- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Local bass fishing guide Ken Penrod has warned about it for years, but his words of caution went by the wayside as far as area politicians and government managers were concerned.

All along, Penrod said pollution from Shenandoah River sources were affecting the upper Potomac. (By now, you know what happened in the Shenandoah where still unidentified chemical or “natural” culprits killed off a huge number of adult smallmouth bass and redbreasted sunfish.) The state of Virginia continues to study the fish kill, but river anglers place the blame on anything from farm fertilizer runoffs and chicken manure to hot weather and low water flows, not to mention the possibility of someone dumping substances into the river that should never be present in any body of water.

As far as the Potomac River being the recipient of pollutants from all over, fingers have been pointed toward mine acid entering the river in West Virginia, and of course the ever-present farm chemicals that find their way into the water, creating dense mats of vegetation in river areas where it never has been seen before. Then there’s an ongoing problem with an overtaxed waste treatment plant in Hagerstown dumping sewage into the river. In Frederick County, high levels of chemical contaminants are said to have been found in the drinking water.

Now comes a fisherman, Kenneth Penrod, a Montgomery County Police investigator for 18 years, who is the son of the aforementioned fishing guide.

Young Penrod is mad at everybody, including the media which, according to him, apparently aren’t up to snuff when it comes to covering the abuses suffered by local water supplies.

“Yesterday, I was shocked at what I shared with my friends and I am angry,” he wrote concerning the upper Potomac River in the area of Lander, Md.

“The river was full — bank to bank — with sludge and algae. I caught three bass all day. I saw no ospreys, eagles, turtles, white millers — nothing. I saw plenty of carp but little activity from gamefish. I have never had this experience and it is a shame that I only see the rare article that documents the pollution of a treasure.

“I guess the term ‘pollution’ is outdated and now we call it ‘algae blooms’ or ‘fish kills.’ I guess I should consent to the explanations of stressed-out spawning fish or chicken [waste] runoff or whatever. There is no way that people should not be screaming about the destruction of the Potomac River.”

Penrod said he has learned one thing in his many years of police work and that is, “It is what it is,” meaning that there are no complex answers — only complex explanations.

He wants to find out who’s polluting the river. He wants names and doesn’t want ambiguous terms such as “over-development” or “industry” being used.

“Give me a name,” he said, “and I promise to help any way I can.”

As far as the news media are concerned, he said, “The paper has told me that I should be afraid of MS13. The paper told me I should be concerned that terrorists are being mistreated [during] interrogations [and] I know that the paper told me that the police are the problem for the murder rate in Prince George’s County.”

Now Penrod wants the newspapers to find out who’s doing what to the river. He wants names. He wants those who are responsible to suffer consequences.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources told us it would check into the complaints. We’ll stay on them to come up with a real answer. Meanwhile, the state has a Web site, www.dnr.maryland.gov/hotline.asp that encourages citizens to report hazardous material spills, sewer leaks, overflows, algal blooms, and so on.

Beware of this crab trap — The Maryland DNR warns crabbers that a new type of illegal crab trap is being sold under the name “Crab Alert.” The trap is designed in such a way that when a crab enters it and touches the bait, a spring-loaded trap door shuts automatically. Traps with auto-mechanical devices are against the law. If you need to close a trap, it must be done by hand. The fine for using the “Crab Alert” trap can run as high as $500.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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