Is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence?

Not necessarily so, especially if you like to fish in reservoirs.

Talk all you want about bigger impoundments elsewhere, Carroll has one of the best in the mid-Atlantic. Brag about Virginia's Lake Anna, some of Pennsylvania's big impoundments or heavily fished Loch Raven in Baltimore County, but Liberty holds its own.

In my way of thinking,it is second in the region only to Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County.

The statistics in the 39th annual edition of "Fishing In Maryland" speak for themselves. Liberty's fish are prominent among 1991's best catches.

This reservoir of 3,100 acres at crest elevationis among the newest (the dam was completed in July 1954) and has offered consistently good fishing since. It suggests, as many claim, that new reservoirs are best for fishing.

But are new reservoirs really the best? That's a subject fisheries managers appear divided on.

Some old-timers suggest that as reservoirs age, silt takes its toll. Sediment eventually covers many bottom structures and the floor becomes smooth -- eventually, perhaps, as slick as a bathtub.

This, of course, means less productive fishing without the needed cover. In time, old stumps and trees decay and disappear, adding to the problem.

Bob Bachman, who heads freshwater fisheries for the Department of Natural Resources, said that's not the whole story. He suggests thepresence and numbers of predatory fish when a reservoir is constructed is important, too.

If enough are present at the beginning, theywill thrive on smaller fish and control populations of panfish and small species.

Without enough predatory fish, impoundments have an abundance of small fish and few larger ones. Too many fish means poorfishing, and rarely are the efforts of anglers enough to control thepopulation.

Burt Dillon, who founded "Fishing In Maryland," was never impressed with freshwater biologists and said if they dumped allof their file cabinets into reservoirs, the resulting structures would enhance fishing more than the plans.

By reservoir standards, Liberty is still young, so how does it stand among Maryland's waters? In the citation listing for 1991, it did exceptionally well for walleyes, ranking second to only Deep Creek Lake.

From Liberty, John Fedock got a 7 3/4-pounder; Bill Horstman, a 7-pound, 1-ounce fish; Robert Stein, a 7-pounder; Michael Classen, a 6-pound, 1-ounce fish; and Henry Hudson, a 5 3/4-pounder.

In the smallmouth bass catch-and-release category, Bill Wall was near the top with a 20-incher; Tim Sullivan got a 19 1/2-incher; and Larry Neudecker an 18 1/2-incher.

Among largemouth catch-and-release fish, Ed Sonn Jr. had one of 23 1/4 inches; Bob Smith one of 21 3/4 inches and Brad Beach a 21 1/2-incher. Many others were 20 inches or more in this new category, in which anglers measure the fish and release it.

Among largemouths kept, Alton Davis got one of 6 pounds, 15 ounces. Ed Sonn's Liberty catch of a 5-pound, 3-ounce fish was third-best among smallmouths, and Ed Ducote hooked a 4-pounder.

A sidelight: Zadoc Parks got the second-best catfish in the state, at 19 pounds, 6 ounces, from nearby Piney Run.

A 14 1/2-inch yellow perch caught at Liberty by Gary Moore was among the yellow perch citations, and many of the state's top bluegills were caught at both Piney Run and Liberty.

Catches at Liberty have set several FIM records through the years, including a 8 1/4-poundsmallmouth caught by Gary Peters in October 1975 -- a state record that still stands.

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