Fiery speeches cut through the smoke-filled room as more than 90 sport and tournament fishermen, along with several tackle shop owners, met in Hampstead this week to angrily demand the reopening of Baltimore's reservoirs to boating.
By the end of the evening, many of the fishermen had decided to join the local group that sponsored the meeting, to push government officials on reservoir policies and become what one leader called "the anglers' voice."
Fishermen from Carroll, neighboring counties, and Pennsylvania, packed the Hampstead Fire Hall for the meeting Wednesday night.
Stu Weaver of White Hall, who's fished since he was 6, registered those who came.
Baltimore's Department of Public Works, which oversees the city water supply, prohibited boating in Liberty, Loch Raven and Pretty Boy reservoirs in 1992, due to a spreading infestation of the zebra mussel.
The thumbnail-sized mussel, which can clog water conduits, was accidentally released into the Great Lakes by a cargo ship years ago. The mussel larvae attach themselves to boats and can live up to two weeks out of the water, Weaver said.
"It multiplied like rabbits" and drifted through waterways into surrounding states, Mr. Weaver said. The mussel is now believed to have spread its range into the Susquehanna River.
"Eventually it's gonna be here, and we'll have to learn to live with it," he said. "The bottom line is, let's open the lakes to recreation again."
Two weeks ago, avid fishermen Dana Seip, J. D. Lloyd, and brothers Robert and W. T. Standiford, decided the reservoir fishermen "didn't have a voice," said Robert Standiford, so they began an effort to reopen the reservoirs.
"Our goal is to get the 1,800 permit holders to come forward to be the anglers' voice," he said.
When W. T. Standiford spoke of the boating fishermen's plight on a radio talk show, he invited Duke Nohe of the Maryland Aquatic Resource Coalition (MARC), to attend Wednesday's meeting.
A consortium of fishing sports organizations, the 9-month-old MARC counts 14,000 members from the Maryland BASS State && Federation, American Bass Association of Maryland, the North American Bass Anglers' Maryland Association, the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association and others.
At Wednesday night's meeting, fishermen hammered the podium for three hours. Many jumped up to speak in anger to Mr. Nohe and other MARC officials.
"The big thing is, they're supposed to be representing us and we don't know they exist," said Ronald Wolfe of Manchester, a lifetime fisherman.
He said annual cleanup efforts by his club, the Rebel Bassmasters, are no longer permitted.
"All of a sudden, we were cut off," he said. "The Department of Natural Resources is losing its eyes and ears" upon the water.
This late in the fishing season, said Robert Standiford, "to get our privileges back we'll have to work together to make a favorable impression on the city and show that we do want to get back on the lakes."
The fishermen agreed to work with MARC, yet remain autonomous. They elected W.T. Standiford to chair the as-yet unnamed group.
A committee of about 13 members will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the community room of the North Carroll Branch of the Carroll County Public Library. For information, contact W.T. Standiford at 374-5422.