WINTER IS upon us, bringing with it the dread "fisherman's fever," an awful and almost uncontrollable ache to go angling.

One sure cure is a trip to the Bahamas while your friends are waist-deep in snow. But if that's out of reach, there's at least a short- term treatment -- boat shows.

They let you do a little dreaming, and besides, they're "a real education," says Warren Clegg of Bel Air, Maryland, who's been going to boat and outdoor shows for thirty years. "You get to see all the boats in one place -- not just one or two models, and this allows you to compare."

Clegg, a television producer for a federal agency and an avid fisherman and boater since childhood, says price isn't the only factor in boat shopping. Hull design, construction materials, interior storage, fishing room and accessories all are key elements.

"You get that information by seeing the boat, kicking the trailer tires and opening the hatch covers," Clegg says, "not from looking at a brochure."

Sometimes you can get a bargain with the education. Competition is keen, and when more than one retailer is selling the same brand, prices are sometimes slashed. Some manufacturers offer good package deals. For example, a boat package might include a motor, trailer, radio, depth finder, compass and other accessories factory-installed, saving installation charges.

When it comes to buying marine electronics, the boat shows can be the place to shop. At last year's Washington Boat Show there were gadgets galore with digital readouts, flashing lights and weird-sounding alarms. A Loran-C, a pinpoint navigation device, was tagged at $550; a few years ago it would have set you back $1,200. Among the other exotic electronic gizmos are VHF radios, marine CBs, depth finders, marine stereo cassette players and surface-temperature gauges.

Things look pretty good from the sellers' side, too. Butch Young, owner of Glen Cove Marina in Darlington, Md., and one of the exhibitors at last year's Chesapeake Bay Boat Show in Baltimore, says "you have the oportunity to show your boats to thousands of potential customers and spend time talking with them.

"You meet lots of people -- some will buy boats, while others are just having fun sightseeing -- that's how things are at the shows."

Eric Burnley of Newark, Delaware, who's an editor of a regional fishing magazine, attends a half-dozen shows a year. "Although I'm there in behalf of the magazine, I really enjoy them," he says. "It lets me see all the new lines of fishing equipment and talk with the manufacturers about fishing."

Charter captains and exotic fishing resorts will book fishing parties for the upcoming season while showing you videotapes of past triumphs. Tackle dealers often offer year-end clearance sales. Everything from deck shoes to fishhooks is usually on sale at discount prices. And local guides and outfitters are on hand to provide first-hand information on the best fishing areas close to home.

For the past five years, Fallston, Md., taxidermist Bob Brown has been displaying mounted fish, deer, bears and waterfowl at area shows. "It never ceases to amaze me how many people stop . . . I sometimes spend my entire day answering questions about where, when and how the mounted fish were caught."

That's a boat show for you: If you can't go fishing, you can at least talk fishing.

DRY LAND DREAMING

Some coming boat and fishing shows:

CHESAPEAKE SPORTFISHING SHOW -- Annapolis Armory, Friday through Sunday. Friday, 6 to 10; Saturday 10 to 9; Sunday 10 to 6. $3. 301/237-3058, 301/841-

CHESAPEAKE BAY BOAT SHOW -- Baltimore Convention Center, January 11-19. Monday through Friday, 5 to 10; Saturday noon to 10; Sunday noon to 7. Adults $5, children $2. 301/825-9492.

BASSARAMA '86 -- 3000 Mechanicsville Turnpike, Richmond, January 24-26. Friday 3 to 9; Saturday noon to 9; Sunday noon to 6. Adults $4, children under 12 $1. 703/659-6695.

DELAWARE SPORTFISHING SHOW -- Nur Temple, New Castle, Del., January 31, February 1, 2. Friday 6 to 10; Saturday 10 to 9; Sunday 10 to 6. $3. 301/237-3058.

BASS EXPO '86 -- Timonium Fairgrounds, Timonium, Md., January 31, February 1, 2. Friday 2 to 10; Saturday 9 to 9; Sunday 10 to 6. Adults $3, children 10 to 14 $1, under 10 free. 301/574-6139.

WASHINGTON BOAT SHOW -- Washington Convention Center, February 8-16. Monday through Friday, 5 to 10; Saturdays 11 to 10; Sundays 11 to 7. Adults $6; children, six to 12, $3; under five, free. 703/569-7141.

SEA SIDE BOAT SHOW -- Convention Center, Ocean City, February 14-16. Friday 4 to 9, Saturday 10 to 10, Sunday 10 to 6. Adults $3, children $1. 301/524-3000.

SUBURBAN D.C. BOAT SHOW -- D.C. Armory, February 19-23. Wednesday 5 to 10; Thursday, Friday and Saturday noon to 9; Sunday noon to 7. Adults $6; children six to 12, $3; under six, free. 717/655-2288.

MARYLAND SPORTFISHING SHOW -- Pikesville, Md., Armory, February 22-23. Open 10 to 7 daily. $2. 301/237- 3058, 301/841-6974.

MARYLAND SPORTFISHING EXPO -- Convention Center, Ocean City, Md., March 7, 8 and 9. Friday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 to 8, Sunday 10 to 5. Admission $2. 301/289-7213.

SALTWATER FISHING SCHOOL -- Lanham Ramada Inn, Lanham, Md., March 22, 9 to 4. Admission $20. 301/398- 0782.