Catching Catoctin TroutPosted on: April 12, 2018 By: FHMD
One true harbinger of spring is the traditional Opening Day of trout fishing in waters throughout Maryland. This is especially true of the myriad of streams and small lakes that lie within the Catoctin Mountains of Frederick and Washington Counties. Trout fans have the option of wading small, cascading creeks, kayaking medium-sized lakes, or hoofing it at any number of smaller ponds that all get a more than ample stocking of rainbow, brown, and golden trout from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Fishing for trout can vary from fly-fishing-only locations to catch and release waters to put-and-take harvest areas. From purist to bait fisher, there is a trout fishing experience for everyone in the Catoctins.
Perhaps my fondest memories of Catoctin trout have been those days that followed the opening day onslaught of anglers and limits of willing rainbows and goldens. We always found that once the opening day excitement and crowds “thinned out” there were still plenty of fish to catch. Our favorite techniques were quite simple…we would use ultra-light spinning gear and 4-pound test line to toss a variety of spinners and spoons to coax those fish that had escaped the initial barrage of baited hooks and hardware. Among the more productive waters for us were Friends, Fishing and various stretches of Owens Creek. The local towns of Emmitsburg and Thurmont are the jump-off points to these creeks as well as numerous satellite waters nearby.
Productive lures are Mepps spinners (sizes 0 and 1), Kast Master spoons of 1/12th of an ounce (gold or bronze colors) and the classic Joe’s Flies (blade size 0 and 1) for tossing metal into the many pools and pockets of these clear, foothill streams. Retrieving with the current flow seems to catch more trout, more often. But at times, an upstream lure travel may take more fish. Small hair jigs in size 1/64th ounce are an overlooked lure option as well. Where permitted, bait fishing and static approaches with PowerBait, live worms, meal worms or wax worms will surely take their share of fish. Fish these offerings on a small #10 or #12 baitholder style hook with a few split-shot 12-inches or so ahead of the hook. Bait fishing options are one of the best ways to take a limit of tasty trout.
Although the numerous streams of the Catoctins offer both productive fishing and awesome scenery, some anglers may prefer a “still water” option with waters such as Cunningham Falls Lake (47 acres), Frank Bentz Pond (2 acres), Rainbow Lake (8 acres) or satellite ponds and lakes like Middletown Pond, Fountain Rock or the three-acre pond at Woodsboro Regional Park. Bait fishing options usually get the call at these smaller waters but tossing hardware can be productive at times.
If you prefer the sound of rushing waters then try Middle Creek, Catoctin Creek, Carroll Creek or Israel Creek. And it should be noted that some of the tributaries of the Catoctin streams in the higher elevations have small populations of native brook trout that offer a rewarding and challenging effort for those seeking a unique “urban trout” adventure.
Perhaps the most scenic and rewarding trout water in the Catoctins is that of Big Hunting Creek, a fly-fishing-only gem that cascades along the length of Route 77 north of Thurmont to Cunningham Falls Lake. Pocket water, pools and riffles offer challenging angling for those willing to test their skills. This storied water has seen the likes of many presidents since the 1940’s and remains a special place for many Maryland trout fishermen.
Keep in mind that specific regulations and restrictions apply to some streams and waters with certain catch and release, fly-fishing only or delayed harvest mandates on certain waters. Consult the Maryland Fishing Guide for the specifics. For trout stocking information and schedules visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Trout Stocking Website or call 800-688-3467 and choose option #1 for up-to-the-minute info on where and when trout will be stocked. The real “X-factor” is the in-season trout stockings that occurs well into the month of May, making for some very pleasant, uncrowded trout angling at the height of spring. A variety of overnight accommodations can be found in and around the city of Frederick.
Catoctin Trout…something for everyone!
This post was written by Jim Gronaw
Images courtesy of the author