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Fresh Water Fishing Reports

Western Region:
Coldwater Fisheries

Savage River Trophy Trout Fishing Area

The Savage River tail water is one of Maryland’s top fishing destinations for trophy wild brook and brown trout. Our 2007 surveys showed that adult trout densities about 1,000 per mile throughout most of the river. Brown trout dominate the population, while brook trout still maintain about 25% of the total numbers. The number of quality-size brown trout in the river is remarkable; there is one brown trout > 12 inches for every 19 feet of river! The Savage River also is home to some of the largest native brook trout in Maryland, with the average adult brook trout measuring just more than 8 inches, with specimens measuring 12 inches collected in the 2007 survey. Reproduction was considered good for both trout species, with a combined species estimate of more than 1,000 young of year trout per mile.
Trophy brook trout from the Savage River, 2007
Trophy brook trout from the Savage River, 2007

The Youghiogheny River Catch and Release Trout Fishing Area

Trout populations in the Yough River Catch and Release Area are still recovering from the devastating hot summer of 2005; however the size of the trout in this river makes it a place you have to fish! The upper station near Hoyes Run has the highest adult densities, about 588 trout per mile. The population is about 50/50 brown and rainbow trout, supported by annual fall fingerling stockings. Big brown trout greater than 20 inches were collected in our sample stations, and even rainbow trout exceeding 17 inches were collected in 2007. Coldwater temperature enhancement flows from the Deep Creek Lake Power Plant were made throughout the critical summer period, so we expect the trout population continue to improve in 2008. About 14,350 fingerling rainbow trout and 6,688 fingerling brown trout were stocked in the Yough C&R Trout Fishing Area during 2007.
A beautiful 17.5 inch rainbow trout from the Yough C&R Area, 2007
A beautiful 17.5 inch rainbow trout from the Yough C&R Area, 2007

The North Branch Potomac River

With 50 miles of managed trout water ranging from Put and Take, Delayed Harvest, Catch and Release, and Zero Creel trout management areas, the North Branch Potomac River offers something for everyone. In 2007 we stocked the river upstream of Jennings Randolph Lake via rail-truck to get trout into the remote Delayed Harvest Trout Fishing Area bordering the Potomac State Forest, and will continue to do so in 2008. The upper Catch and Release Trout Fishing Area downstream of the Jennings Randolph Dam is the place to go for a fish of a lifetime during the fall when large brown and rainbow trout drop down from the tailrace searching for spawning areas. The “Trout Grand Slam” still is possible in the river, as we collected brook, brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout in the upper C&R section during 2007.
A lunker rainbow trout from the North Branch Potomac River Catch and Release Area, 2007
A lunker rainbow trout from the North Branch Potomac River Catch and Release Area, 2007

The North Branch Potomac River’s Zero Creel Limit for all trout species from Westernport to Pinto is another fishing destination anglers should put on their calendars in 2008. We stocked about 37,000 fingerling rainbow trout in this section of the river during spring and summer – and they survived well and grew to an average size of nearly nine inches by fall. Big brown trout were found throughout the Zero Creel Area, but the best trout fishing area is from Westernport to Black Oak.
This is what the NBPR Zero Creel Limit produces - huge brown trout!
<em>This is what the NBPR Zero Creel Limit produces - huge brown trout!</em>

North Branch Potomac River Catch and Release Black Bass Fishing Area

Smallmouth bass become the dominate game fish species in the North Branch Potomac River from the Keyser to Cumberland section of the river. Our surveys showed that an abundant year-class was produced in 2007, which bodes well for the future. The adult smallmouth bass collected during our surveys show a diverse age and size structure with a high percentage of the population in the quality and preferred size classes.
A plump smallmouth bass from the North Branch Potomac River Black Bass Catch and Release Fishing Area, 2007.
<em>A plump smallmouth bass from the North Branch Potomac River Black Bass Catch and Release Fishing Area, 2007.</em>

