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6 Mid-Atlantic Family Fishing Vacations

6 Mid-Atlantic Family Fishing Vacations

No matter where you live in New Jersey, Maryland or Delaware, a fun-filled family vacation is close at hand. Here are six places to consider this season!

Photo by Chester Moore Jr.

By J.B. Kasper

In this third year of the new century, life in America has changed a lot since all the hoopla over Y2K and the dawn of the new millennium. The events of the fall of 2001 made a big difference in how the average families go about their vacations, and more and more families are opting for the closer to home holiday. Likewise, staying at campgrounds and out-of-the-way resorts makes a lot more sense for folks who are looking for the security and togetherness that a family fishing vacation offers.

One of the nice things about living in the Mid-Atlantic states is that there are plenty of vacation areas that offer great fishing, both freshwater and saltwater, which are also close to all types of alternate activities that the whole family can enjoy.

The scenic Pocomoke River is the setting for the Pocomoke River State Forest (SF) and State Park (SP), including the Shad Landing and Milburn Landing areas. It consists of 14,753 wooded acres in the southwestern section of Worcester County. Located between Snow Hill and Pocomoke City, this area is famous for its stand of loblolly pines and cypress swamps, which border the Pocomoke River.

The Pocomoke River (Pocomoke is an Indian term for black water) originates in the Great Cypress Swamp in Delaware and flows southwesterly 45 miles to the Chesapeake Bay. The park offers a variety of activities, including biking trails, boat launch, boat rental, camp fire programs, campsites, camp store, dump station, fishing, canoeing, hiking trails, electrical hookups, picnic areas, playgrounds, picnic shelters, swimming pool and visitor center.

When it comes to angling, the park offers both freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities. The Pocomoke River and nearby creeks are some top backwater areas. (A Chesapeake Bay Sports Fishing License is required to fish the Pocomoke River and nearby creeks.) A "Fish for Fun" pond is located across from the marina parking lot and requires a freshwater license. The pond is part of Maryland's put-and-take trout program. Pocomoke Park is only a short hop from the waters of Chincoteague Bay, as well as Assateague Island National Seashore. Likewise, the park is also within reach of Chesapeake Bay.

Camping at the park is at two sites. Shad Landing at Pocomoke River SP has 191 campsites. Each of the year-round campsites is equipped with a picnic table and fire ring. Bathhouses have hot showers, flush toilets and a laundry tub. Some campsites have electric hookups, and a dumping station is available for sewage and potable water.

Milburn Landing has 32 campsites, some with electric. Amenities are limited at Milburn Landing. Pets are allowed, and a dump station is available. There is also youth group camping at both areas, and there are 12 mini-cabins available, four at Milburn Landing and eight at Shad Landing. Swimming pools at both are open for weekend use on Memorial Day and daily beginning mid-June.


The park is located along the banks of the Pocomoke River, with the Shad Landing area 3.5 miles south of Snow Hill near U.S. Route 113. The Milburn Landing area is seven miles northeast of Pocomoke City via state routes (SRs) 364 or 12. For more information and camping reservations, write Pocomoke River State Forest and Park, 3461 Worcester Hwy., Snow Hill, MD 21863 or call (410) 632-2566.

This western Maryland park, located in the Catoctin Mountains, is known for its history and scenic beauty, as well as its 78-foot waterfall. The waterfall is located one-half mile from the lake in the Houck Area via the Falls Trail. The park came about in 1954, when Catoctin Mountain area was divided into two parks, divided by SR 77.

The northern 5,000 acres of Cunningham Falls SP is now Catoctin Mountain Park, a unit of the National Park Service, while the remaining 5,000-acre section was named Cunningham Falls State Park. The two main usage parts of the park are the William Houck and the Manor areas.

Anglers can enjoy some of the best stream fishing found in western Maryland. Big Hunting Creek is close by to SR 77. This creek is a catch-and-release trout stream limited to artificial fly-fishing only. Conventional fly-fishing tackle and artificial flies must be used. Little Hunting Creek, which is located in the Manor Area, is also a catch-and-release trout stream limited to the use of artificial lures and flies only. Spinning gear may be used.

