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They're hooked on fishing

June 28, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

HANCOCK -- Two small, very isolated, heavily stocked private lakes were opened to public fishing for two days this weekend for the first time in 125 years, giving area anglers a chance to fill their creels with fat rainbow trout and sleek largemouth bass.

Anyone who couldn't catch their limit Saturday at either of the Woodmont Rod and Gun Club's ponds may want to consider a new sport.

About 50 fishermen, mostly men, but a few women and children, too, walked the half-mile to the pond up a rather steep hill from Pearre Road to get to the ponds. They were opened to fishing Saturday and today only by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The state bought the 3,400-acre former upscale private sportsman's club two years ago. Created in 1870 for rich sportsmen, the club ran continually until it was sold to the state, said Patty Manown, DNR spokeswoman.

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It was a mecca for members of Congress, was visited by six U.S. presidents, the last being Franklin Roosevelt and even had its own private airstrip to fly in members and their guests.

The state opened about 2,000 acres for public hunting for deer and turkey, but all but a few fishermen even knew there were ponds on the property until the DNR announced in area newspapers that they would be open this weekend.

Manown said the state had stocked about 400 trout in the ponds. She said DNR biologists feared the trout would die once the water warmed up.

"It's only fair to let citizens help harvest the fish before they die," she said.

The ponds also have large populations of bass and panfish that were stocked by the club when it was open. Many of them ended up on strings and in creels Saturday. State fishing regulations were in place to limit the number of trout and bass taken to five a day.

Many fishermen were on the lake at daybreak hoping to get a jump on the competition. By 9 a.m. Mike Finn, 60, of Frostburg, and his son, Mike Finn, 30, were trekking back down the road, their creels filled with rainbow trout, all measuring 12 to 14 inches.

"We arrived here about 5:30 this morning and they started hitting with 15 minutes. They were catching bigger ones in the deeper water," Mike Finn said.

"We threw some back," his son said. "I flew in from Nebraska just to fish these ponds," he said. "We're coming back tomorrow."

Herb Hensley, 68, of Warfordsburg, Pa., brought some of his family to the ponds to fish early Saturday morning. His string, all caught from the larger, lower pond, included several nice rainbow trout, a brown and a mess of bluegills. He was blowing up a nightcrawler with a hypodermic needle.

"It makes them float," he said.

"There's plenty of fish in here. "If you don't catch anything then something's wrong," he said.

Hensley worked as a guide at the private club until it closed two years ago. He remembers congressmen and others coming to Woodmont in buses. Some flew into the club's private airstrip.

Hensley said he guided pheasant, turkey and deer hunting parties. The pheasants and turkeys were raised by the club in pens, he said.

"We'd stand on the side of the hills and send the turkeys flying up by hand so they could shoot them. Sometimes 20 people would shot at the same turkey. You couldn't tell who killed it. A lot of them missed though. They shot high," he said.

Hensley and others also drove deer by tree stands occupied by hunters so they could get a shot, he said.

"Sometimes we'd have three or four drives a day."

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