Eric Packard

A pickerel from recreational angler Eric Packard’s recent trip to Urieville Lake on the Eastern Shore. Packard fishes primarily from his kayak and has been hunting for big pickerel in the CCA Pickerel Championship that continues through the month of February.

It’s going to be a long weekend for many of us who don’t work in retail.

While I don’t watch much television, I can imagine there are non-stop advertisements for furniture, new cars and appliances playing on the commercial breaks.

Unfortunately, the folks who work in those businesses won’t have a day off this Monday. But for the rest of us, instead of shopping the sales over the weekend, why not consider doing something for the betterment of our community?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is inviting all Americans to volunteer this Monday, particularly on public lands and waters.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service. Americans are urged to view it as “a day on, not a day off.” I can think of lots of ways to make a difference, whether it’s just for one day or a longer commitment.

It could be a gesture as small as wearing a pair of gloves and bringing along a trashbag on a walk around your neighborhood. It takes only a few minutes to pick up the garbage littering the sides of the road. That trash poses a real threat to wildlife, not to mention the dogs or kids who might pick up or ingest something dangerous.

You can take it a step further and drive to your kid’s school and make a clean-up lap around the playground and parking area. You might be amazed — or perhaps appalled — at all the trash you’ll find laying around.

Fort Hunt Park in Alexandria, Virginia could use your help to get rid of an unwanted guest creeping around the park.

Join the National Park Service to remove English ivy, which (besides being a very popular landscaping plant) happens to be an invasive species and a serious threat to native flora.

This event takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. Come dressed for a couple hours outdoors. All the necessary tools, including work gloves, will be provided. To register, go to

Closer to Southern Maryland there are several parks looking for long-term volunteers to help with various tasks. You just might see something that interests you.

At St. Mary’s River State Park, volunteers are needed to assist with trail clean-ups and helping visitors to the park. For more information, email Taylor Lundstrom at

Adults 18 and over can become volunteer rangers at Point Lookout State Park. Volunteers are trained and provided with uniforms once 40 hours of service has been completed at the park. For an application and more information, email Ranger Catherine Donley at

Have horse and will travel? Greenwell State Park in Hollywood is looking for a few good riders to be the eyes and ears of the park. Volunteer Mounted Patrol assist park guests, report maintenance issues and report other problems and violations.

You must provide your own horse also be at least 18 years old. If interested or for more information, email Jolanda Campbell at Volunteers on foot are also needed.

The Friends of Calvert Cliffs State Park hold monthly workdays for service projects which mostly take place on the 13 miles of hiking trails. Volunteers are needed to come out and lend a hand on these weekend workdays. For more information or to find out how you can help, email Ranger Danny Jones at

Summer fishing camp offered

Do you know a child 7 to 14 years old who would like to go to fishing camp this summer?

If so, just head over to right now. You’ll find all the details, along with a button you can click to “register now.” While it is yet only January, the camp sessions fill up quickly, so don’t wait.

The fishing camp is supported by the Southern Maryland Recreational Fishing Organization (, which not only provides volunteer fishing instructors, but also provides volunteers willing to serve as boat captains on their personal craft to take campers fishing on the Patuxent River.

Other partners include scientists from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, volunteers from the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association, and the esteemed Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park (who graciously donates the live bait used by the campers each week).

Fishing heats up

A couple of good fishing reports came in this week, starting with two from Eric Packard, a recreational fisherman who spends more days on the water than off each year (yes, he is retired).

This past Saturday, he got up at 3:30 a.m. to head to Tuckahoe State Park on the Eastern Shore to fish the 60-acre lake with a buddy, Chris Whiteman.

Between them, they caught a total of 11 bass, with one measuring 20 inches, and four pickerel.

Packard offers these words of advice for anyone trying wintertime pond/lake fishing: Fish with minnows. When the water temperature is cold, a fish’s metabolism slows down and the fish is more sluggish and less likely to chase a fast-moving bait. So, fishing live bait under a bobber works best.

On Monday, he hit up Urieville Lake, also on the Eastern Shore. I should mention Packard is fishing in the CCA Pickerel Championship, so these trips are part of his strategy. He’s on the hunt for big pickerel.

Urieville, a 35-acre lake, didn’t disappoint. Packard caught six pickerel, most measuring around the 20-inch mark, along with 13 bass. The majority of the fish were caught near fallen trees, with minnows working best, although a few pickerel were caught on a Rat-L-Trap or paddle tail jig.

McCotter’s Lake Anna Guide Service (540-894-9144) took clients crappie fishing earlier this week, finding active fish in the North Anna and Pamunkey Branch in 47-degree water. The biggest fish was just shy of 15 inches. Bass fishing has been good, too, on swimbaits fished deep.

And from Ocean City, Capt. Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star has been taking clients toggin’, mostly shorter trips but sometimes a long 12-hour haul will be on the schedule.

While Hawkins says tautog is the hardest species to catch among the fisheries he targets, last year he had some of his best blackfish trips in years. Will it happen again in 2020? Who knows or dares to dream.

On Monday’s trip, the tog pool was won by Mike Harrison from Clayton, Delaware, with a 20.5-inch female he tagged and released.

Bait is provided on all trips. There is no galley.

Reservations are required. For more information, call 410-520-2076.