In addition to the streams, Hunting Creek Lake is a put-and-take trout area. Along with the trout in the lake, there are bass, bluegills, sunfish, crappies and catfish. A boat ramp is located off Catoctin Hollow Road. Private craft may be launched for a small service charge. Gasoline motors are prohibited; electric motors of less than 1 horsepower or 33 pounds of thrust may be used. During the summer, canoes and rowboats are available for rental. A Maryland freshwater fishing license is required to fish all the above waters.

When it comes to family fun, the Catoctin Iron Furnace Historical Site is an iron furnace that was in operation from 1776 until 1903. Much of the historic site is accessible. The site is located on SR 806, three miles south of Thurmont. Swimming is permitted in three designated areas of Hunting Creek Lake. Lifeguards are on duty during posted hours from Memorial Day to Labor Day. A variety of hiking trails run through the park, which includes areas of Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain National Park.

When it comes to camping, the park offers two camping areas: the Houck Area with 140 campsites situated in five camping loops and nine camper cabins, and the Manor Area with 31 campsites. Bathhouses with hot showers are conveniently located in each camping loop. Each campsite is equipped with a table, fire ring, lantern post and parking area. Some electric hookup sites are available in both campgrounds. Four camper cabins are located in Catoctin Creek Circle and five are located in Deer Spring Circle in the Houck Area.

The Manor Area is three miles south of Thurmont, directly off U.S. Route 15. The Houck Area is west of Thurmont. Follow SR 77 west, four miles to Catoctin Hollow Road. For information and campsite reservations, write to Cunningham Falls State Park, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd., Thurmont, MD 21788; call (301) 271-7574 or (888) 432-2267.

Trap Pond State Park in Sussex County, Delaware, has 1,000 acres and 1,000 reasons to visit. According to administrative specialist Cathy Nash, Trap Pond SP has 142 campsites, eight cam

ping cabins and two Yurtz . . . Monongalian-style round tents.

Anglers have excellent freshwater fishing opportunities in Trap Pond and the nearby Trussum and Raccoon ponds. Both boat and shoreline fishing is available and these ponds offer decent numbers of largemouth bass, pickerel, crappies and bluegills to test anglers' skills.

The three ponds are shallow, so surface fishing is generally good during the summer months. These ponds are prime targets for early-morning and late-afternoon plug action. One of the streams that flows into Trap Pond has been marked as a wilderness canoe trail for those who wish to explore the swamp's interior; fishing from a canoe is an excellent way to sample what these waters have to offer. Excellent boat launches provide good access.

In addition to these natural attractions, the park offers a variety of recreational activities. The Bald Cypress Nature Center features a variety of displays and programs, and picnic areas overlooking the pond and three pavilions are available. Volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and playgrounds are also available.

Bird watching is also a popular activity at the park, which has a variety of feathered friends to view including blue herons, owls, hummingbirds, warblers, bald eagles and even the elusive pileated woodpecker. There are also various water activities. Rowboats, pedal boats, surf bikes, canoes and kayaks can be rented during the summer season. The park interpreter hosts narrated pontoon boat tours on weekends and holidays, Memorial Day through Labor Day.

For information, write Trap Pond State Park, R.D. 2, Box 331, Laurel, DE 19956 or call (302) 875-5153.

Cape Henlopen SP's 3,143 acres include more than four miles of open shoreline. If you're looking for a spot to get in some saltwater fishing, then here is one of the finest places along the East Coast. Cape Henlopen SP is located at the northern tip of Delaware's coastline where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Each year its beaches attract thousands of visitors who enjoy ocean swimming, sunbathing and surf-fishing. Both ocean and bay beaches provide excellent fishing from the sand, and the park is only a short ride from party and charter boats that fish Delaware Bay and the ocean. There are also fine launch facilities that offer access to the bay for anglers who choose to fish the bay from their own boats.

Activities at the park include two designated swimming beaches with lifeguard patrols between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. The northern swimming area also features a modern bathhouse with showers, changing rooms and a food concession. In addition, there are picnic and pavilion facilities, an 18-pole disc golf course, basketball courts, outdoor concerts, seaside seining, hiking and bird watching.

Annual events include the Kite Festival, the Halloween Spook Trail and other recreational programs. The Seaside Nature Center offers environmental education programs and recreational activities year 'round. There are marine aquariums and displays, along with an auditorium for audio-visual programs. The park is only a short hop from the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach and the outlet malls.

For more information, write to Cape Henlopen State Park, 42 Cape Henlopen Dr., Lewes, DE 19958 or call (302) 645-8983.

