Oh, how familiar the jeer still rings in our ears. "Try to catch something besides a cold," she said long before dawn broke in the east. The insult was allowed to sink in. Then she turned over, drew the blanket a little tighter and resumed sleeping. She had no idea how prophetic her admonition would be. Goose shooting in the lower counties of Maryland's Eastern Shore hasn't exactly broken any records this year. And that can actually be a blessing if one of your regular waterfowl hunting hangouts is somewhere along the Blackwater River, not far from Cambridge in Dorchester County. If the sun shines brightly and the wind never grows strong enough to stir dry pine needles, smart hunters should be wise enough to pack more than their shotguns. In our case a lightweight fishing rod and reel combination is considered standard equipment during sunny autumn and winter days. Forget the bewildered faces peering through rolled-up windows as autos pass over the Route 335 bridge near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Forget also the occasional questions from strangers concerning your sanity. Little do they know that when the Canada geese and ducks -- or seasonal deer -- aren't moving about on "bluebird" days, the crappie schools of the Blackwater River are more than willing to take up the slack. Believe it. Cold days and changing tides are a perfect mixture for brackish water fishing. Ask my pals Sam and Eddie who were first introduced to fishing in the midst of hunting season a few years ago. On a bright sunny day when the birds rafted in monstrous numbers on the Chesapeake, far from our hunting blind, we stood beneath the Route 335 bridge on the edge of the Blackwater, casting tiny 1/16-ounce jigs into the bronze waters swirling around the pilings. The line on the ultra-light reels would rarely test beyond the four-pound range. A plastic float would keep the white bucktail lure hopping enticingly some three or four feet under the surface. Twitch the rod tip, and twitch it again. Make it dance, give it the look of something alive. Bang! A black-speckled silvery little character about 12 inches long and full of stamina had inhaled the imitation food. "Hey, this is okay," said one hunter, then promptly hooked another crappie less than a minute later. It went like that for hours. Our stringer fairly bulged with crappies. The two became fishing converts, nearly forgetting the original purpose of the trip to the Blackwater. So it went again a few days before this year's Maryland deer season got underway. We visited the bridge, rigged our little lead- headed lures to the lines, cast them under the bridge and watched them float downstream for a few feet. Twitch, twitch, boing! The bber disappeared, the rod tip danced crazily. A crappie was on. Five crappies of respectable size soon glistened on the stringer. Then a juvenile pickerel happened by and it couldn't resist the offering. The only trouble with the pickerel was its choppers: It nearly broke the line and just about stripped all the bucktail from the jig. So what? There were a dozen more of the same lures in the kit bag. By noon the tide had ebbed, and as the water rested so did the fish. But not until 21 of the tasty crappies were fooled by the hairy "food." The sun disappeared. The wind started rustling through the dry marsh grasses along the shores. It was time to leave and think about things that liked to fly over the water or sometimes land on it. Can you do it? You bet. Crappies are a hardy breed, almost as fond of winter water as trout and northern pike. In the upper portions of tidal Mar happen. Other Maryland Eastern Shore crappie producers this time of year: The Transquaking and Chicamacomico rivers southeast of Cambridge; the Choptank River right in the town of Greensboro; the Marshyhope Creek in Federalsburg; the Pocomoke River in Pocomoke City; the Tuckahoe River in Hillsboro. Any standard road map will show the way. And if a few dozen small minnows can be secured, pierce them to the little jig lures and see if your catch rate doesn't increase twofold.