Big Hunting Creek

Located in Frederick County

Big Hunting Creek

Physical/ Habitat Description - In spite of its name, Big Hunting Creek can be characterized as a small, freestone stream. Just ten feet wide in the headwaters above Cunningham Falls and seventeen to twenty feet in width at the lower park boundary, anglers will find varied habitat shaded by large hemlocks and hardwoods throughout. Shallow riffles, small plunge pools, long runs and ample pocket-water with many large boulders continually challenge fly casters. The upper one-third of the tailwater has a gentle gradient with slow runs and a meandering channel. Further downstream the gradient increases with an abundance of plunge pools and pocket water. A local group, Friends of Big Hunting Creek, has installed several rock and log structures aimed at improving holding water for trout during low flows. Some anglers, however, argue the controversial artificial structures detract from the natural surroundings. Whatever your preference in small stream habitat or whether you prefer wild or stocked trout, Big Hunting Creek has something to offer most fly fishermen.

Fish Species - Big Hunting Creek supports one of the strongest populations of wild brown trout in the State. Brown trout are found throughout the watershed from the tiny headwaters downstream through the town of Thurmont. Although some brown trout will reach fifteen inches, the majority are less than twelve. Wild brook trout are limited to Hauver Branch and Big Hunting Creek upstream of Cunningham Falls Reservoir; no trout are stocked in these areas.

Two organizations, the Potomac Valley Fly Fishermen and the Maryland Fly Anglers, raise or purchase rainbow and brook trout, respectively, and stock the Big Hunting Creek tailwater each spring as part of the Co-operative Trout Rearing Program. Many of these hatchery fish will weigh more than a pound offering anglers variety and the chance to catch a large trout.

Restrictions - Big Hunting Creek and its tributaries within Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain National Park are restricted to catch-and-release, fly-fishing-only restrictions. Please consult the Maryland Freshwater Sport Fishing Guide for details.

History - Perhaps no other Maryland trout stream has as much history as Big Hunting Creek. Big Hunting Creek was one of the first streams in the State to be stocked with trout. It was also the first stream to be designated a fly-fishing-only stream and in the early 1960's became the State's first Catch-and-Return Trout Fishing Area. Big Hunting Creek has been popular with angling Presidents, noted authors, fly fishing enthusiasts and park visitors who enjoy viewing trout in a natural mountain setting. A streamside memorial to the late Joe Brooks can be found across from the National Park Visitor Center.

The entire stream within the State and Federal parks was declared a Catch-and-Return, Fly-Fishing-Only Trout Fishing Area in 1974. All stocking upstream of Cunningham Falls Reservoir was discontinued in 1975 to encourage the development of the wild trout populations. Initial efforts to manage the wild trout populations within the tailwater began in 1977 with the reduction of the hatchery trout allocation to fifteen-hundred annually and the discontinuance of all brown trout stocking. A comprehensive fishery management plan was developed during 1993, a cooperative effort between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Cunningham Falls State Park, Catoctin Mountain National Park and various publics who share an interest in the welfare of Big Hunting Creek. Currently, the annual stocking allocation is a total of one-thousand brook and rainbow trout.

Contact Us - Comments and questions regarding the fishery management of Hunting Creek can be directed to:

Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Fishing and Boating Services
Lewistown Work Center
10932 Putman Road, Thurmont, Maryland 21788

State and Federal Park information can be found by contacting:
Cunningham Falls State Park visitor information: 301-271-7574
Catoctin Mountain National Park visitor information: 301-663-9388