It was a mild complaint, but legitimate: "I don't own a boat," the Maryland caller said, "and it seems the fishing reports are geared to boaters more than shorewalkers such as myself." The phoned request soon was followed by a letter-writing shore angler with the same lament.
It's time to make amends.
For starters, it must be said that the strolling angler rarely finds as many fish as the boater. Boats provide access to remote and quiet parts of any water. And on long, hot summer days when the shoreline shallows are warmed by a relentless sun, it takes ultra-long casts to reach fish in their deepwater sanctuaries.
What follows is a random sampling of local spots easily fished while standing on terra firma.
MARYLAND RIVERS AND LAKES
CLOPPER LAKE -- Close to Washington in the Gaithersburg area's Seneca State Park. Plenty of shore access with unusually large channel catfish and enough sunfish and bass to keep the little ones smiling. A small admission is charged.
LAKE NEEDWOOD -- In the Rockville sector, off Muncaster Mill Road, this fine facility can be fished from shore almost in its entirety. Sunfish are plentiful; bass are smallish but can be fooled by plastic worms or live bait. Stay away from the noisy boating center to find keeper fish.
POTOMAC RIVER -- The Maryland shoreline of the river offers many miles of walk-in access, by way of the C&O Canal towpath from above Chain Bridge in Georgetown to Washington County in Western Maryland. Cut fish or liver bait will get channel catfish early and late in the day throughout the river. Small spinners, diving crankbaits, even surface poppers around waterlogged obstacles may draw a river smallmouth to the shore fisherman. Meanwhile, anglers who stick with the dark hours find a little success in Washington. Plastic worms and crankbaits are good for largemouths, even catfish now and then. Don't forget Saturday's free WJLA-TV fishing clinic at Constitution Lake at 18th and Constitution Avenue.
PINEY RUN LAKE -- In Carroll County, off Route 97 (look for right turn on Obrecht Road, then left on Whiterock and right on Martz Road to the lake). Lots of walkable shoreline around a well-stocked body of water. Sunfish, bass, catfish, even trout during the cool seasons, will take lures or bait.
WSSC LAKES -- As with all freshwater fishing, a license is needed for anyone over 16, plus a permit from the Suburban Sanitary Commission in Hyattsville, or at Brighton Dam, off New Hampshire Avenue. The two lakes, Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge, can be approached on foot in Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties. Local anglers Chris Ciliberti and Mark Gay scored on Triadelphia bass up to 51/2 pounds the other day with deep-fished jigs and plastic worms, but, we have to add, from boats.
ST. MARY'S LAKE -- Drive south on Route 5, through Leonardtown in St. Mary's County, and watch for Camp Cosoma Road sign a few miles past town. Turn left to the lake, park, then walk downlake to dikes built especially for shore fishermen who need to reach deep water for large sunfish, barely legal bass and scattered trophy crappies.
GILBERT RUN LAKE -- East of LaPlata in Charles County, off Route 6. Known for shellcracker sunfish, large catfish and some decent bass. All of the shore is accessible. Pick a spot, but cast out to deepest possible water.
MYRTLE GROVE LAKE -- Off Route 225 west of LaPlata in Charles County. Great for picnics, shore- walking and casting a variety of lures and bait to willing sunfish and bass. Get there as the roosters crow for best results.
TUCKAHOE STATE PARK LAKE -- In Caroline County, off the Eastern Shore's Route 480. Another fine impoundment intended to offer maximum access to boatless anglers. Sunfish, crappies, pickerel, catfish and bass call Tuckahoe home. Fish during the cool of the day and you can bring home dinner.
Ask some of the Southern Maryland bucktail trollers and peeler-crab bottom fishermen and you'll hear success stories of gray sea trout from near the shipping channel between Buoy 50 and Buoy 54, as well as Hooper's Island and parts of Tangier Sound. Most of them still come toward evening, even in dead of night. Lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers also provide night chances for big trout. The smaller boats are looking for Norfolk spot in the Potomac around Cobb Island, Blackiston Island, Bushwood, Smith Point, Cornfield Harbor, you name it. Many of the spot are small, some are hefty. Tiny bloodworm pieces are all they need on the bottom rigs. Scattered bluefish are hooked over the Middle Grounds and occasionally in the upper Chesapeake, above Herring Bay toward the Bay Bridges. Many trollers are singing the blues rather than catching them, however. Eastern Shore dropoffs may be more productive. White perch are in all the rivers. Evening hours and bloodworms are a good combination.
VIRGINIA RIVERS AND LAKES
LAKE ANNA -- Only the deeper layers around obstacles produce bass now. Shorewalkers must confine themselves to the various dike crossings between the lake and the power station cooling lagoons off Route 208. The bridge anglers sometimes do better than boaters as stripers charge around the swirling waters when the sun is low.
BURKE LAKE -- Located on Ox Road in Fairfax County, this beauty offers plenty of shore access to those looking for catfish, sunfish and some bass or crappies. But remember, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR -- Fountainhead Park boat rental center says things have slowed -- something to be expected during late July. Occoquan Reservoir offers quite a bit of shore access in Prince William and Fairfax counties, but be prepared to make long casts. Crappies, sunfish, catfish and bass are plentiful but hard to locate now.
LAKE BRITTLE -- In Fauquier County, on Route 793, the lake can be fished from shore in a host of places. Currently, things aren't exactly hopping, but sunfish, crappies, bass and catfish are there. Try them very early in the day.
LAKE MANASSAS -- In Prince William County, on Route 604. With 800 acres of fine water there is always some spot that shore anglers can use for bass and panfish. Plastic worms were good to Northern Virginian Kenny Breeden this week as he latched onto several limits of bass.
LAKE GASTON -- Back to boating now. Gaston has seen only a few catches of stripers this week, with largemouth successes way down.
KERR RESERVOIR -- Slow going for most species. Striper trolling is the best bet.
BACK BAY -- Sunfish love flyrod poppers. Bass, if you can find them, will take plastic worms.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Some smallmouth bass action on smoke grubs and little crankabits above I-95 bridge. Little happening downstream.
OCEAN AND INLETS
MARYLAND -- White marlin catches from the Washington and Baltimore canyons are increasing. Shark anglers over the offshore ledges are doing better this year than in recent memory. Seabass are the main fare from the headboats, with widely scattered bluefish providing excitement over the Jackspot and Bassgrounds. Inside, at Ocean City, small flounder are the rule. A few large sea trout are taken on bucktail/squid combinations late in the day at the jetty.
VIRGINIA -- Gray trout will be hard to locate around Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel pilings, and even bluefish aren't plentiful where the Chesapeake meets the Atlantic. Offshore white and blue marlin hookups around the Cigar and Norfolk Canyon vary from red-hot to rotten. Dolphin catches are increasing daily. Small flounder still are the rule from Chincoteague to Oyster on Virginia's Eastern