Ice Fishing in Western Maryland
The promise of freezing temperatures may be just the inspiration you need to plan a trip to try your hand at ice fishing. This winter sport offers not only an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the season, but could yield fresh table fare for those willing to brave the cold. In Western Maryland, anglers can typically expect a few weeks of “hardwater” angling. Here are a few choice spots and safety measures to consider before augering a hole and dropping a line in Maryland this winter.
Remember: No ice is safe ice. It can be extremely variable and caution should be used whenever you step out on it.
Ice Fishing Spots in Maryland
Deep Creek State Park
Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County is arguably the most popular destination in Maryland for ice fishing. The primary targets at Deep Creek are bluegills, walleye and yellow perch, although largemouth bass, crappie and trophy northern pike are sometimes pulled through the ice.
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It is important to know when planning your trip that Deep Creek Lake is a part of the designated off-road vehicle (ORV) trail system. Only registered snowmobiles are permitted to use the trail. Permits are available by mail or at any DNR Licensing Service Center during normal business hours, and at the Deep Creek Lake park headquarters or the Discovery Center and at New Germany State Park. Snowmobiles may operate at night if equipped with working headlights and taillights. The lake can be accessed at the Deep Creek State Park boat ramp or with permission from a private landowner with shorefront. Learn more about Maryland’s ORV trails online.
Perfect for the anglers looking to get outdoors this winter or as for a family trip to the mountains – with ideal cabins and lodges available to rent – Deep Creek Lake is a great choice for ice fishing in Maryland.
Rocky Gap State Park
Rocky Gap State Park – located in Allegany County – is home to Lake Habeeb with its 9.4 miles of shoreline and maximum depth of 74 feet nestled against the rolling mountains of western Maryland. (It’s also home to the Rocky Gap Casino Resort.)
Lake Habeeb supports an excellent largemouth bass and good smallmouth bass fishery. Largemouth bass have been collected that were in excess of 10 pounds. The lake also supports an excellent opportunity to catch trophy sunfish including redear, bluegill, redbreast, pumpkinseed, and green. Channel catfish have been recently stocked to add to an already existing quality fishery. Brown and rainbow trout are stocked in Lake Habeeb annually as part of our Put and Take trout program. Other fish you may encounter while visiting Lake Habeeb include golden shiner, spotfin shiner, bluntnose minnow, yellow bullhead, emerald shiner, and black crappie.
If you’re looking for a longer stay while ice fishing, Rocky Gap Casino Resort offers exceptional lodging options in its hotel overlooking the wintry lake. Inside, you’ll find an array of dining options as well as the gaming floor for the angler trying his/her luck on something other than fish. And if you are looking to stay close to nature, cabin rentals are available in New Germany and Herrington Manor.
Ice Fishing Safety
Always wear a lifejacket. Carry a few large nails, ice picks or wooden handle screwdrivers (they float) and some nylon rope or a hiking stick. The nails or ice picks can be used to pull yourself back onto the ice’s surface, and the nylon rope or hiking stick can be used in the rescue of another.
Should you break through the ice, turn toward the direction from which you came—toward solid ice. Use the nails, ice picks or your hands to gain hold on the unbroken surface of the ice, and inch forward by kicking hard with your feet. If the ice breaks, slide forward again. Once you are out of the water and are lying on the ice, roll away from the hole until you are on solid ice.
To report people, pets or wildlife that have fallen through the ice, call either 911 or the Natural Resources Police dispatch center at 410-260-8888. Never go out on the ice or attempt to rescue someone alone!
Experts offer these tips:
- Stay off ice less than 4-inches thick.
- New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Ice blue in color or clear indicates its high density and stronger.
- Be mindful of wind conditions. Light winds speed up the formation of ice. Strong winds force water from beneath the ice and can decay the edges.
- Snow can inhibit freezing or mask cracked, weak ice and open water areas.
- Ice over brackish water or saltwater tends to be weaker than ice over fresh water.
- Never go out on the ice or attempt to rescue someone alone.
- Wear a life vest on the ice. Carry a couple of large nails, ice picks or wooden handle screwdrivers (they float) and some nylon rope or hiking stick. The nails or ice picks can be used to pull yourself back onto the surface of the ice if you fall through and the nylon rope or hiking stick can be used in the rescue of another.
Before planning an ice fishing trip to Maryland, be sure to visit Maryland Department of Natural Resources online for information on licenses and regulations. Be sure to visit the Plan Your Trip section of our website for lodging options, guides, outfitters, and more.
Images courtesy of Ranger Caroline Blizzard and Stephen Badger via the Department of Natural Resources Flickr account