Deep Creek Lake

Studies conducted in Deep Creek Lake during 2007 showed Maryland’s largest lake is home to at least 18 fish species, including the popular game fish and panfish species– walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, and bluegill. Walleye are considered abundant, and the adult population hosts a large percentage of fish in the 16 to 18 inch size class. Another exceptional year-class was produced in 2007, with a catch rate of 80 young of year walleye per hour. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are abundant in the lake as well, and their populations contain a high percentage of adults in the quality and preferred size range. Reproductive success was considered “good” for smallmouth and “fair” for largemouth bass. Yellow perch data were also obtained in 2007 to gain more knowledge on this species life history in Deep Creek Lake. Yellow perch had good reproductive success during 2007, and the adult population contains a high percentage of fish greater than 10 inches – those are some jumbo perch!
A jumbo yellow perch from Deep Creek Lake, 2007.
A jumbo yellow perch from Deep Creek Lake, 2007.

Upper Potomac River:

The upper Potomac River is a popular fishing destination for good reason. There are excellent opportunities for smallmouth bass, walleye, muskie and channel catfish throughout the river. The following are highlights of our 2007 survey efforts.

We began the year electro fishing for walleye at Cumberland, Spring Gap and Williamsport to evaluate population size structure and collect length at age data. The majority of walleye collected at Spring Gap and Cumberland exceeded 16 inches in length and several were real trophies. While this size structure makes for good fishing, it also suggests poor recruitment in recent years. Further downstream in the middle Potomac (Dam 5 to Dam 3) a more diverse size structure was documented, the result of consistent recruitment. Fair to good year classes were produced 2004 through 2006. Natural reproduction of walleye was documented in 2007 as well. However, based on electro fishing catch rates, the 2007 year class is thought to be not as strong as the three previous year classes. Nevertheless, walleye are abundant in the Potomac and fishing is predicted to remain very good in 2008.Walleye

Fish health issues (fish with external lesions, chronic fish kills in the Shenandoah, and intersexed smallmouth bass) in the Potomac watershed have been receiving national attention in recent years. To compare the health of fish in the main stem Potomac with other populations in the watershed, we collected a total of 81 adult smallmouth bass from the Potomac at four sites (Cumberland, Little Orleans, Shepherdstown, and Lander) during April. The USGS National Fish Health Lab analyzed these fish. Bass were examined for external abnormalities, internal and external parasites, histopathology of internal organs, and the presence and severity of intersex. Results indicate that smallmouth bass from the Potomac main stem display a moderate to high prevalence of intersex and carry a moderate parasite load. Results were negative for bacterial infectious agents. However, a positive for largemouth bass virus was returned at one site, Shepherdstown. Very few lesions have been observed on Potomac smallmouth bass and no fish kills of smallmouth bass have been documented in the main stem Potomac. The information obtained from this collection has been combined with other sites in Virginia and West Virginia to get the “big picture” of fish health in the Potomac watershed. Potomac SeiningArmed with this data researchers will have a better understanding of the factors that stress fish populations and lead to health problems.

Seining annually since 1975 has assessed smallmouth bass year class strength. Year class strength is an important variable, as it will affect both the abundance and size structure of the adult population in the following years. Throughout July 2007, we conducted 81 seine hauls between Cumberland and Seneca. When the tally was complete 2007 stood as the strongest year class in the last 32 years. Similar results were recorded in the major tributaries as well. The exceptional 2007 year class combined with strong year classes produced in 2005 and 2006 are expected to greatly increase smallmouth abundance in the coming years.
Small Mouth Graph

Electro-fishing surveys were conducted throughout the upper Potomac during the fall (October) to assess the relative abundance, size structure, and physical condition of adult smallmouth bass. Catch rates continued to climb as bass from the 2005 and 2006 year classes became large enough to be included in the 2007 sample. Catch rates for quality-size smallmouth bass (>11”) increased in 2007 and were similar throughout the river regardless of other species (walleye, muskie) or regulations. Fishermen no doubt noticed the abundance of 12 to 15 inch bass last year. However, as the recent year classes start to influence the population, smaller bass will begin to dominate the fishery.

The allure of tangling with one of freshwaters largest fish, the elusive muskie, continues to attract more anglers to the Potomac each year. This population is sustained entirely by natural reproduction and their range has been slowly expanding. Pure-strain muskies were collected in 2007 at Lander and Whites Ferry marking the furthest downstream documentation of this species. Data is collected from muskellunge captured during electro fishing surveys as well as from angler-caught fish. Because of their naturally low abundance it is difficult to collect adequate population data to make statistically valid conclusions. Even so, the catch data suggest a relatively strong population with good size structure and trophy potential.

