and blood pressure marked by increasing drowsiness.

From about 86 to 82 degrees, a loss of consciousness will occur.

Once the core temperature falls to below about 64 degrees, the heart stops, blood flow ends and electrical activity of the brain ceases.

The Natural Resources Police recommends the following precautions to prevent hypothermia:

Stay dry and avoid continued exposure to the wind.

Put on rain or snow gear before you get cold or wet.

If you fall into the water, do not remove your clothing unless you have a dry set with you. Even wet clothes will trap body heat.

If boating, wear a life jacket, which will reduce the need to move and expand energy and also insulate against heat loss.

If you do fall in a body of water, obviously, get out as quickly as possible, without worrying about a set of decoys or a lost rod and reel.

Do not give alcohol to anyone showing the symptoms of hypothermia -- alcohol will dilate blood vessels and cause a loss of body heat.

Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

Calendar ...

* Saturday: Close of Canada goose hunting season.

* Saturday: Fishermen's flea market sponsored by the Central Maryland Bassmasters at the Freedom Community Center, Route 32 just south of Route 26, Liberty Road. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $1.50. For more information, call 442-2323, 876-3137 or 795-8868.

* Saturday: Mountain Club of Maryland hike through Baltimore neighborhoods with lunch at Haussners. For more information, call 740-0728.

* Saturday: Mountain Club of Maryland hike near Hawk Rock in Duncannon, Pa. For more information, call 760-6041.

* Sunday: Mountain Club of Maryland in Loch Raven watershed. For more information, call 647-0734.

* Sunday: Trout fishing clinic sponsored by Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Wheaton High School, 12601 Dalewood Drive, Wheaton, Md. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lectures, flea market, movies and demonstrations. For more information, call 301-384-0424.

Planning ahead ...

* Jan. 23-26: Mid-Atlantic Outdoor Sportsmen's Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. Hunting and fishing displays as well as seminars. Adults $5, 10-14 $2, and under-10 free. Jan. 23 and 24, 1 to 10 p.m.; Jan. 25, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Jan. 26, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 717-689-7200.

* Jan. 24-25: Special two-day firearms season for deer in Worcester County.

* Jan. 24-25-26: Delaware Sportfishing Show at the NUR Temple Shrine in New Castle. For more information, call 410-841-6974.

* Feb. 1-9: Baltimore Boat Show at the Convention Center.

Monday through Friday, the show opens at 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, the show opens at 11 a.m.

L * Jan. 31: Close of bow hunting season for deer in Maryland.

Latest reading ...

* During the past few years, books on fishing rivers in our region seem to have been rolling out with some regularity. Bill Anderson, outdoors editor of the Hagerstown Herald, has joined the list with a nice work titled, "Fishing the Rivers of the Mid-Atlantic."

Where some writers have taken a particular fish -- bass or trout, for example -- and dealt with where, when and how to catch them, Anderson takes a broader view. His book deals with the game and food fish that can be found in warm, freshwater fisheries: panfish, smallmouths, largemouths, walleye, channel cats, muskies, carp and so on.

Anderson also deals specifically with eight rivers or river systems, including the New and Greenbrier rivers in Virginia and West Virginia.

If you are interested in broadening your fishing horizons in this region, spend the $14.95 for this soft-bound book published by the Cornell Maritime Press Inc., and Tidewater Publishers, P.O. Box 456, Centreville, Md. 21617.

Latest viewing ...

* For several years, a fellow named John Hauserman has been operating Maryland Bass Guide Service on Loch Raven and other regional reservoirs. Now, Hauserman has entered the video market with a modest production, "Fishing with John Hauserman, Your Guide to Spring Bass Fishing on Loch Raven Reservoir."

Hauserman is a convivial host on the VHS video, and if you have thought much about fishing Loch Raven, which is just north of town, it's worth taking a look at the tape before you go to get an idea of where the fish are in the spring.

Call The Maryland Bass Guide Service for more information -- 410-882-2309.

Names and places ...

* The Stoney Creek Fishing and Hunting Association on Fort Smallwood Road in Pasadena has a sporting clays course in operation on the first Sunday of each month. The mini-course of 25 birds is open for business at 10 a.m. Fees are $7 for one round, $6 per round for two rounds and $5 per round for three or more. If there is enough public response, the club could increase the number of days the course is open. For more information, call Henry Young at 255-3583.

* Myles Conway of Annapolis placed fifth in the Laser Radials competition in the 1991 Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta.

* Deep Creek Lake State Park has at least four inches of snow on the ground and snowmobile trails will be open until Sunday, March 15. Park offices are using winter hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For information on snowmobile trails, ice fishing or reservations for spring and summer camping, call 301-387-5563.

* NOTE: To have an item or question included in the Outdoor Journal, write Outdoors Editor, Baltimore Sun Sports Department, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

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