Skeptics are everywhere. Last week we promised to try to get out and hunt for rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay below the bridge. A Doubting Thomas called and snickered about how empty the promise sounded.

While D. T. was whiling away the week in his armchair, Capt. Dick Houghland down at Chesapeake Rod 'n' Reel was firing up the tired Chevy V8s aboard his "Mary Lou" and rigging lines.

We fished all day in howling, cold winds, working every spot Houghland knew. Although we came home empty-handed, it wasn't for lack of trying.

Houghland had hit rockfish well two weeks before, one day coming home with 70 in the two to five-pound class. But the cold and weather must have put the prize eating fish off their feed.

We were jigging small bucktails along hard bottom in 50 to 60 feet of water, trolling as slowly as we could. The problem: you can't troll slowly enough downwind in a gale, and you troll too slowly going against the wind.

But we gave it a whirl. We worked the clay bank on the eastern shore, the winter gooses and three or four other spots, fishing from 8 a.m. until nearly dark.

Back at the dock, with the sun setting and the wind still screeching. Houghland patted us on the backs for our efforts. "You guys really gave it a try," he says. "There's nothing I late worse than working like the devil to find the fish and then have guys sit around drinking beer when they should be fishing."

One thing we did learn: There are rock around. One of the small netters pulled in at dusk and off-loaded 200 pounds of rock.

But getting them to bite in freezing waters is another matter.

Mark your calendars for the Chesapeake SPortfishing Show, Jan. 6-8 at the National Guard Armory in Annaplis. Hours are 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 to 6 Sunday Admission is $1.50 for adults and 50 cents for children under 12.

Houghland is one of the featured speakers, along with Susan Dentry, Bill Burton and Don Carpenter, outdoor writers with a special interest in the Bay.

If listening to outdoor writers isn't your cup of tea, there also will be tackle demonstrations, booth exhibits and displays and continuous sportfishing movies.

New York is publishing a guide to cross-country skiing trails in the Empire State. It was written by Almy Coggeshall of Schenectady, who has been pursuing the sport for more than 40 years.

For your free copy of "Nordic Skiing Trails in New York State" write to Publications Unit, Room 111, N.Y. Dept. of Environmental Conservation, 50 Wolf Rd., Albany, N.Y. 12233.

Ocean City is sponsoring its 12th annual winter fishing contest. It started yesterday and runs through March 12. A trophy will be awarded for the heaviest cod caught on rod and reel. Catch report forms are available wherever headboats sail from.

Reader Kathy McMillin of Clinton wrote in to remind would-be winter canoeists of the dangers inherent in the sport.

"I read with some trepidation your article on winter canoeing," she write. "I'm afraid you may lure the unwary into this without emphasizing that cold water kills, if you fall in.

"If not suitably dressed, 10 minutes in 40-degree water means death by hypothermia. The Canoe Cruisers Association mostly shuns 'bit' rivers during the winter, running instead small ones (the result of snow melting).

"It is very dangerous to do any of this unsuitably dressed. The best dress is a noeprene rubber wet suit with wool stocking cap. Next best is several layers of wool, which remains warm even when wet . . .

"Goose down should never be worn as it is worthless when wet."

River runners, take heed.

Megabucks - The biggest buck we know of that was taken in the recently ended deer season was William Towers' 17-pointer, 303 pounds, 253 pounds field dressed.

Towers, from Kensington, shot the big back from a tree stand in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore. He said the antlers showed signs of two broken points, so it would have been a 19-pointer.