Now's the time for enjoying our states' finest trout fishing on Little Falls, White Clay Creek and three other top choices. Is one of these streams near you?
After three years of the worst drought in recent history, the Mid-Atlantic region was hit with two years of torrential rains. Streams that had dried up to the point where they were nothing more than a damp gulch have been miraculously transformed into clear, cold rivulets supporting a host of aquatic species.
'Tis the time for trout anglers to become excited, as the new season is upon us. Flyfishermen and bait-dunkers alike will be out in force after their favorite quarry: stocked rainbow trout. Photo by Tom Evans.
Keep in mind, however, this transformation did not occur overnight. Some streams were so devastated by the drought that much of these waterways’ aquatic insect populations have disappeared. When water tables rose to near normal levels, newly stocked and re-established fish populations had little or nothing to eat.
“Last September, we stocked golden rainbow trout in Deer Creek, the Patapsco River at Avalon, Daniels and Sykesville, and some of the southern region and Eastern Shore ponds,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries biologist Steve Early. “We were only able to procure about 700 fish this time. But we have had a real positive response so far; therefore, we intend to put this into our normal production cycle.
“We also stocked some exceptionally large 3- to 5-pound fish that we procured from White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery in West Virginia. These were rainbows, and the hatchery said they may have some additional fish available later in the year. We will stock them in locations that are not frozen in and where we can get find good access for the tank truck. This will likely only amount to 500 to 700 fish, but that’s in additional to the 1,000 larger fish we stocked during September 2004. We expect to stock approximately 400,000 rainbows this spring, which is about the same number as the past few years.”
Similar to Maryland’s freshwater trout program, Delaware relies solely on funds derived from the sale of trout stamps to stock its trout streams. Delaware’s freshwater fisheries managers must provide First State anglers with adequate fishing opportunities within the confines of just a half-dozen streams — a difficult task at best.
And similar to Maryland, Delaware’s fisheries managers are also faced with the prospects of decreasing revenues from both state and federal sources. Rainbow, brown and brook trout are purchased from nearby hatcheries in Pennsylvania, and then stocked in selected streams within two weeks of the spring opening date. Additional stocking also takes place during the four-week period following the initial stocking. Since Delaware stream temperatures are marginal, at best, for trout survival in the summer, stocked fish are meant to be taken.
The dean of Maryland’s freshwater trout program is fisheries biologist Charlie Gougeon. Over the years he has surveyed every designated trout stream in the state. Additionally, he is constantly evaluating other bodies of water in hopes of creating additional fishing opportunities.
When asked about the quality of the Patapsco’s freshwater trout fishery and what anglers can anticipate catching during the upcoming season, he said, “They should have an interesting spring season. Back in September, we were able to obtain a number of very large broodfish, rainbows that we purchased from the Federal Fish Hatchery in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. We stocked these in the river, along with our normal fall stocking of rainbows, which were also pretty nice size. So when spring rolls around, if the weather is relatively dry, anglers can anticipate some fantastic fishing.”
Gougeon said a number of exceptionally large trout were caught by anglers fishing this stream last fall, a time when most outdoorsmen are thinking seriously about hunting.
“We have a great trout fishery from Sykesville downstream all the way to the river’s mouth. We have divided the stream into several management segments, which is beneficial to a host of different types of freshwater trout anglers. The very top of the stream is put-and-take fishing, while at the very bottom it’s catch-and-release. In the middle we have a two-fish-per-day creel limit. In that two-fish-per-day area we’ve attracted a huge number of flyfishermen.
The biologist agrees that this particular stream has undergone an incredible transformation from what it was 40 years ago when textile mills lined the waterway’s banks and discharged huge quantities of pollutants. At the time, the stream varied in color from light green to gray, underwater visibility in Patapsco State Park was zero, no fish existed in the Avalon Area and there were warning signs posted along both sides of the stream pertaining to various pollutants and disease problems.
In 1972, Hurricane Agnes changed all of this. The storm, which was considered among the worst to hit Maryland, dumped nearly 20 inches of rain over a four-day period. The entire Patapsco Valley was inundated by the resulting floodwaters, which at one point were estimated to be more than 20 feet over the river’s banks. When the water finally receded, nothing of the mills other than their concrete foundations were still in place.
Hurricane Agnes scoured the stream’s silt-choked bottom, flushing out most of the imbedded pollutants and restored the waterway’s habitat to what it was centuries earlier. The entire bottom is now a maze of huge boulders resting comfortably in pools consisting of stone and gravel beds —ideal habitat for trout. The mills were never rebuilt. Today, this particular stream provides outstanding recreational fishing and boating opportunities.
Deer Creek, in Harford County, is among the most popular of all designated trout streams in Maryland’s central region. Deer Creek provides excellent access for anglers, particularly in the confines of Rocks State Park, which is where much of the stocking takes place. Within the park, nearly 2.5 miles of the stream are accessible and parallel Saint Claire Bridge Road and state Route (SR) 24. Designated parking areas can be found at various intervals along both roads; however, some locations are very limited and can accommodate only a few cars. Park rangers will have cars towed away that are parked illegally, and no
-parking signs are posted in those locations.
