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Spring Trout in Maryland-Delaware

Spring Trout in Maryland-Delaware

You'll be hard-pressed to find better trout angling than on the First State and Free State waters detailed here.

by Gary Diamond

In many areas of Maryland, particularly the western counties, it's still the dead of winter. Snow still blankets the towering mountains surrounding Deep Creek Lake. The Potomac River is swollen from melting snow, and some of the lakes and ponds at higher elevations are still covered with a thick layer of ice.

While these conditions may keep most anglers indoors awaiting the arrival of spring, teams of fisheries biologists and a small number of volunteers are loading tank trucks with more than 500,000 hatchery-reared trout, which are slated for stocking in Maryland and Delaware streams, lakes and ponds.

Unlike most other fisheries projects, the trout program is funded solely by the sale of Trout Stamps. Also, each state's fishery is quite unique, particularly when you consider that Delaware does not have a single stream capable of holding trout through the warmer months. Consequently, First State anglers are prohibited from catch-and-release fishing for trout, while Free State anglers are encouraged to catch-and-release the same species.

Much of the difference in programs stems from the striking contrast in topography. Other than those found in New Castle County, most of Delaware's freshwater streams are slow-moving bodies of water that flow through lowland areas.

Maryland, a state that is frequently referred to as "America in miniature," has thousands of streams, many of which are spring-fed, ice-cold rivulets that tumble down the rolling hills located west of Chesapeake Bay. A significant number of these streams, particularly those found in undeveloped regions, hold excellent populations of wild trout. Most but not all of these bodies of water fall into a special management category that either requires the fish to be released or requires the harvest to be limited. Therefore, before you go fishing in Maryland's designated trout streams, lakes or ponds, it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the various regulations pertaining to that body of water.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

This particular category requires that all trout are immediately released and returned to the waters from which they were caught. Essentially, possessing a trout constitutes a violation and carries a hefty fine. Also, you may only fish with artificial flies tied on a single hook. The fly must be tied, not something that is constructed of molded plastic or rubber that resembles some type of insect or fish. Anglers may only fish with conventional fly-fishing gear, and the leader cannot exceed 18 feet. The use of spinning, casting or spin-casting reels, even with a fly rod, is strictly prohibited.


The main difference between this category and the one previously described is the type of fishing tackle that may be used. Instead of being limited to fly-fishing only, anglers fishing these areas can use pretty much any type of fishing tackle, just as long as it is in conjunction with artificial lures. The use or possession of any natural bait, baitfish, fish bait or scents is strictly prohibited.

The season is open year 'round in Trophy Trout Fishing Areas, with a daily creel limit of just two fish. Brook trout must measure at least 12 inches, while brown trout must measure a minimum of 18 inches. There is no minimum size limit for other species of trout; however, they are still counted against the daily bag limit in streams with this designation. Also, anglers are limited to fishing with artificial flies only, and it is unlawful to possess any form of bait or artificial lure while fishing these streams.

Anglers fishing Delayed Harvest Areas are permitted a daily bag limit of two fish from June 16 through Sept. 30; however, from Oct. 1 through June 15, these areas are closed to all but catch-and-release fishing. Additional restrictions include the use of artificial flies or lures only and the prohibition of any form of bait.

These streams, lakes and ponds permit anglers to catch and keep five fish daily using any form of bait or lure. There is no minimum size limit other than brief closure periods during stocking; the streams are open year 'round. For specific closure dates and locations, visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Web site at

No fishing is permitted in any of Delaware's designated trout streams two weeks prior to opening day, which is always the first Saturday in April. Anglers may begin fishing at 7:30 a.m. on opening day, while on all following days, fishing may begin a half-hour before sunrise and must cease a half-hour after sunset.

Delaware's daily bag limit is six fish; however, after catching your legal limit of trout, you must stop fishing for them for the remainder of the day. Also, you cannot possess more than four fish if you are fishing within 50 feet of a restricted area that has a four-fish daily bag limit. This particular regulation applies mainly to a portion of White Clay Creek, which is limited to fly-fishing only.

