Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | October 03, 2012

With fall settling in to a dependable pattern of cool nights, crisp shortening days and soaring blue skies, fish are responding to the primordial need to fortify for the coming winter. Outdoor enthusiasts who carry the fishing gene are responding to an equally compelling drive to gather their tackle and go to the water to join the fish in the ancient ritual.

Freshwater trout enthusiasts often share the humor and frustration of plain failure in the face of the wild trout challenge, especially when the upper stretch of Gunpowder Falls is the scene. To make things seem even more insulting to the well-equipped trout angler, the Maryland DNR trout team has some data to share from the 2012 Fall Gunpowder Stream Survey. DNR freshwater fisheries biologist Mark Staley led a crew of technicians, biologists, volunteers and high school students inclined toward natural science careers over three days of wading, electrofishing, measuring, and examining the fish between Masemore Road and the Prettyboy Dam. This renowned stretch of blue ribbon trout water has been a landmark water management success story since 1986 when the Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited, DNR and the City of Baltimore began working together to ensure a dependable, steady flow of cold, clean water from Pretty Boy Reservoir. Since then, the stream has developed into one of the best and most challenging wild trout fisheries in the country. The upper 7.2 miles of the stream from the dam down to Bluemont Road is reserved for catch and return and artificial lures. Most anglers stick to fly-fishing in this stretch. Earlier this year, Governor O'Malley named the bucolic path that borders this stretch, the Lefty Kreh Fishing Trail in honor of a Maryland native son and perhaps the most renowned fly angler in the world.


North Branch Rainbow. Photo by Alan Klotz

The 4.2-mile stretch downstream of Bluemont Road to Corbett Road offers a two trout per day limit with no bait restrictions. The remaining 6.1 miles down to the hiking trail about a mile below Phoenix Road are stocked with hatchery rainbow trout in the spring and fall with a five trout per day limit and no bait restrictions.

Here's the rub for anglers like me who find it so hard to fool these obvious trout. Results of this year's survey turned up an average of 1,213 adult brown trout per mile. This works out to a potentially catchable wild trout every four feet.

Staley reports that the 2012 young-of-the-year cohort is the biggest batch since 2008. These fish would have hatched in March and April, which may indicate that the didymo alga, which is prevalent in the colder winter and spring months, is not inhibiting the fry as they escape from the gravel beds to grow, thrive, and avoid the careful offerings of fly fishermen and women.

Out west in the mountains, retired fish biologist Ken Pavol is enjoying "pretty good" trout and smallmouth fishing in the North Branch of the Potomac River. The flow out of the dam has been low, providing easy wading conditions. The smallmouth fishing has been particularly good below Westernport. Pavol is having good luck in the river and on Deep Creek Lake fooling bass with a green over orange fly that suggests a small yellow perch to a hungry black bass.

DNR Western Regional Fisheries manager Al Klotz agrees. "The cool weather and rain have spurred schools of smallmouth bass to cruise the shorelines in predator mode ..a full fall binge," he said. Klotz recommends walking the dog with finesse plastic lures to excite the bass into striking. Otherwise, Rapala Rat'l Traps are always a good bet. Try the silver and black version in the #7 size.

Over the weekend at the Deep Creek Lake Classic Bass Open, the anglers averaged 4.2 bass in a five-bass limit for the event, evidence of capable anglers and good fishing.


North Branch Potomac Brookie. Photo by Alan Klotz

Last week, the DNR Western Regional Fisheries staff took a class of future fisheries biologists from Garrett College to help in the North Branch Potomac trout survey. They made the upper catch and release trout section just below the Jennings Randolph Dam the heart of the exercise as essential DNR work and part of a class requirement of 40 hours of field work for the students. The team collected rainbow trout up to 21 inches, as well as healthy brown trout and Maryland native brookies. Klotz suggests that this is a good time to fish this water using egg patterns.


2012 Garrett College Fisheries Management Class. Photo courtesy of Alan Klotz

Fall trout stocking has begun a little earlier than anticipated. The weather, ground conditions and stars have aligned to allow for the eventual release of about 26,000 one-pound rainbow and golden trout, 1000 one-pound brown trout, and 150 two- to three-pound rainbow and golden trout throughout the State. Actually, it is largely the enthusiasm of the DNR hatchery staff and the funding provided by trout stamp revenue that make this possible. Popular locations will include the North Branch of the Potomac River, Bear Creek, Big Elk Creek, Blair's Valley Lake, Deer Creek, Great Seneca Creek, Greenbelt Lake, Gunpowder Falls, Lake Artemesia, Morgan Run, Patapsco River, Wheatley Lake, Town Creek and Tuckahoe Creek. Some Frederick County streams were the first to receive the fall trout infusion, which occurred on October 2.

DNR is posting stocking information on the DNR Fisheries website and on the recorded DNR Trout Hotline (800-688-3467, press 2) as the program progresses.


DNR stocks trout.

