STRIPER FEVER: The abundance of striped bass around Chesapeake Bay this summer evidently is no localized phenomenon. Nelson Bryant reported in the New York Times this week that he spent seven straight June nights fly-fishing for stripers off Gay Head on Martha's Vineyard with unprecedented success. The Vineyard is legendary for its surf fishing for stripers and Bryant has lived there all his life, but he wrote that the fishing this summer is as good as anyone there can remember.

Since up to 90 percent of Atlantic Coast stripers are thought to be spawned in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland's four-year ban on striper fishing clearly is boosting the fortunes of anglers far and wide.

BERRY, BERRY GOOD: Maine has its blueberries, Rhode Island its blackberries, and the D.C. area has thimbleberries. The delectable wild fruits ripened in the region last week. Thimbleberries appear to prosper best after cool, wet springs, and this was the second straight year the area had such conditions.

Thimbleberries look like raspberries and grow best in sunny spots along woods edges. The George Washington Parkway is a particularly good place to hunt for them. But watch out -- they thrive in the same places as poison ivy, which is how my family came to be smeared with hydrocortisone cream on Independence Day.

WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE: Some 10- and 11-year-old girls from Valley Mill Camp in Germantown were hiking down the Billygoat Trail along the Potomac River recently when a black snake slithered across the path and the decibels hit injurious-to-human-ears level.

A bit later, an adult accompanying the girls plucked a piece of wild grass to chew on in time-honored outdoors tradition. "Don't eat that," warned one of the moppets, who said she lived among the manicured acres of Potomac. "It probably has pesticides on it." Hmmm . . .

Which reminds me of the happy camper in New York City's Central Park whose counselor had him sniff a spring lilac. Said the youngster in wonder, "It smells just like air freshener."

SHINE ON: The moon comes full on Monday, which should be a spectacular sight for 52 yachts crossing the Pacific from San Francisco to Hawaii in the sixth annual, 2,000-mile West Marine Pacific Cup Race, which organizers say has surpassed the venerable Transpac as the West Coast's most popular offshore sailing race.

The biennial West Marine is a low-key variation on the highly competitive Transpac. The racers should arrive in Kaneohe around the end of this week.

TAKE A HIKE: Woods-walking enthusiasts may want to check out REI's Thursday clinic on wilderness hikes in Western Maryland, presented by Dan Boone of Maryland Advocates for Public Lands. The free session starts at 7:30 at the outdoors equipment store, 9801 Rhode Island Ave., College Park.

BIG FISH: If you have the idea that members of the Ocean City Marlin Club are all offshore macho men who spend summers battling big seas daily in pursuit of billfish, you should meet club secretary Frank White, who caught his marlin 19 years ago and never went back.

It was a beauty, a 47 1/2-pounder that measured 74 1/2 inches, White said, leaving it just shy of the 50-pound minimum for mention in the Maryland State record book in effect then. These days White said he enjoys trout and flounder fishing in the bays behind the sandy resort in his own small boat. Marlin? One's plenty, he said, and "I've got mine."

Elsewhere on the big fish circuit, veteran bass angler Ebbie Smith of Prince Frederick said he latched onto one of the biggest largemouth bass of his long career while fishing a spinnerbait recently on one of his favorite Calvert County, Md., farm ponds. Smith, who should know, pegged the bass for a 10-pounder before it broke the line on a log. "I know I had this year's Maryland state record," he said.

DEADLINE: The Chesapeake's top overnight sailing race, the annual Governor's Cup from Annapolis to St. Mary's City, will accept entries until July 20 for the Aug. 3-4 race. Entry fee is $50 per boat. Call (301) 862-0380.