To prove that point, Steve Peperak brought in the New Year by catching and releasingMusky a potential State Record muskie on a muskie jig of his own design. The large female measured just over 46 inches and bottomed out our 30 lb Boga Grip scale. The fish was weighed in a bag net to support its weight and prevent injury. After a few photos and high fives, she slipped back into the depths. Congratulations Steve!

In the fall of 2006 the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued a federal order prohibiting the importation of live fish susceptible to viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a highly contagious pathogen of fish, from the eight states bordering the Great Lakes. Since game and nongame species in the Potomac are highly susceptible to VHS, tiger muskie stockings have been suspended indefinitely.

I’ve enjoyed talking with many anglers throughout the year, some seeking information for a new adventure and others kind enough to share their success. The Potomac River is a wonderful fishery and the forecast looks excellent for 2008, good luck this year!

Beaver Creek Catch and Release Area

Beaver Creek Baker FarmThe Beaver Creek Catch and Release, Fly Fishing Only area in Washington County is a great example of what can be accomplished when government agencies, watershed associations, conservation groups, fishermen, citizens, and landowners all work together to improve the environment. Although each has their own personal reasons for taking action, everyone can enjoy the results. Large in-stream habitat improvement projects as well as numerous CREP and riparian planting projects throughout the watershed are improving water quality and habitat for invertebrates and fish. Landowners are generously providing public access to a mile of privately owned, wonderfully productive spring creek.

It is the goal of Inland Fisheries to develop a productive and self-sustaining wild brown trout population within the special regulation area. Wild young-of-year brown trout from the Gunpowder tailwater in Baltimore County were transplanted to Beaver Creek get the population started. These fish were marked with an adipose fin clip for identification. Survival and growth of these fingerlings has been excellent. TroutFairly strong natural reproduction was documented in both 2006 and 2007 and the adult population continues to expand. Visiting anglers should keep in mind that they are guests of the landowner while enjoying this fantastic resource and act accordingly so that we can all benefit from access well into the future.

Central Region

In 2007, central region fisheries biologists continued surveys in the region to search for and enumerate wild brook trout populations in accordance with long standing studies funded by federal aid money allocated from the sale of fishing licenses. Much of the work will eventually help in the formulation of a more inclusive wild brook trout management scenario for Maryland and will add to the wider reaching efforts of all the Eastern seaboard states that seek to identify and protect native brook trout populations.

Working in Harford County this summer, biologists discovered the existence of several new wild brook trout populations that were formerly unknown to DNR. Anglers wishing to find existing or new brook trout populations can also do so with just a few simple tools. A good topographic map and an accurate thermometer will give anglers some excellent leads to the brook trout haunts. Brook trout are found in the most pristine natural environments. Their habitats are typified by watersheds consisting of highly vegetated or forested lands that contain small perennial stream channels (often 3 to 6 feet wide) that have cold water (less than 68 degrees F) and have substrates of clean, small gravel and a stream channel of moderate gradient. When making your water temperature assessments, target the middle to late afternoon of a hot July or August day. That will give you the best chance at locating the very coldest water habitats likely to hold trout. The same approach will also put you into some very nice wild brown trout habitats that can be equally enjoyable to the angler!

Please be sure to abide by all private property signs and ask permission to fish before attempting to access private or posted property. Due to the sensitive nature of brook trout populations, we strongly encourage catch-and-release fishing.

LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR

Biologists attempted to collect white perch in May of 2007 in order to establish some age-growth data for future use. During the course of the survey, it became readily obvious that we had come too late. The schools of large white perch had come and gone, and only the small and intermediate fish remained. The upside of the effort was in that we discovered that Loch Raven Reservoir is full of gizzard shad! This was a shocking revelation, since nobody in DNR had every documented gizzard shad in the reservoir until 2006. During the 2006 Million-Dollar Fishing Tournament, central region biologist collected about a dozen and one half adult gizzard shad while collecting other sport fish for tournament tagging. Just one year later, gizzard shad were everywhere in the lake, even making their way up Western Run and to the baseCrappie of Prettyboy Reservoir on the Gunpowder Falls. At this point, time will tell if the presence of the gizzard shad will impact (positively or negatively) the quality, predator heavy sport fish populations in Loch Raven Reservoir.