The tidal Potomac is also seeing an increase in action as the water temperature drops. Captain Andy Andrzejewski is having luck using topwater poppers and buzz baits over grass beds. He also likes spinner, chatter and swim baits, to round out the largemouth bass selection. Potomac striped bass continue to be mostly small fish in the six- to 16-inch range. They are particularly active at the beginning of the falling tide around bridge structure and rock piles. Redfish continue to be a part of the fun as they hit crank baits fished at middle depths around the points that jut out into the river. Blue gills are willing to hit small tube baits and eighth-ounce grubs along the edges of the grass beds.

It's inspirational to read an Angler's Log report from Larry Jarboe who fishes around Mallows Bay on the Potomac as well as on the Atlantic coast. This year he has compiled a bundle of firsts including a blueline tilefish, a blackbelly rosefish, chain pickerel, tidal largemouth bass, a northern snakehead and blue catfish. In one day of fishing Mallows Bay on the Potomac he caught 14 channel cats, a blue cat, a white cat, countless white perch and about a dozen puppy drum, all on the incoming tide.

The Chesapeake is full of forage fish it seems. However, keen rockfish anglers are baffled by the sudden end to the great blitzes of schooled fish that have been so dependable in wide open waters such as the mouth of Eastern Bay and the Choptank River. Eastern Shore light tackle guide Gary Neitzey speculates that we are in a transition. The big fish that recently showed up to the party are moving into the tributaries to intercept the schools of perch, spot, and silversides that are moving toward the Bay. A slightly retired friend of mine, with a distinguished history of success in industry and fishing, reports that indeed, rockfish up to 35 inches have returned to his secret fishing place. If you happen to see a man wasting time in an old jon-boat along the Severn River shore, he asks that you pay him no mind. I can let on that he is throwing a noisy surface popper (Stillwater Smackit Jr.) into the growing shadows of the early setting sun and bracing for the hit of a big fish. It's that time of year.

White perch fishing in the Upper Bay continues apace. It's been good all summer. Worden's Super Rooster Tail Spinner remains the hot lure. The lure incorporates a spinning blade with a chicken hackle feather. Cast one near rocks, docks, submerged stumps and any fishy-looking place to see who's home. Otherwise, a bloodworm jigged on a weighted hook or a grass shrimp skewered on a shad dart will certainly work. You can net your own shrimp by sweeping a long-handled dip net along the edge of the marsh. Considering the way the wind kicks up this time of year, it's smart to have a kayak handy for those days when it's too brisk to venture out on open waters. Paddle up the creeks and into the salt ponds for some white perch fun.


A 21 inch speck. Photo by Joe Evans

Further south in Tangier Sound, the word is "speck." On a short light tackle trip with Captain Kevin Josenhans on Monday, we caught 24 speckled trout near Smith Island. The fish settle in water from four to eight feet deep where there is ample contour or rubble for hiding. A light three-eighths ounce bucktail jig dressed with a small plastic minnow tail cast down current and retrieved just fast enough to avoid hanging up on a stump while sinking enough to be in strike range of the fish works best. In other words, you are going to lose some lures.


The hot Tangier speckled trout flies - Lefty's Cactus Striper and Joe Bruce's Bullethead. Photo by Joe Evans

With the fish we reeled in, Josenhans' total for the season rose to nearly 1200 speckled trout.


A satisfied angler and his Tangier Sound speck.

On the coast, the surf continues to offer excellent fishing with snapper bluefish, kingfish, puppy drum and sharks taking offerings of cut bait.

Sue Foster of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City reports that Dave Sharkman caught nine sand tiger sharks from the Assateague beach at night before wearing out and packing it in. He was back at it early the next morning and beached a seven-footer as the sun painted the eastern horizon. Two hours later his line went tight again. The rod bent deeply and the fight was on with what turned out to be a 49.5-inch red drum. The Virginia and Maryland coasts host the largest red drum in the world this time of year. The world record was caught from the Hatteras Island, N.C. beach in 1984. It weighed 94 pounds. Since then, substantial conservation measures have taken effect to protect the redfish from the popularity of spicy blackened entrees. In 2007, George W. Bush issued an executive order to prohibit the sale of red drum in Federal waters. The order also encouraged the states to protect the fish in their waters. The result has been innovative management schemes using tight creel and slot limits to encourage population growth. In Maryland the creel limit is one fish from 18 to 27 inches. Red drum can live to reach 60 years old. The speculation along the Mid-Atlantic sand these days is that a huge fish is swimming out there for the angler who is willing to make the effort. That giant fish could be cruising along the gullies and sandbars of Ocean City and Assateague right now.

Joe Evans

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Keith Lockwood has been writing the Fishing Report since 2003 and has had a long career as a fisheries research biologist since 1973. Over the course of his career he has studied estuarine fishery populations, ocean species, and over a decade long study of bioaccumulation of chemicals in aquatic species in New Jersey. Upon moving to Oxford on the eastern shore of Maryland; research endeavors focused on a variety of catch and release studies as well as other fisheries related research at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory. Education and outreach to the fishing public has always been an important component to the mission of these studies. Keith is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, family and life on the eastern shore of Maryland.



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