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Take the bait on these spots

The Baltimore Sun

Fact: All of Maryland's lakes are manmade.

Opinion: When it comes to fishing, so what? The fish don't care.

Many of Maryland's watering holes, in fact, are just that, part of the public drinking-water supply, so the water runs deep and clear (weather permitting) from Loch Raven in Baltimore County to Sykesville's Piney Run to Deep Creek Lake out west.

Not all reservoirs roll out the welcome mat for anglers. Some have steep banks, no parking or long walks from the road to the shoreline. A recent national survey by the polling firm Southwick Associates Inc. indicates that one-quarter of anglers -- most of them of the freshwater variety -- have encountered access troubles that have led to fewer fishing trips.

Add in the price of gas, and that's a deal breaker for some folks.

Luckily, we have a few easy-off, easy-on spots right here that not only are great places for veteran anglers but also will please a papa taking his tadpoles for their first outing.

If this is opening day for your youngsters, don't forget to take a camera and be sure to take advantage of the Department of Natural Resource's "My 1st Fish" program, which awards certificates to commemorate the occasion. Just go to the fishing page on the DNR Web site and follow the directions.

First stop

How popular is Loch Raven?

Its boat-launch permits sold out by April 4.

How good is Loch Raven?

On April 5, Pasadena's John Williams landed a 1.62-pound white perch to set a freshwater state record.

The fish, weighed at Clyde's Sport Shop in Baltimore, an official citation center, measured 14.25 inches long. The old mark -- 1.5 pounds -- was set in September 2006 by a fish that was a resident of Loch Raven, too.

Right now, anglers are hauling in 10-inch yellow perch, 7-pound largemouth bass and 6-pound smallies. Crappie are already making their presence known at the 2,400-acre reservoir north of Baltimore, as are the pickerel.

"And we have tons of gizzard shad in the reservoir," says Kevin McComas, who runs the Loch Raven Fishing Center on Dulaney Valley Road. "I'm sure that's why the bass are so big. That's good eatin' for them."

McComas rents rowboats for $14 a day. A 14-foot standard jon boat with a 30-pound thrust electric motor, battery, oars, anchor and life jackets goes for $25. For $25 more, you get the deluxe model that also includes two swivel seats, carpet, a 36-pound thrust electric motor and two batteries.

If back-to-nature is your aim, from May 1 through Oct. 15, rent a canoe with paddles and life jackets for $14. Every Wednesday, the first 20 customers over age 62 receive a free boat rental (a motor rents for $11 or $20 for the day).

Good shoreline fishing is near the Dulaney Valley Road bridge, Warren Road, off Seminary Avenue and along Loch Raven Drive. Be careful to watch for parking signs. You will get a ticket if you're naughty.

The center, which opens each day at 6 a.m., sells bait and tackle, licenses and sundries, whatever they are. The staff will point you in the right direction.

"We'll get you on some good fish," McComas promises.

The phone number is 410-887-7692.

Carroll County

Piney Run is a 300-acre reservoir in southern Carroll with fishing piers and floating platforms, perfect for young anglers to target panfish such as pumpkinseeds, bluegills and sunfish. For bigger anglers, there are bigger fish: largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish and tiger muskie measuring a yard long.

For launching, there are two boat ramps (electric motors only), a nature center and paddleboat, rowboat, kayak and canoe rentals. And I'm happy to report, moms and dads, the bathrooms and picnic areas are neat and clean.

The entrance fee is $5 per car for county residents and $8 for non-residents. A seasonal pass is $30 for residents and $40 for nonresidents.

The park is open from 6 a.m. to sunset daily from now until Oct. 31. The phone number is 410-795-3274.

Two for one

Traveling south, toward the Howard-Montgomery-Prince George's county line, are the twin impoundments of Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs, which corral the waters of the Patuxent River.

A 6,000-acre woodland buffer protects the water that goes into homes served by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which makes the reservoirs tranquil fishing holes. The WSSC Web site outlines some shoreline fishing restrictions.

This season, Rocky Gorge has just two boat launch ramps open, one at Scott's Cove in Howard County and the other at Supplee Lane in Prince George's. At Triadelphia, only the Green Bridge Road ramp is open. As is the case at most reservoirs, gasoline-powered motors are prohibited, which cuts down on boat traffic and wakes.

A Watershed Use Permit costs $3 a day or $30 for the year. They can be purchased from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day at the Brighton Dam Information Center (it's a log cabin), 2 Brighton Dam Road, Brookeville, or at WSSC headquarters (it's the big blue glass building on the right side of southbound I-95), 14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel, weekdays, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

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