While conducting the white perch, staff biologists Charlie Gougeon and Todd Heerd stopped to photograph a few nice specimens that included a very nice black crappie and a nice chain pickerel. Although not included, we observed a number of good sized northern pike. Loch Raven is one of the few area lakes in the Central Region where anglers can catch wild reproducing northern pike.

LIBERTY RESERVOIR

Liberty Reservoir was sampled for sport fish populations in 2007 during a series of 30 nighttime electro-fishing surveys. Biologist Ken Booth is pictured with a nice largemouth bass. Ken works at the Albert Powell State Trout Hatchery in Hagerstown and offered to assist us on a fine evening in October. Crappie (both white and black) were most common in the Patapsco and Morgan Run areas of the reservoir. No adult striped bass were observed or collected during the survey, however, Western Region Biologists assisting us during the survey, collected two young-of-the-year, indicating that natural reproduction continues there. Very good numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass were also observed throughout the reservoir. Each species showed us 5 pound plus representatives! Other species observedLargemouth Bass during the survey included the following; white perch, yellow perch, rock bass, white sucker, common carp, spottail shiner, spotfin shiner, golden shiner, yellow bullhead, brown bullhead, black and white crappie and banded killifish.

Biologists conducted their annual fall trout electro-fishing survey at three locations along the 17.5-mile long Gunpowder Falls tailwater. The stations included Dam/Falls, Masemore Road and Blue Mount stations that are located between 0.5 and 7.5 miles downstream of Prettyboy Reservoir Dam. Dam/Falls and Masemore stations fall under catch-and-return management allowing the use of lures and flies while Blue Mount station is managed as a two-trout/angler/day area that allows the use of bait.

2007 ACTIVITIES:

Water temperatures were measured above Falls Road and below Blue Mount Road using continuous recording devices to monitor the new water release protocol. Since April 2004, springtime water releases have been directed through the 10-foot deep sluice gate instead of the 55-foot deep sluice gate in an effort to raise tailwater temperatures. The slight temperature improvement during the months of March, April and May has extended the growing period for trout and other aquatic life. Additionally, fall electro-fishing surveys were conducted at three established stations. From upstream to downstream, these three stations are Dam/Falls Road, Masemore Road, and Blue Mount Road. A quantitative assessment of all non-trout species was initiated in 2005 at the Masemore and Blue Mount stations and repeated in 2006 and 2007. The purpose of the non-trout assessment is to follow changes in the fish community structure and to determine how changing numbers of non-trout fish species may affect production and general condition of trout.Electro-Fishing

Brown Trout:

Dam/Falls Road Station – The Dam/Falls Road station was estimated to have 189 pounds/acre of brown trout adults and 5,036 brown trout/mile. This represented a 5% decline in standing crop and an increase of 8.4% in adult brown trout density as compared to 2006. Brown trout recruitment at this station was very high in 2007. One hundred and thirty young-of-year (YOY) brown trout were collected from the Dam/Falls Road station, resulting in an estimate of 2,388 YOY/mile. Forty-seven 47 YOY were collected in 2006 that resulted in an estimate of 959 YOY/mile. Both years represented excellent recruitment, despite the shortage of suitable spawning substrate in the area. Dam/Falls station has maintained the highest adult trout densities and standing crops of any surveyed location in the tailwater over a twenty-one year history. Approximately 300 meters of river was surveyed immediately above the Dam/Falls Road station using a single electro-fishing pass in search of rainbows and large brown trout. The largest brown trout collected measured 13.9 inches and weighed 12.3 ounces. Nine rainbow trout were collected that included adult and fingerling sized fish. The rainbows were collected in order to compile a larger sample to determine growth rates of rainbow trout.Brown Trout

Masemore Road Station – The Masemore Road station was estimated to have 49 pounds/acre and 1,104 brown trout adults per mile in 2007. This estimate was 39.5% lower than the 2006 estimate of 81 pounds/acre. The Masemore Road station also exhibited reduced brown trout recruitment in 2007 when compared to 2006. A total of 454 yoy brown trout were collected in 2006 and 281 yoy in 2007. Density estimates for yoy brown trout were calculated at 2,459 and 1,676 yoy brown trout per mile in 2007 and 2006, respectively. Masemore Road station has always produced strong brown trout recruitment over the many years of study.

