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Boat launch is hopping on weekends in Shepherdstown

July 09, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - It wasn't 7 a.m. yet at the Princess Street boat ramp in Shepherdstown on Sunday and the place was already teeming with activity.

Two boats with anglers were trying their luck in a popular fishing spot of the Potomac River near the ramp and two other men in two smaller boats were casting their lines into the waters.

The Princess Street boat ramp is a busy place in the summer among fishing enthusiasts looking for bass or the possibility of landing a tiger muskie.

The ramp also finds favor with nature lovers who enjoy cruising along the river in boats like canoes to observe water-loving birds and other critters along the waterway.

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And when it's hot, the luring waters of the Potomac near the ramp might attract a swimmer or two.

Typical morning

Sunday morning was a typical busy time at the ramp.

Fishing boats were scattered in the water and Sally Snyder was backing her Chevrolet Blazer down to the water's edge around 7 a.m.

Snyder, who had a canoe on top of her vehicle, said she likes to paddle up the river to view wildlife.

And like the rest of the river lovers, sometimes Snyder must wait her turn to use the ramp to unload a boat or to load a boat onto a vehicle when returning from a trip.

Snyder, a resident of the Shepherdstown area, said she was on the river June 30 when she had to wait about 30 minutes for other people using the ramp to finish so she could pull onto the ramp.

"The parking lot was full," Snyder said.

River lovers might see just about anything at the ramp.

Snyder recalled one day coming down to the boat ramp and observing people being baptized in the water.

Princess Street intersects with German Street in Shepherdstown. Motorists who follow the road to the river descend a steep hill and the road curves sharply next to the stone Mecklenburg Tobacco Warehouse. The road extends straight into the water, giving boaters their access to the water.

Fishing buddies

Fishing buddies Jim Perkey and Kenny Hess arrived later in the morning to the ramp. The two men said they launch their boat from the local ramp every Sunday and said they might catch up to 35 bass every time on the river.

Perkey and Hess said one of the reasons the Shepherdstown ramp is busy is because it is one of the few places to launch boats on the West Virginia side of the river.

Perkey was so well-versed on Shepherdstown boat ramp usage that he outlined proper parking etiquette at the ramp. He pointed out how one truck could have been parked better near the ramp and said if vehicles are parked in a certain diagonal fashion, up to 14 cars can fit into a parking area below the tobacco warehouse.

Larry Shipley backed his boat down to the ramp after Perkey and Hess. Shipley, who lives along W.Va. 45 between Shepherdstown and Martinsburg, W.Va., had a wealth of knowledge to relay about the ramp.

Shipley recalled the days when a ferry operated at the spot and when the river used to be full of wooden boats carrying anglers who made their way up and down the river using oars and sticking poles in the water.

Shipley described how he catches small fish known as "shiners" and takes off for a favorite fishing spot up the river.

Shipley noticed another angler on the river who he knew and he joked with the group as he unloaded his boat at the ramp.

"Now don't follow me up the river," Shipley said.

Popular spot

The river can be a sight for sore eyes after a hard day at the office.

Sunday morning, a duck made a rapid flight across the water as steam rose off the warm waters. Crows cawed in the distance and anglers could be heard talking amongst each other from different boats.

Snyder said the construction of a new bridge over the river near the ramp somewhat affected visitation to the spot.

"People got out of the habit of coming here, but now it's really busy again," Snyder said.

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