Small-Lake Big-Bass Destinations In Maryland

You'll find fine bassing on Johnson's Pond, Wheatley Lake, plus one other pick, in the Free State. Is one near you? (June 2009)

There is certainly no lack of good bass fishing in Maryland. With huge reservoirs like Deep Creek, Lock Raven and Liberty, just to name a few, Free State bass anglers have plenty of waters from which to choose. A trip to a big reservoir is not always in the cards, though, especially in today's harsh economic times. These days, some of our state's smaller bass-producing waters are a lot more attractive to anglers. Likewise, the lure of a less-traveled waterway has always been enticing for serious bass fishermen. Let's take a look at three less-known smaller waters that can serve up some decent bassing action without all of the crowds.

JOHNSON'S POND
Johnson's Pond, in Wicomico County, has an interesting history that dates back to colonial times when it was used for waterpower for a mill. Originally a lot smaller, once the mill was no longer needed, modern technology found a new use for the lake. With the advent of electric power, the lake and its dam were converted to generate hydro­electric power. The original dam held out until 1933 when it washed out. By 1936, a newer, better-constructed dam was built a little farther upstream. It is still standing till this day.

Johnson Pond's 105 acres are shallow in nature with a maximum depth of 11 feet; however, the pond is the largest impoundment along the Eastern Shore. The pond also has several tributary streams that feed it. These streams account for some good early-season bass action, as well as a good spot to look for bass during the first part of the fall.

The north fork of the lake is deeper and has some excellent bass-holding structure, including fallen trees, stumps, docks and vegetation. In addition to the natural structure that the lake has, Christmas trees have been placed in the lake to enhance its fish-producing capabilities. Most of the artificial structure has been placed off the old swimmers beach, which makes for some good plastic bait fishing, as well as a good place to look for crappies during the summer and late season.

The eastern shore of the main part of the lake is lined with steep banks and plenty of fallen trees. This is a good place for trying plastic baits. The waters around the timber also provide anglers some good early-morning surface action. You'll also find some good fishing along the western side of the lake where fallen trees, brush and private docks make up the bulk of the fish-holding structures.

Early-season fishing in Johnson's is prime time for using spinnerbaits and swimming plugs in the shallows, as this is the first place to come alive with bass in the spring.

Once the heat of summer arrives, you will find some excellent topwater fishing while using constant-motion lures such as buzzbaits and Jitterbugs fished after dark, and on poppers and darters in the open-water pockets early and late in the day. Fishing weedless rigged plastics in and around vegetation is also a good bet, especially during the summer.

Johnson's Pond is a "Special Bass Management Area," and produces some hefty size bass on an annual basis. With an excellent forage population made up of gizzard shad, golden shiners and chub suckers, the pond does produce its share of big bass. Johnson's Pond has no horsepower limitation, and has some good shoreline access, as well.

WHEATLEY LAKE
One of the best-kept bass-fishing secrets in Maryland is Wheatley Lake. Located in Charles County just outside La Plata near the bottom of the state, the 75-acre lake possesses some of the best water quality of any of Maryland's many bass fishing hotspots. In addition, the lake has an excellent forage population that keeps the bass nice and fat the year 'round.

Wheatley Lake comes under the jurisdiction of the Charles County Department of Recreation and was constructed as one of three flood- protection impoundments. Wheatley (which is also known to local fishermen as Gilbert Run) was constructed as a multi-use body of water. The lake and surrounding area is used as a recreation facility and for fishing, as well as a flood-control basin. The lake gets its name from Wheatley Run, which is its main source of water. It is a part of the Gilbert Swamp Run drainage tributary on the Potomac River drainage.

Most of the lake's 75 acres are shallow and are rimmed with plenty of shoreline, which makes it ideal for weedless rigged lizards, worms and other plastic baits. Buzzbaits retrieved across and around the aquatic growth will bring some savage hits, especially early and late in the day during the warmwater season.

Because of its shallow nature, Wheatley is another water that warms quickly in the spring to provide excellent early-season fishing. A few warm, breezy days in late May or early June and the bass will really turn on, smacking swimming plugs, spinnerbaits, spinners and live bait.

By the time the spawning is over, the lake's vegetation is already thicker. That's when the early-morning surface plug fishing begins to come into its own on the lake. Once the water temperature tops out in the 80s to stay, it's a topwater bite around the vegetation early and late in the day, and a weedless plastic bait affair during the daytime.

One of the keys to fishing the lake during the summer months is the amount of rainfall the lake receives. Because the lake is a flood-control water, rainfall will lift the vegetation and open plenty of holes that are ideal for popping and darting plugs, as well as plastic baits cast onto the vegetation and pulled off into the open water. Frog- and lizard-type baits are ideal for this type of fishing.

The deepest water in the lake is found around the dam. Here, too, water levels dictated by the rainfall have an effect on how you fish the area. Should water levels be elevated, crankbaits slowly retrieved, weighted swimming plugs and jig-minnow combinations will give you the best results.

STEMMERS RUN RESERVOIR
Stemmers Run Reservoir, known to locals as Pearce Creek Lake, offers anglers 90 acres of surface water in Cecil County. The impoundment is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. The lake is incorporated into the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Lands, which were contracted to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by the Department of the Army in 1968. The contract is slated to run through 2018, at which time the agreement will be reviewed.

The DNR's Freshwater Fisheries Division manages the lake for fishing, with monies to manage the surrounding lands, as well as the lake coming from a combination of fishing licenses and federal aid.

The lake has a maximum depth of 6 feet, with much of its shallow-water edges covered by reeds and vegetation. In re

cent years, artificial fish structures have been placed in the deeper water of the lake to enhance the lake's fish-holding habitat.

The lake is managed for largemouth bass and bluegills, and the state has also stocked channel catfish. The lake also has a decent crappie population, as well as different species of carp and catfish. One of the top attributes of the lake is its excellent forage base, which is made up of golden and spottail shiners and gizzard shad.

Like the previously mentioned bodies of water, the lake's shallow nature provides excellent early-season fishing on spinnerbaits, swimming plugs and live-lined minnows. Knowing how to fish heavy cover is a must, with weedless rigged plastics making up the bulk of the warmwater fishing, along with early and late day topwater action. Because the lake's water is off-color most of the time, scented baits will give you the edge.

A special permit is required to fish the reservoir. Camping and swimming are prohibited. Information about the permit can be obtained by contacting the Gwynnbrook Wildlife and Heritage Service Office at (410) 356-9272.

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