Blue Mount Road Station – The Blue Mount Road station was estimated to have 24 pounds/acre of brown trout adults and 911 brown trout/mile. The estimate was 31.4% lower than the 2006 estimate of 35 pounds/acre. The Blue Mount Road station also demonstrated reduced recruitment in 2007. An estimated 642 yoy/mile were calculated in 2006 compared to 224 yoy/mile in 2007.

In summary, brown trout standing crops fell at all three stations in 2007 when compared to those estimated in 2006. Although water was released from the dam in 2007 using the same valve setting used in 2006, less flow was delivered to the tailwater in 2007 because of lake levels that were 4.6 feet lower in 2007. The lower reservoir pool elevation in 2007 produced less hydraulic head pressure that resulted in a considerably poorer flow. The reduced flow is thought to have caused trout to move out of shallow water and into adjoining deeper pools. In the case of Masemore and Blue Mount stations, the lower trout standing crops and densities observed in 2007 was thought to be partly influenced by some trout leaving the sample site in search of deeper water. The Masemore and Blue Mount Road stations showed the greatest decline in brown trout standing crop with a 39.5% and 31.4% reduction, respectively. Dam/Falls station showed a mere 5% reduction in brown trout standing crop and boasted the strongest recruitment of brown trout YOY in 2007. Brown trout recruitment was significantly lower in 2007 at the Masemore and Blue Mount Road stations when compared to 2006. Despite the lower recruitment estimates, recruitment of brown trout was determined to be more than adequate to produce a healthy 2007-year class of brown trout.Compare Size

Rainbow Trout:

Dam/Falls Road Station – Since 2002, fingerling Kamloops rainbow trout have been stocked annually (no stocking in 2006) upstream of Falls Road in the spring/early summer. Rainbow trout fingerlings were not given an adipose fin clip in 2007; however, all prior fingerling rainbows were adipose fin clipped for later identification.

One adult and ten rainbow trout fingerlings were collected during the survey. A 300-meter single-pass electro-fishing survey immediately upstream of the Dam/Falls Road station was conducted in order to obtain a larger sample of rainbow trout used to determine growth rates. Nine rainbow trout fingerlings were collected. The fingerlings demonstrated excellent growth. Rainbow fingerling lengths ranged from 6 to 8.9 inches on 09/24/07; N=19 and 7 to 9.4 inches on 12/04/07; N=20. No adult or fingerling rainbow trout were captured during the fall survey at either Masemore or Blue Mount survey stations.

Rainbow Trout Stocking: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) plans to resume stocking fingerling rainbow trout in May of 2008 at the revised rate of 5,000/year. MDNR has concluded that the number of fingerling rainbows stocked to date (approximately 2,500 per year) has proven insufficient to improve more favorable rainbow trout densities for anglers upstream of Falls Road. The lower stocking density used during the 1980s and 1990s proved more effective when brown trout standing crops were low and the trout fishery was just beginning to take hold. In recent years, brown trout standing crops have hovered around an estimate of 200 pounds per acre. Beginning in 2007, DNR stocked 5,000 fingerling Kamloop strain rainbow trout into the tailwater between the dam and Falls Road. This change improved estimated numbers of fingerling rainbow trout recovered from the measured length of the Dam/Falls electro-fishing station.

Fish Community Survey: Results of the fish community survey showed the Masemore Road station had six non-trout species in 2007 and five in 2006. The non-trout fish species has remained significant for only three or four total species, while additional numbers of species observed in any one-sample year, only consist of one or two individual fish. Lot's of TroutNon-trout fish species at Masemore station have increased progressively as follows; (3 in 2005), (5 in 2006), and (6 in 2007), while Blue Mount station has remained little changed with (14 in 2005), (13 in 2006) and (14 in 2007). The trout percentage, representing the combined weight of trout versus non-trout fish weight, was determined at each community fish sampling site. Trout represented 93%, 88% and 74% of the total fish weight collected at the Masemore station in 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively. Trout represented 56%, 23% and 17.5% of the total fish weight collected at the Blue Mount station in 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively. It is too soon to provide further analysis of the trout/non-trout biomass comparisons; however, the data will serve as a standard to compare changes that may result from more manipulated tailwater temperatures.

