Will the rains ever stop? Hardly any of the ponds, lakes and rivers in the area have been spared the aftereffects of almost daily cloudbursts during the past week. Muddy and sometimes treacherous water will be the rule for a few days, even if clear, sunny weather dominates.

The alternative: Claim a part of saline Chesapeake Bay where bluefish, gray sea trout, spot, white perch and even drum may help you forget dreary skies and even drearier freshwater fishing.

There is an outside chance that strong rain runoffs from feeder rivers into the Chesapeake may sweeten the bay a little. The result, of course, could be reduced catches even there. In that case, the Atlantic Ocean seems ready to take up the slack.

MARYLAND RIVERS AND LAKES

DEEP CREEK LAKE -- How about crappies weighing two pounds and a number of largemouth bass tipping the six-pound mark? Not bad. The lake has seen it during the past week and rain has not affected this Garrett County impoundment.

WSSC LAKES -- Chris Ciliberti and Mark Gay, two Montgomery County anglers who diligently work the waters of Triadelphia Reservoir, tell of fine catches of largemouths in depths up to 20 feet. Deep-running crankbaits and jigs at the edge of landpoints will do the job there as well as at Rocky Gorge. The lower end of Triadelphia is clear, with the Gorge a little stained.

POTOMAC RIVER -- Catfish and carp are almost guaranteed, but downtown stretches need clearing before decent bass fishing resumes.Even Washington Channel is discolored. The upper river, from Great Falls to western Maryland, is swift and cloudy. Please, be careful.

EASTERN SHORE PONDS -- Urieville (Route 213, Kent County) is a muddy mess. Tuckahoe State Park Lake (off Route 480, Caroline County) is in fair shape with sunfish and small bass cooperating. This lake, by the way, is the perfect family spot. Great access for shoreline fishing and picnics. Wye Mills (Route 213, Queen Anne's County) is stained, but ready to give up bluegills, crappie and bass if mossy waters don't bother you.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND PONDS -- It isn't fair to readers to keep it a secret. St. Mary's Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, turn left at Camp Cosoma Road) may now have the biggest bluegills in the state. Don't be surprised if a worm bait or flyrod bug finds an 11-incher, but you must do the searching. The bass and crappies are plentiful and growing. Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6 east of LaPlata) is another heavenly spot for large sunfish and frequently whopping catfish. Water clarity is good in both lakes.

POCOMOKE RIVER -- In fishable shape even after rain. Bass, crappies and sunfish are willing from Snow Hill down to Shad Landing State Park. Don't overlook Nassawango Creek mouth area for bass.

CHESAPEAKE BAY

Ken Lamb of the Tacklebox shop in St. Mary's County's Lexington Park waxes enthusiastic with reports of keeper spot and white perch around Bushwood in the lower Potomac. Quade's Store is the place to start. Lamb also confirms huge bluefish that were taken on surface lures inside the Patuxent River. Boaters leaving the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers find outstanding sea trout and bluefish schools, even a smattering of black drum near Point No Point, situated roughly between the two rivers on the Western Shore. Tangier Sound sea trout, drum and channel bass are a distinct possibility on crab baits. Smith Point, on the Virginia side of the lower Potomac, has been a hotspot for sea trout caught on jigs or peeler crab bait, while the bay's ship-channel anglers find bucktail trolling productive as far up as the Choptank River (chumming with menhaden is the preferred Eastern Shore or Southern Maryland method). Surgical-tube trollers, of course, find bluefish clear up to the Kento County shores, but some fishermen fear that freshwater rain runoff may hurt their chances for a few days. We'll keep trying anyway.

VIRGINIA RIVERS AND LAKES

BACK BAY--Bayhaven Farms store recorded 18 bass weighing over eight pounds each last week. One Virginia Beach resident had a 9-pound, 7-ouncer. The water is high but obviously productive.

CHICKAHOMINY LAKE AND RIVER -- Surface lures of various sizes are responsible for bass and citation bluegills in the lake. But most sunfish anglers prefers live crickets or worms. The river is mostly fishable, with crappies and sunfish very cooperative. Bass hunters also score.

BUGGS ISLAND LAKE -- Of course this is Kerr Reservoir by any other name. Water is in fair shape. Crappies are plentiful and willing. Bass are playing hard-to-get this week. Kerr Dam striper fishing has been outstanding.

LAKE GASTON -- Water conditions point to cloudy, but bass catches have been scored in Jimmy's, Hupquarter and Songbird creeks mostly on plastic worms. A few stripers are taken on crankbaits.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR -- Muddy and high water. Good for catfish.

LAKE ANNA -- Beware the water skiers, a menace to all who are fond of quiet moments waiting for a bass. Just the same, bass guide Bill Mathias says he's finding largemouths on topwater lures as well as bottom-fished plastic worms. The rain hasn't affected the lower lake.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Find a stillwater cove and fish cut bait or chicken livers for fine channel catfish. The main river is muddy and swift. In short, dangerous.

SHENANDOAH RIVER -- Slow going in high and muddy water.

OCEAN AND INLETS MARYLAND -- Ocean City's Thoroughfare and buoys 5 and 6 have turned up flounder in the 2-pound range for minnow-drifting smallboaters. Assateague Island's surf has consistently produced small bluefish and scattered sea trout and kingfish. Headboats out of Ocean City's Talbot Street pier find seabass and ling, with charter and private offshore boats connecting on trophy bluefish as they troll Hoochie skirts and such. The first annual $5,000 bluefish tournament will be held July 16-18, with $3,000 going to the angler with the biggest chopper. Call 301/289-6470, or 301/289-6726, for entry details as soon as possible.

VIRGINIA -- King mackerel and early white marlin have turned on the Virginia Beach offshore-charter fleet. Bluefish are almost guaranteed in the ocean or Chesapeake Bay. Leg-long sea trout provide loads of action around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge- Tunnel's third and fourth islands. Cape Charles black drum schools have dwindled as predicted, but boaters out of Oyster on the seaside continue to score nicely on the big bottomfeeders. Flounder fishing at Chincoteague, Wachapreague, Metomkin and Oyster along the Eastern Shore can be good one day, poor the next. Why, we don't know.