"A wet backside and a hungry gut, that's what I call fisherman's luck."
That was the refrain a dozen years ago from a weary fisherman on the banks of Lake Quinsigamond in Shrewsbury, Mass. It was opening day of trout season and others like him were clustered around lakes and ponds in all the suburbs of the big city, Worcester.
It's a refrain not much different from the ones echoed by trout seekers in Maryland last weekend. Every year the cries of the trouters get closer and closer to the big city, Washington.
Dave Woronecki, who runs the cold water fisheries program for the state, calls it his "urban trout fishing program." One of the anchors in the plan was the initial stocking of Northwest Branch four years ago.
"We started it when we recognized that we didn't have adequate trout fishing close to where the people were," said Woroneciki. He went on a search for urban waters likely to be able to support trout populations in the early spring, before the water got too warm.
Someone came up with Northwest Branch, a muddy little stream that flows from Wheaton under the Beltway to Adelphi.
"We took a chance and it worked," said Woronecki.
Worked, it turns out, far better than anyone ever hoped.
There was a phenomenal development on the Branch Thursday. I was there and witnessed it.
The trout truck did not arrive on time with its load from the mountain hatcheries, which was no surprise. People jammed the banks of the Branch off Kemp Mill Road near Kennedy High School. Most of them stood around waiting for the truck to show, which is a reprehensible way to fish. I was one of them.
A few couldn't wait. Even though they knew the river had not been stocked and couldn't have any trout in it, they were carried away with the excitement of opening day.
One such person was a young boy from Alurel named Derek Simmons, who had come along with a friend and the friend's father. Derek had never been fishing before.
So while the cagy old veterans stood around jawing about how they were going to demand a refund on their trout stamps if the truck didn't get there soon, Derek happily skipped down to the bank and dangled a cheese ball on a hook in the water.
He stood patiently for an hour while the old folks fussed. Then he felt a jerk on his line. He hauled it up and chaos broke loose.
There, hooked cleanly through the lower jaw, was a writhing, healthy, fat brown trout.
How did it get there?
"We had not stocked the Northwest Branch since the previous spring," said Woronecki. "There's only one explanation. That trout was a holdover. He'd lived there for a year.
"It's incredible news," he added. "You've made my day."
It is incredible news because nowhere, even in their wildest dreams, did anyone associated with the initial stocking of Northwest Branch ever expect stocked fish to be able to survive a year in the shallow, steamy little creek.
Trout are finicky. They need respectable levels of oxygen, they need good water quality and they need moderately cool water temeperatues to survive. No one thought the Branch could provide even one of these three factors.
But it has.
Simmons' fish wasn't the only holdover brown caught either, according to later reports. When the fuss subsided, others among the 50 plus fishermen waiting for truck came forward and said they had, on occasion late this winter, yanked out stray browns (brown trout are known to be the most adaptable species of trout and apparently are the only ones to have survived in the Branch).
But it was news to Woronecki. Wonderful news.
"It's going to affect our way of looking at that stream in a number of ways," he said. "For one thing, we'll be paying a lot more attention to monitoring it.
"We'll try to start managing the stream with an ey toward more than simply recreational (put-and-take) fishing. We've got a surviving trout population. That means we have the potential for a reproducing population.
"We can stock it for year-round fishing instead of just in the spring; we could possibly set aside a section for catch-and-return (fro fly fishermen). It opens up all kinds of management opportunities to us."
It was a stunning development on a stream that only five years ago was considered by most to be nothing more than a drainage ditch. Best of all, sometime before midnight the stocking truck really did arrive, and the next day everyone caught trout.
Maryland's urban trout program is undergoing a major expansion here this year. Last year the state experimented by dropping a few hundred trout in Lake Needwood and Lake Frank at the head of Rock Creek in Montgomery County.
The program was a success and this year it's being massively increased.
Tony Janda, conservation chief for hte Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said the state will be stocking 3,500 brook and brown trout in Lake Needwood this week and another 1,500 rainbows the week of April 13.
In addition, 750 trout will be planted at Lake Frank and 1,500 will go into Pine Lake in Wheaton Regional Park. Both stockings will be this week.
So get out those cheese balls and worms. You don't have to live in Massachusetts to wind up a cold spring day with a wet backside and a hungry gut.
Resident fishing licenses will increase from $4.50 to $10; nonresident from $10.50 to $15, according to Tom Cofield, public affairs officer, Sevenday nonresident licenses will rise from $4.50 to $7. Trout stamps are to remain at $3.50.
Resident hunting licenses will increase from $8 to $10 and nonresident hunters must pay $40.50, up $10 from the old charge. Big-game stamp feess will decrease from $5.50 a year to $3.50 for both residents and out-of-staters. w
In addition, DNR plans to insitiute a three-day nonresident hunting license to save wterfowlers who come in for the Eastern Shore goose hunting a few dollars.
The new rates have been passed by the Maryland House and are before the Senate. DNR expects them to go into effect at the start of the new fiscal year July 1.