Baltimore County's Prettyboy Reservoir
More than 11,000 rainbow trout will be stocked in Prettyboy Reservoir. These fish will quickly disperse over a large area shortly after being stocked. Therefore, many anglers fishing a week or two beyond opening day may find it somewhat difficult to catch trout.

Bob Lunsford, Maryland's Director of Fisheries Restoration and Enhancement, said, "Because the reservoir is steep-sided, even if the water level is lower than normal, it only reduces the actual surface area of the lake by a minimal amount. Therefore, the impact on fishing is also minimized. Also, the strain of rainbows that we stock tends to feed heavily on phytoplankton, so there will be plenty of food available, and they'll do well."

In order to fish Prettyboy Reservoir, boating anglers will have to procure a special permit from the city of Baltimore's Department of Public Works. The permit allows boating anglers to fish both Liberty and Prettyboy reservoirs, which is the best way to access the best fishing areas. "Some of the coves that we stock - and the local anglers usually know which ones they are - tend to hold fish longer than we could have anticipated. The cove next to the boat ramp has two smaller coves, and that's where we stock the trout. Because the fish tend to hang around for an extend

ed period, quite a few get caught, and many are taken from shore. Keep in mind that these fish don't have to move very far to get out of casting range. Therefore, the best fishing, particularly later in the season, will be from a small boat," Lunsford said.

Little Gunpowder Falls
More than 5,500 fish will be stocked in Little Gunpowder Falls during early spring. The stream will also contain at least another 5,000 fish that were stocked last fall, bringing the total to more than 10,000 trout. While fish stocked during the previous October will be fat and healthy, they usually do not grow more than a half-inch or so during the winter months. Therefore, those 10-inch fish you're catching could be holdovers from last fall or could be recently stocked trout. There's no way of telling.

The Little Gunpowder Falls is heavily fished during the first few weeks following opening day, but as the season progresses, the crowds dwindle to just a handful of diehards who mainly fish near the bridges. The most productive segment of stream is the stretch between Pleasantville Road and Jerusalem Road bridges, which covers a distance of several miles.

The stream varies in width from just 50 to 75 feet wide, and the entire length consists of short stretches of rapids interspersed with long, relatively deep pools and rock ledges.

Because most of the stream is within the boundaries of Gunpowder Falls State Park, there are only a few small areas that flow through private land. Consequently, most of the shores are accessible, but you must be willing to walk some distance to get away from areas that have been heavily fished. If you walk more than 500 yards from the nearest road, you'll have no trouble catching all the trout you can handle. It's that simple.

Harford County's Deer Creek
Beginning at Eden Mill Dam, the entire length of Rocks State Park is heavily stocked with hefty rainbow trout. More than 11,000 fish, most of which will measure 10 inches or larger, will be placed in this highly popular stream during three stocking periods in early spring.

While the state does not stock this particular stream with brown trout, several big browns are caught every spring near the base of Eden Mill Dam. It is believed that these fish are native browns that have adapted to the area by migrating into the stream's spring-fed tributaries when water temperatures begin to climb above 70 degrees in midsummer.

Most of the best access is at the base of Eden Mill Dam, which always draws a big opening day crowd. Downstream from state Route (SR) 165, the stream is paralleled by Saint Claire Bridge Road for a distance of nearly 3 miles. There are several pull-off areas where two to four vehicles can park. Free parking for licensed anglers is also permitted on weekdays at the parking lots near picnic groves.

Lunsford says the special catch-and-release segment of Deer Creek is no longer stocked because there were few, if any, fish that managed to survive through the summer, and public access was limited to a few small areas.

Cecil County's Big Elk Creek
Nearly 8,000 trout will be stocked over an 8-mile stretch of Big Elk Creek, mainly in an area between SR 273 upstream to the Pennsylvania state line.

"Most of the stream runs through Fair Hill Wildlife Management Area, and while road access is lousy, we have good public access throughout the area," said Lunsford. "This is a beautiful stream, and it's really popular with local anglers and nonresidents, as we see a lot of out-of-state tags in the parking lot. People from nearby Pennsylvania and Delaware come here every spring and really catch a lot of fish."