Southern Region

Inland Fisheries conducted a game fish survey on Triadelphia Reservoir in the fall of 2007. Although large and smallmouth bass were targeted, data was also collected on other game fish encountered during the survey. Initial analysis showed an increase in the number of largemouth bass caught, and a significant increase in the number of smallmouth bass captured by electro fishing. The biggest largemouth was 3 lbs., 3 oz.; the largest smallmouth was 2 lbs. 5 oz. While the bass found during the survey seemed disappointingly small, anglers have reported catches of largemouth over 7 lbs. and smallmouth over 6 lbs. in the reservoir.

Northern PikeMany of the other game fish species were poorly represented in the survey with the exception of northern pike. Many small pike were collected and released after recording length, weight and taking a scale sample. Interestingly, northern pike have not been stocked in Triadelphia since 2002.

A similar survey was done in the fall on St. Mary's lake. The largemouth bass population appeared similar to previous studies- many small bass, some in the slot (11-15") and a few nice fish over 15 inches in length. The crappie and redear population are doing quite well with many large, fat fish showing up in the survey. More chain pickerel than usual were collected, apparently benefiting from the flooded terrestrial plants created by the prolonged drawdown and subsequent refilling of the lake.

The tidal Potomac provided good catches for anglers fishing in organized largemouth bass tournaments. Data collected at tournaments held primarily out of Smallwood State Park showed angler catches similar to previous years. The average weight of tournament caught fish in the 12-inch season was just under 2 lbs. Lunker weights averaged 4 lbs.

Tournament anglers fishing the Upper Bay also fared well with the average fish weighing 1.8 lbs. and the average lunker weighing in at 4.5 lbs.Northern Snakehead

Annual tidal largemouth bass surveys showed a similar number of young bass as previous years in most of the tributaries sampled. Largemouth bass reproduction on the upper portion of the tidal Potomac (above Broad Creek) is still limited but a slight increase in submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) was noticed in the main stem of the river and at the mouth of Smoots Bay. The number of largemouth bass in the area should improve if this increase continues over the next several years. The analysis on the adult population has not been completed.

Both blue catfish and northern snakehead have been observed in increasing numbers in the tidal Potomac River.

Eastern Region

The Eastern Region worked hard in 2007 to maintain and enhance many of the fisheries we enjoy so much. Several of the tidal rivers on the “Shore” support great largemouth bass fisheries, despite poor natural reproduction. Rivers like the Chester and Choptank are heavily stocked annually with juvenile bass to supplement natural reproduction. In 2007, over 40,000 bass hatched at the Unicorn Hatchery were stocked into the Choptank and Chester Rivers. Weekly sampling was conducted on each river to monitor survival and growth of these individuals. Currently, the Chester and Choptank are providing decent bass fishing, but numbers of bass in both systems have not yet recovered from their historic lows in 2003. Relasing FishWith continued stocking and monitoring, we are confident that we can re-establish both fisheries to their former levels.

Each year, our staff enhances our public impoundments by deploying fish habitat structures. The structures are made from recycled Christmas trees and concrete blocks, and deployed into our impoundments on a 3-year rotational basis. In 2007, 25 structures were sunk into Smithville Lake and Stemmers Run Reservoir. Our electro-fishing surveys have shown that bass and panfish have quite an affinity for them.

With increasing development pressures, it is our job to monitor and protect the water quality of our streams. Most are unaware that Chesapeake Bay’s health truly starts with those little tributaries that many of us cross during our daily commutes, but largely ignore. In 2007, Eastern Regional Staff preformed environmental evaluations of streams in several areas slated to be impacted proposed developments. Some streams contained small, wild, brown trout populations indicating good water quality. Results of these surveys are reported to Maryland Department of the Environment so they can be protected.


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