Fishing sure beats the heat, in the shade here or at White Marlin Open


ISWEAR I saw a poached fish swim by me on the Chesapeake Bay last Thursday with a dish of dill sauce in pursuit.

Maybe it was just the heat playing tricks on my eyes.

This is the period my good friend Arthur calls "the mouth of the dog" for its heat, humidity and foul smell.

The temperature in my favorite close-to-home fishing hole is bathwater warm. Ponds are a salad bar of algae blooms. Even the Gunpowder River at Bluemount Road is warm enough for wet wading. And don't get me started on the bugs.

But as Field and Stream's H.G. Tapply once wrote: "Fishing always reaches its peak at a time when the bugs are thickest. And bugs are thickest at places where fishing is best. So whenever and wherever you enjoy good fishing, you can expect to find mosquitoes, black flies, midges or deerflies all lusting for your life's blood."

So slather on the bug goo and head for some of the area's coolest fishing hideaways.

The big trees that line the river in Patapsco Valley State Park provide nice cover, and the farther from the picnic sites you go, the more solitude you'll get. Hike a ways up from the Daniels area or upstream from Ellicott City. Take some topwater lures and wade on in.

The shaded banks of the reservoirs -- Loch Raven, Prettyboy and Triadelphia -- offer relief, too. Or try dangling a line off the Nicodemus Bridge above Liberty Reservoir.

Just to the west of Liberty, Piney Run Park has some good pier fishing and, most importantly for the kids, a refreshment stand.

But for sheer relief, perhaps the best way to get to a place where cooler heads prevail can be summed up in five words:

Let's go downy ocean, hon.

About 2,000 anglers will be heading off shore tomorrow to the deep cool canyons below the Atlantic Ocean for the 32nd annual White Marlin Open.

Even though weather forecasters are predicting that this hurricane season will be the worst in recent years, this week looks like it will be spared news about Tropical Storm This and Tropical Depression That.

"We hope to hit 400 boats," said tournament founder Jim Motsko. "There's no crazy weather going on. Last year, we were registering boats during a tropical storm warning for Hurricane Alex, and that scared some boats off."

But despite heavy seas and stiff winds, more than 2,000 anglers competed for nearly $2.3 million in prize money. The winner, Brett Jamison of Virginia Beach, Va., collected a check for $1.34 million for the 84-pound white marlin he caught on the first day of the five-day competition. At almost $16,000 a pound, that's a lot of sushi.

This year, Motsko said, the big fish are spread out from 30 fathoms to the deep canyons between 53 and 72 miles offshore, where the continental shelf drops off sharply.

"The captains say there's no real concentration of fish," Motsko said. "That could make it a small-boat tournament because they won't have to run out so far."

This year, the tournament has bumped up the minimum weight for blue marlin by 50 pounds to 500 pounds to cut down on the number of undersized fish brought to the scales at Harbour Island Marina. The move is similar to one enacted a few years ago for white marlin.

"We've reached an almost 99 percent release rate for the white marlin and we'd like to approach that with the blues," said Motsko. "I hope I get only a first-, second- and third-place."

Proposed limit

For the first time since the 1995 moratorium, state wildlife managers are proposing a migratory goose season with a two-bird daily bag limit.

The management framework was crafted at a meeting of Atlantic Flyway managers in Bar Harbor, Maine, late last month and approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources is proposing a 45-day split season for migratory geese, Nov. 17-Nov. 25 and Dec. 17-Jan. 28.

In addition, it is recommending an increase in the daily bag limit of ducks, from five to six. The only cautionary note is the decrease in the scaup bag limit, from three birds to two.

"Scaup are still one of the most abundant ducks, but still the numbers are at an all-time low," said Wildlife and Heritage Service director Paul Peditto.

Overhunting of migratory geese caused the number of breeding pairs to dwindle from 118,000 pairs in 1988 to 29,300 pairs in 1995. State and federal governments imposed a complete ban and only in 2001 did Maryland officials allow hunters to take one goose a day.

Peditto said he understands if hunters, like fishermen during the striped bass moratorium, are reluctant to resume business as usual. But, he said, biologists believe the size of the goose population and the lessons learned in the intervening years make the liberal season possible.

"If you're going to do it, this is the year to try it," Peditto said. "An analogy is that we built this high-performance car and we're not going to know what it's capable of unless we put it on the track and run it. The population is such that there is no risk to this biologically."

The hearing will be at 7 p.m. on Aug. 15 at Broadneck High School, 1265 Green Holly Drive in Annapolis.

DNR also is accepting comments on line, by phone, 410-260-8540, or by mail: Waterfowl Regulations, Wildlife and Heritage Service, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis 21401.

Fishing derby

If you and the kids are in town Saturday morning, head over to Downs Park in Pasadena for the annual fishing derby.

The Pasadena Sportfishing Group holds the event, which combines a little competition with a lot of fish smarts. Group members will teach young anglers how to tie knots, bait a hook and identify species. A casting range will help sharpen skills and prizes will be given for the most accurate casters.

The derby has two age groups, 5-9 and 10-13, and prizes will be awarded in each group to the anglers who catch the three largest fish. Before the ceremony, the youngsters will be treated to a cookout.

The cost is $2 per child if you register in advance or $5 on the day of the event. The details are on the Web site, or by calling 410-HEYFISH.

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