Most of the stream is situated in a steep, heavily wooded valley that is only accessible via a hiking trail that parallels the shore. There are several footbridges over the creek. The trout tend to disperse over a vast area rapidly. Consequently, you may only find a few trout in each pool, but because the water remains quite cool throughout most of the year, anglers can anticipate good-to-excellent fishing action right through the heat of summer. This is a good stream to wet-wade during June and July, which are times when no one is usually thinking seriously about trout fishing.

In order to provide trout fishing opportunities for downstate anglers, Delaware stocks Tidbury Pond in Kent County and Gravel Hill Pond in Sussex County. Each location will receive approximately 1,000 trout, most of which will measure approximately 11 inches in length. However, Delaware fisheries biologist Mark Zimmerman says there will also be a few trophies measuring 15 inches or larger placed in each pond, providing anglers with the opportunity to sink their hooks into considerably larger fish than usual.

Tidbury Pond measures approximately 2 acres and is located south of Dover on Alternate Route 113. The Gravel Hill Pond, which measures nearly 4 acres, is east of Georgetown on U.S. Route 9. The anticipated stocking dates are Feb. 28 and March 14, which are times when water temperatures will still be low enough to support trout. Anglers are required to have trout stamps to fish the ponds if they are fishing prior to April 1; however, after that date, stamps are no longer required. There is no closed season, and the daily limit is six fish daily. Once a person takes his or her six fish, he or she is prohibited from fishing in the pond during the remainder of the day.

White Clay Creek
Of the approximately 34,000 trout that will be stocked this spring, just over 23,000 rainbow trout 10- to 11-inches long will be stocked in White Clay Creek. Obviously, this is the state's most popular stream, and because of this, stockings will take place nearly every other day through the entire month of April. While some of the stream flows through private property, a significant portion has good public access.

The trout stream segment of White Clay Creek runs from the Pennsylvania line to the downstream side of Paper Mill Road, a distance of nearly 5 miles. The area restricted to fly-fishing only starts from a point 25 yards above Thompson Bridge at Chambers Rock Road to the Pennsylvania line.

While this relatively small stream has a few miles of public access, opening day crowds can be unbelievable. There is lots of elbow-to-elbow fishing taking place on busy weekends, and during the first week, the number of people along the stream's shores boggles the mind. However, because of the structure of Delaware's trout program, everyone will catch his or her limit of hefty rainbows if he or she is willing to spend a little time fishing.

Mill Creek, which is a tiny tributary of White Clay Creek, will be stocked with 350 rainbow trout during the same time frame. The stream is open between Brackenville Road and SR 7.

Christina Creek
Christina Creek will be stocked with 4,720 trout measuring approximately 11 inches. However, 70 fish will be stocked sometime during the middle of April

, and they will measure more than 15 inches, placing them in the trophy category. All fish will be placed in an area between the Maryland state line and through Rittenhouse Park, a distance of approximately 3 miles. It's really crowded here on opening day, but by the middle of the month, when the larger fish are stocked, there seems to be a fair amount of elbowroom, particularly if you're fishing on weekdays.

Wilson Run
Much of this stream flows through Brandywine Creek State Park, providing lots of public access where anglers can take advantage of the more than 3,000 hefty rainbows that will be stocked during April. The stocked segment runs from SR 92 downstream through Brandywine Creek State Park. While this is a relatively short distance, anglers shouldn't have a problem finding a good place to fish after the opening day crowds begin to thin out.

Beaver Run
More than 1,150 rainbows will be stocked between the Pennsylvania line to the creek's mouth at Brandywine River. Only about a half-mile of stream is fishable, but much of the shoreline is accessible to anglers. Approximately 15 trophy-sized trout will be stocked sometime during midmonth, and they'll likely congregate in some of the tiny, rock-strewn pools.

There are four more stocked streams open to First State anglers, each receiving just about 500 fish apiece, of which 10 will be trophy-sized. Keep in mind that in Delaware, water temperatures will rapidly rise above 74 degrees, which is too warm for trout to survive; hence, all trout are to be harvested.

* * *
For additional information on Delaware's trout program, visit their Web site at fw/. You can also download a complete stocking schedule from the same site. For information on Maryland's trout fishing program, visit their Web site at

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