- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

McHENRY, Md.

When Bob Lunsford and I left our homes in the D.C. area, redbuds were budding, dogwoods were beginning to do their thing, the Bradford pear tree blooms already had departed and more than one homeowner had begun to mow lawns, bobbing about on noisy little tractors, prematurely wearing the required uniform: plaid shorts and T-shirts.

Now fast-forward.

Our jalopy rolled into the far corners of Western Maryland. As we talked of fishing for walleyes and whatever else might bite in the 3,900-acre Deep Creek Lake, it was snowing.

Yes, snowing.

Fresh snow covered farm fields and house roofs were covered with fresh snow. The white stuff stuck to shaded portions of the road and my fishing partner, Lunsford, who is a director of Inland Fisheries with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, smiled and said, “Welcome to Garrett County.”

What a difference a few miles makes even in a state as little as Maryland.

At the boat launching ramp of Deep Creek Lake State Park, DNR biologist Alan Heft awaited us in his spanking-new, neatly rigged aluminum V-bottom boat. Flat slabs of ice covered portions of the boarding walkways adjacent to the ramp and we had to watch how fast we approached Heft’s boat. A sudden slip on the ice could have resulted in an unplanned cold-water bath.

After Lunsford and I stashed rods, reels, sandwiches and cold drinks (cold drinks — What were we thinking?) in the boat and plopped down on comfortable upholstered swivel seats, our host, Heft, charged across the open, choppy lake waters in 28-degree temperatures. Although the snow had stopped, the cold air blowing into our faces was just what we didn’t need, but Heft appeared to enjoy it. Who were we to object?

The ride turned out to be well worth the agony. Heft slowed down his craft, turned off the outboard motor’s ignition, then looked at a lake point that he said showed water depths from 4 to 12 feet.

“Throw that Rat-L-Trap toward the point and reel it back in kind of easy, not too fast,” he urged me. He then told his boss, Lunsford, he didn’t think the medium-depth reddish crankbait he had tied to 12-pound monofilament line would meet the bill. Lunsford decided to stick with it anyway.

“We might find northern pike and walleyes here,” Heft said.

No sooner said than done. Lunsford and I got into the walleyes immediately, almost as if walleye fishing was a snap. It isn’t.

Although they would have looked scrumptious in a frying pan, we couldn’t entertain thoughts of keeping the walleyes. The special lake season for these toothsome cousins of the perch doesn’t open until tomorrow, so back into the clear, icy water they went.

Lunsford soon surprised us when a plastic, curly-tailed jig he changed to drew a strike from a whopping fat yellow perch. Deep Creek Lake is known for its large yellow perch.

Shortly after that I lost a walleye and Heft landed one. For its size, Deep Creek Lake has one of the largest populations of walleyes anywhere along the eastern United States. The fishing was so enjoyable that all three of us ignored the sudden snow squall that briefly peppered us with puffy flakes. However, a bright sun soon broke through the clouds yet did little to warm our hides.

The weather will improve soon and anglers should make plans to visit this mountain lake to catch a mess of tasty walleyes. While here, don’t overlook the fishing possibilities offered by smallmouth and largemouth bass, yellow perch, huge bluegills (including a state record 3-pound, 7-ouncer), and feisty pickerel. It’s well worth the drive.

For more information check out www.fishdeepcreek.com or if you’re looking for a licensed lake guide, call Brent Nelson, cell phone 240/460-8839.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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