Big smallies and lunker largemouths are ready to strike your offerings on the free-flowing waters of the Monocacy River and Conococheague and Big Pipe creeks. (April 2008)
Photo by Rod Cochran.
Spring has arrived across the Old Line State. Water temperatures are rising, and as each day passes, the bass are becoming hungrier and more aggressive. At this time of the year Maryland anglers are wise to tap into some excellent bass fishing.
In the densely populated Capital Beltway area, fishing opportunities include a number of well-known lakes, reservoirs and large rivers. But instead, try one of these smaller waterways that are easily accessed and receive less fishing pressure, yet are loaded with big smallies and lunker largemouths.
Here are three top picks to consider for this spring.
The wild and scenic Monocacy River offers some of the best riverine bass angling that Maryland has to offer. The Monocacy originates near the Pennsylvania border in northwest Carroll County, and flows 58 miles to the Potomac River near Dickerson.
Its winding journey, east of the Catoctin Mountains, cuts through the center of Maryland's fertile farmlands, open fields and beautiful forested areas.
Stream biologist John Mullican of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports that smallmouth reproduction on the Monocacy was good in 2005, especially in its upper reaches north of Frederick. He believes that catch rates will continue to improve into 2008. Although smallies in the range of 10 to 16 inches are the norm, bigger-sized bass in excess of 18 inches are caught as well.
The uppermost reaches of the Monocacy can be reached from the Baltimore Beltway. Then travel north along I-795 until you pick up state Route (SR) 140 west. Several miles west of Taneytown, turn right onto Bullfrog Road and follow to the bridge, or continue on SR 140 to the river. Both access points provide excellent bank-fishing opportunities within a short walk of the bridge.
Also consider the several-mile stretch between SR 140 and Keysville-Frederick County Road.
From Taneytown, follow SR 194 west to pick up SR 77 north to the river. The lower 42-mile stretch from the SR 77 bridge east of Thurmont to the Potomac River is recognized as the Monocacy Water Trail by the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.
A detailed water-trail map and guide is available at no cost through the Community Commons conservation group. Call (301) 662-3000, or visit www.communitycommons.org.
This stretch of the river is commonly fished by canoe or kayak. But before planning a boating trip, check online the water levels at Jug Bridge with the U.S. Geological Survey gauge, which you can find online at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/md/nwis/rt/.
For adequate boating conditions, gauge height should be greater than 2.2 feet.
Many other points of access are located north, south and within the city of Frederick. Bank-fishing opportunities include areas above and below the concrete landing, or upstream towards the fork in the river.
From Biggs Ford Road, follow Dublin Road north and turn left onto Devilbiss Bridge Road. The boat ramp/access area lies west of the bridge. Fish downstream along the rocky ledges where the bass hold in the narrow, rocky pockets.
Farther along Dublin road, turn left onto Links Bridge Road just west of Woodsboro. A large, deep pool is located near the bridge.
The bass fishing is also exceptional upstream. In Woodsboro, follow SR 550 to Creagerstown Park to the boat/ramp access along Penterra Manor Lane Park, or north along Legore Bridge Road to the historic stone arch bridge. South of Frederick, boat access is located at Pine Cliff Park and along SR 355 at the Monocacy National Battlefield. Drive south on SR 85 and turn left onto Michaels Mill Road towards Buckeystown Park for more boat access.
The section of the river from Buckeystown Dam to the mouth is a catch-and-release bass fishing area.
Conococheague Creek is a typical free-flowing Appalachian stream that originates from sparkling headwaters in the rugged mountains of Franklin County, Penn.
The short 22-mile stretch in Maryland flows south of the Mason-Dixon Line into rural Washington County, following an erratic path that consists of a series of loops and turns. The creek eventually dumps into the Potomac River at Williamsport.
Conococheague Creek is similar to the Monocacy in the size of the bass harvested. According to biologist Mullican, bass reproduction rates in 2005 were also good along the Conococheague Creek, with improved catch rates expected in years to come.
To access the upper sections of the creek from Baltimore, take I-70 west to exit 24 and drive north on SR 63. At the intersection with SR 58, bear left along the roundabout and head west for several miles to the creek. Limited parking access is found here, and the short, steep descent to the creek is poorly marked.
Alternatively from SR 58, turn left onto Shinham Road and follow for several miles to pick up SR 494 west. Traveling west of the bridge, turn right onto Wishard Road to find numerous access points with good bank access. For the best smallmouth action, venture upstream from the point where the creek diverges from the old road into a heavily wooded area.
Also from SR 63, north of I-70, turn left onto U.S. Route 40 to the creek bridge. Good fishing can be found around the deep pools underneath the two bridges or upstream behind the racetrack. Farther north along SR 63, turn left onto Broadfording Road and travel approximately half a mile to the creek, where you'll find a small parking area on the south side of the bridge.
Or navigate precariously over the one-way bridge and travel one mile and turn left onto the narrow and poorly paved Cress Pond Road.
BIG PIPE CREEK
Historically, the Big Pipe Creek and southernmost hills served as a strategic outpost for Union General George G. Meade's aptly named Pipe Creek Line during the Civil War.
Today, Double Pipe Creek and its major tributary, Big Pipe Creek, are relatively unknown and underfished by springtime Maryland bass anglers
Big Pipe Creek wends its way slowly east to west through the rolling hills and lush valleys of picturesque north-central Carroll County. Originating near the outskirts of Westminster, it eventually merges with the Little Pipe Creek to form the greater Double Pipe Creek near the small town of Detour.
The Double Pipe curves westward for only a few miles to its confluence with the Monocacy River. Fishing along these creeks is mostly accessible by the bank for anglers wearing chest waders.
The average bass caught in these creeks are generally smaller in size than those from the Monocacy or Conococheague, but smallies in excess of 16 inches can be caught.
In the shallower, uppermost reaches of the Big Pipe, good bass fishing spots are difficult to find.
Better places to fish begin west of Taneytown. From the Baltimore Beltway (I-695), travel along I-795 north to pick up SR 140 west and follow to Taneytown. Just south of Taneytown, SR 140 crosses the creek.
Traveling west of the creek along SR 140, follow the roundabout to pick up SR 832 south. Turn right onto Fesser Road, left onto Trevanion Road and then right onto the poorly paved Nusbaum Road.
Good bank-fishing opportunities begin at the pull-off where the road diverges from the creek. The deeper water created from backflow from the Otterdale Mill contains lunker spring bass. At Otterdale Mill, turn left and head south to Middleburg Road.
As you follow Middleburg Road west, several narrow country roads (Hapes Mill and Crouse Mill) diverge north to intersect the creek.
West of the small town of Middleburg, turn right onto SR194 and follow to the creek near Bruceville.
Underneath the bridge, and downstream through the small ripples and eddies at the rocky bend, are several must-try spots with excellent bank access. North of the SR 194 bridge, turn left onto Keysville-Bruceville Road and left onto Naylors Mill Road across the one-way creek bridge.
Finally, turn right onto SR 77 and follow to the town of Detour. Parking access to fish the Double Pipe Creek is located at the Double Pipe Creek Park in Detour. Good bass fishing is found about 100 yards upstream around the slow-flowing deeper section, created by the merger of Big Pipe and Little Pipe creeks.
To learn more about bass fishing in Maryland streams and rivers, click on "Fisheries" on the DNR's Web site, www.dnr.state.md.us.