Once the home of the rich from Philadelphia and New York, who spent their summers in the picturesque mountains of the Appalachians in grand resorts and hotels that catered to their every needs, the Delaware Water Gap is and has always been one of the most scenic areas along the East Coast. All of the grand hotels that once graced the mountainsides along the Pennsylvania shorelines of the Delaware River have long since crumbled to ruin; however, the natural scenic beauty of this region is now visited by millions of people throughout the year.

During the 1970s, much of the land that borders the river was bought up for the purpose of building the Tock's Island Dam, which after lengthy study and much protest from Garden State residents was cancelled. The land, which was in federal hands, was deemed a natural treasure and turned over to the National Park Service and now is part of the Water Gap National Recreational Area. The area is also part of the National Scenic and Wild Rivers Act that protects it from development for future generations.

Fishermen are sure to enjoy the world-class smallmouth fishing that the river provides, which is highlighted by super surface fishing on the numerous flats and shallow-water areas in the region during the summer months. The smallmouth fishing can really heat up if the shad, which migrate up the river every year, have a good spawn and the river is full of shad fry.

A fair number of muskies and walleyes are present in the river, as well as an excellent panfish population. In addition, there is hike-in fishing at Sunfish Pond and Mountain Lake, and trout fishing in the Flat Brook and the Paulinskill rivers (stocked fish).

There are several boat launches located throughout the area (at the Gap, Poxono, Bushkill, Worthington and Dingmans Ferry), along with several canoe and primitive access sites. Shoreline fishing is also excellent for anglers who don't mind hoofing it.

The main camping area is at Worthington SP, which consists of 69 tent and trailer sites with picnic tables and fire rings. It is open April 1 through Dec. 31. Campsites 1-77 have modern toilets and showers. There are also three group campsites with a capacity of 35 each. Picnic tables, fire rings and modern toilets are present.

There is also camping along the Appalachian Trail for hikers, and camping for canoeists along the shorelines of the river and on islands designated as camping areas. In addition, there are a multitude of bed and breakfast inns, motels and resorts found throughout the region.

The area also abounds with exciting things to do for the entire family. The Appalachian Trail passes through Worthington to Stokes State Forest and High Point State Park. Some of the most rugged terrain and splendid views of northern New Jersey are found in Worthington State Forest.

A rocky and sometimes steep trail follows Dunnfield Creek from the Delaware River to Mount Tammany or hikers may choose to follow the trail to Sunfish Pond, one of the most popular sites in the area. Millions of years in the making, the pond was carved out by glacial forces during the last ice age and is one of 14 rock-basin lakes between the Delaware Water Gap and the end of Kittatinny Ridge. A trail circles the pond, and it has many boulders and openings for resting and observation. Located within or close to the area are several historic sites, a visitor's center, horseback riding and several activity parks. The area is also only a short hop from a couple of outlet malls.

For information on Worthington State Park and the Gap, write HC 62, Box 2, Columbia, NJ 07832 or call (908) 841-9575.

If camping is not your bag, there are still several places where you can combine a family vacation with some good fishing. One of the top spots for such an endeavor is in New Jersey's Atlantic Highlands. Located at the northern tip of New Jersey, where the Hudson River flows into the Atlantic Ocean via Raritan Bay, its recreational fishing ports are some of the busiest in the Northeast.

Summer visitors will find excellent fishing for blues, fluke, weakfish, stripers and a variety of bottom-feeding species such as tog, sea bass and porgies.

While there are no close by state-run or private campgrounds, there are myriad hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns and other accommodations, as well as house rentals in the surrounding beachfront communities.

One of the major attractions of the area is Gateway National Recreation Area. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are a couple of the more notable attractions of the area. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse and the Twin Lights at Navesink are two points of interest. The beaches of Sandy Hook were at one time the proving grounds for the artillery used by U.S. military forces, until the proving grounds were moved to Aberdeen, Maryland. Some of the old shore batteries are still present.

There is also a museum as well as a nature center. Several nature trails offer insight to the park's past and present ecology. Also located close by are all the sights of New York City. Lots of folks visit just to enjoy the beautiful view of New York City from across the bay.

There you have it - a look at some of the top family fishing vacations along the Mid-Atlantic coast. In a time when families are looking to stay closer together and do more things as a family unit, these suggestions could be some of the best ways to achieve this goal.

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