While trout are stocked at locations where DNR’s tank trout can gain access, it’s important to know that these fish quickly disperse over a large area within a few days of stocking. Granted, there will be larger concentrations of fish in the stream’s deeper, slow-moving pools, and many of them are situated just a few paces from the road.
However, after several days of feasting on huge quantities of salmon eggs, Velveeta cheese, corn, night crawlers, garden worms and commercially prepared trout baits, these fish seem to develop severe cases of lockjaw. Consequently, anglers who make the effort to hike to locations well away from the roadway usually can enjoy good to excellent catches of chunky rainbows long after the opening day crowds have subsided.
“Deer Creek is a fantastic stream and should provide incredible fishing opportunities this spring, especially if we don’t have lots of run-off and flooding during the initial stocking session,” Gougeon said. “Deer Creek was among those stocked last fall with some really nice rainbows, fish that will carry over to spring and be totally acclimated to their surroundings.”
Another highly productive segment of the stream is the stretch just downstream of the Eden Mill Dam. While some of the stream passes through private property, anglers fishing the confines of Eden Mill Park and a few roadside locations downstream will find good to excellent prospects. Many of these fish will likely be carryover rainbows, fish weighing up to 2-plus pounds.
Downstream of SR 165 is where Deer Creek increases in both size and flow. Tributaries such as Little Deer Creek, Wet Stone Branch and Rock Hollow Branch, all of which are spring fed and ice cold, provide the stream with an influx of clear, cold water, thereby improving the stream’s habitat and helping to extend the season by months after the initial and subsequent stockings.
Additionally, access to the stream in this stretch involves a pretty good hike across marshy fields and through dense woodlands. When spring turns to early summer, and the stream is deserted by all but a handful of anglers, these pools and riffles will continue to provide good to excellent fishing opportunities for those who are willing to walk a half-mile or so to the stream.
“Little Falls has an excellent population of wild brown trout, some of which are right nice in size,” Gougeon said. “The fish can be caught anywhere from the stream’s mouth to its headwaters, and in some areas the catches have been outstanding for wild trout. The Parkton area has good numbers of wild fish, and while they’re kept thinned out to some degree, you will find them almost any time of year. These are beautiful fish.”
Little Falls has always been popular with anglers not only from central Maryland, but also from southern Pennsylvania as well.
“Some of the most reliable stocking volunteer help is from a group of older fellows who come down every year and help stock the streams. Additionally, we have excellent access for stocking Little Falls along the North Central Railroad hiking trail. It provides ideal access for anglers, it’s all publicly owned land, and you can ride your bike to where you wish to fish. For us, it’s great because we can drive our five-ton stocking truck along the trail as well and easily stock the entire stream with ease.”
White Clay Creek
White Clay Creek is among the state’s most popular trout streams, and rightfully so. From the Pennsylvania line to the downstream side of Paper Mill Road, it is a put-and-take fishery where anglers can use any form of fishing tackle they desire. In this particular stretch, everything from ultralight spinning gear to fly rods can be seen in the hands of opening day anglers fishing this segment of stream. They’ll be elbow to elbow in some areas, while just a short distance away, you’ll see pools where only one or two individuals will be fishing. All of these anglers hope to catch their six-fish limits of 10- to 12-inch rainbows, fish that were stocked just a few weeks prior to opening day.
From the point 25 yards above the Thompson Bridge at Chambers Rock Road to the Pennsylvania line, it is designated as a restricted trout stream for fly-fishing only. In this particular segment, anglers are limited to a four-fish daily bag limit, and only artificial flies with single-point hooks may be used. Additionally, there may not be more than two flies on a line at one time. The use of any metallic, wooden, plastic or rubber spinners, spoons, lures, plugs or natural bait is prohibited.
Christina Creek, which actually originates in Maryland, provides First State anglers with nearly five miles of trout stream, much of which flows through parklands. Opening day crowds can be hectic, especially at Rahway Park, which is just south of SR 273. Christina Creek flows downstream to SR 896.
Throngs of opening day anglers will line both sides of the stream, most dunking chunks of Velveeta cheese, small marshmallows, piece of yellow corn and brightly colored salmon eggs with various flavorings added. The stream is fairly narrow; however, there are several pools that are relatively deep and interspersed with short stretches of swift-flowing shallows.
Downstream, Persimmon Run Creek flows into Christina Creek near the head of Rittenhouse Park, located off Route 896 on West Chestnut Hill Road. When opening day’s weather is on the mild side, you will see large numbers of anglers just a short cast from SR 896.
Ironically, two weeks after the initial stocking of Delaware’s designated trout streams, the waterways are nearly deserted. By that time the white perch run is underway at the base of milldam spillways, and striped bass action is just getting underway in Delaware Bay. Consequently, anglers opting to wait a few days after the season opener will find quality trout fishing. And, best of all, you won’t have to rub elbows with hundreds of other fishermen.
For more information and specific stocking schedules, visit Delaware’s Web site at dnrec.state.de.us/dnrec. You’ll find a stocking schedule and list of Maryland streams at www.dnr.state.md.us; click on fisheries.