The story of brook trout fishing in Maryland is one steeped with tradition and lore. From Meshach Browning's explorations of western Maryland to Lefty Kreh's more modern pursuits, celebrated anglers have been tempting these wily fish with rod and reel for generations and although these fish may be lacking in stature relative other gamefish, none can compare to their physical beauty. Vermiculations of gold and olive green, fading into flanks of bright orange to blood red often leave even the most prosaic angler awestruck.
Brook trout are members of the salmonid family, which includes other fishes such as brown and rainbow trout and various species of salmon. However, brook trout are not actually a trout, but rather a charr. They typically inhabit only the most pristine bodies of water and thus, can be wonderful predictors of water quality and stream health.
In Maryland brook trout can be found from the Piedmont to the far western end of the state in Garrett County. Areas with high brook trout densities include the Gunpowder River watershed, the Catoctin Mountains between Hagerstown and Frederick, and on the Appalachian Plateau, west of Cumberland. More specifically, Garrett County is home to the highest density of brook trout streams, as well as the stronghold for brook trout in Maryland - the upper Savage River system. Anglers hoping to wet a line in pursuit of the cagey brook trout would be best served focusing in one of these areas.
Fishing for brook trout can be as simple as a worm and a hook on the old Zebco, or as complicated as a dry-dropper rig fished on an 8' Orvis fly rod. That is part of the beauty of brook trout; they don't typically discriminate among presentations! However, as eager as they can be to bite, if you don't pay attention to some simple details, hooking these fish can seem nearly impossible! Here are a few simple tips to get you started on right path to catching these little gems;
Once you know where to go, how to dress, and can make an accurate cast with your gear, it is time to choose your lure! For bait anglers, a #8 or #10 baitholder hook on 4 lb. test monofilament is a great setup. Tip that with a garden worm and you are well on your way! For folks who like to throw artificial lures on spinning tackle, inline spinners such as a Mepps, Rooster Tails, or Panther Martins are hard to beat, but small spoons or crankbaits will catch fish as well. Finally, for the fly anglers, a brook trout box is very simple. An assortment of black wooly buggers (#8-#12), some elk/deer hair caddis(#14-#16), and a few beadhead pheasant tail nymphs (#14-#18) will catch brook trout from Maine to Georgia!
Now is a great time to get out there in pursuit of brook trout in Maryland! After a few years of poor reproduction statewide, the last two have been above average. Thus, the upcoming season, and for a few years to come, there should be plenty of quality sized brook trout out there waiting for your lure! So get out there and challenge your angling skills on our only native salmonid! Just remember that these fish are as fragile as they are beautiful, so please use barbless hooks and handle the fish as little as possible if you intend to release them!
Good luck and tight lines!
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