Upper Potomac River Smallmouth Bass Stocking Program

The upper Potomac River supports Maryland’s most popular smallmouth bass fishery. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Freshwater Fisheries Program monitors the status of the fishery through annual juvenile and adult monitoring surveys. Recent recruitment surveys have shown juvenile smallmouth bass numbers to be below long-term average values. High river flows in late spring (May-June)have been shown to be a major factor contributing to this reduction in juvenile numbers. High river flows during and immediately after smallmouth bass spawn can scour nests, displace fry, and limit juvenile growth and survival. Elevated spring flows experienced in 2016-2018 have resulted in consecutive years of poor recruitment and low year-class strength. While the number of larger adult smallmouth bass has remained steady, there are concerns about declining catch rates after multiple poor year-classes of young fish.

In a management action to try and improve juvenile recruitment, the Freshwater Fisheries Program is planning a pilot smallmouth bass supplemental stocking program on the upper Potomac River beginning in the spring of 2019. Supplemental stocking of hatchery reared juvenile fish can be effective in helping boost year-class strength and contribute to the overall fishery. A stocking plan has been developed to collect a small number of adult smallmouth bass this spring and move them to a state hatchery for spawning. The resulting fingerlings and adult brood fish will be stocked back into the river in sections that have experienced recent low levels of recruitment and juvenile survival. Monitoring will be conducted to determine growth, survival, and distribution of stocked juvenile smallmouth bass as well as their contribution to the fishery.

All parts of the pilot project will be documented and posted online for the public and anglers to follow. More details on the smallmouth bass supplemental stocking program are available in a project plan outline and slide presentation​.

If you have additional questions or would like to provide feedback to the upper Potomac River smallmouth bass supplemental stocking plan, please complete the Potomac River Smallmouth Bass Survey​.


May 20, 2019​

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After 6 weeks in the prepared ponds at Manning Fish Hatchery, staff saw very limited spawning activity from the adult smallmouth bass.  Fish were seen grouped together in the water but not near any of the prepared spawning beds or boxes on the pond bottom.  Last week hatchery staff seined the pond to check for smallmouth bass fingerlings.  None were collected in the nets.  Unfortunately, even with the appropriate water temperature and substrate, spawning did not occur.  As a result we will not have any smallmouth bass fingerlings to stock into the upper Potomac River this year.  We knew this was one of the possible outcomes with this project.  Ponds conditions were good, but for whatever reason the adult smallmouth bass did not cooperate.  

The adult smallmouth bass were transported back to the upper Potomac River and released at the Brunswick Family Campground boat ramp.  We do appreciate everyone who has helped and supported this test run for smallmouth bass production.  There has been strong interest from a large group of anglers.  Efforts will continue to try and improve smallmouth bass juvenile numbers in the river.  Freshwater Fisheries is discussing other hatchery options that can be tried moving forward.  


Smallmouth Bass Tournament​ - April 1, 2019

A smallmouth bass tournament was held at Brunswick on Saturday March 30 to help with the collection of adult fish for the 2019 supplemental stocking project. Nineteen boats entered the event and were successful in catching over 70 smallmouth bass from that section of the upper Potomac River. Following the tournament weigh-in, Maryland Department of Natural Resources staff selected a portion of the catch for use in the hatchery. A total of 40 adult smallmouth bass (15 females, 25 males) were transported to Manning Hatchery in southern Maryland to serve as broodstock for the project. The smallmouth bass looked healthy, ranging in size from 12-20.7 inches. At the hatchery the smallmouth bass were transferred to a production pond prepared with gravel boxes and spawning substrate to acclimate to conditions prior to spawning. Following spawning, all of the adult smallmouth bass will be returned to the Potomac River at Brunswick. A very big thanks to all of the tournament anglers who participated in the adult broodstock collection.​ ​