Presented by Fish & Hunt Maryland
We fish for fun, we fish for relaxation, and we fish to spend time with family and friends. But for many of us anglers, as much as anything else we fish for excitement and a sense of adventure. And even though we may utterly love our home turf, nothing’s more exciting and adventurous than setting your sights on new fishing destinations where you can target new species.
The state of Maryland is known for its rather amazing geographic diversity, especially considering its size. You can be in the mountains in the morning, hit the beach in the afternoon, and visit our exceptional estuary the very same evening. Lucky for us, this geographic variation translates into angling opportunities that are just as diverse. In all of these destinations you’ll discover guide and charter fleets ready to take you to the fish, plenty of places to spend a night or three, and local restaurants that will cook up your catch and serve you a world-class fish dinner that’s as fresh as it gets. Let’s take a look at each of these extremely different angling opportunities one by one.
Western Maryland’s stretch of the Appalachian Mountains holds two distinctly different but very attractive stand-out possibilities: Deep Creek Lake’s excellent freshwater action, and fishing for native trout in mountainous streams. Deep Creek probably attracts more anglers overall, because this lake is quite large, has a long and diverse list of species to target, easy access for both trailer-boaters and shoreline anglers, and options for those who want to rent a boat.
Surprisingly, it’s the familiar yellow perch that draws many people here – because Deep Creek’s yellow neds are true trophies. In fact, this is one of the few species to out-grow its brackish water cousins. Maryland’s state record for tidal yellow perch is two pounds, three ounces, but Deep Creek has produced yellow perch to two pounds, six ounces. The bluegill caught here are also rather epic, including the state record of three pounds, seven ounces. Other records set here include northern pike (24 pounds, 12 ounces) and (previous record) walleye and brown trout. Deep Creek also supports an excellent fishery for both smallmouth and largemouth bass, which are among the most popular species to pursue.
Deep Creek Lake State Park offers shoreline access including fishing piers and a boat ramp facility, and there are several other access points located along the 69 miles of shoreline. Flooded all the way back in 1929, the lake stretches over 13 miles and covers 3900 acres at full pool. This also happens to be the best opportunity for ice fishing in Maryland. The season may be short compared to that of our northern neighbors, but anglers travel from all over to drill holes, set tip-ups, and enjoy this entirely different type of fishing.
Deep Creek Lake Fishing Tip:
By mid-morning during the summer months Deep Creek becomes quite active with boaters. Savvy anglers fish early or late in the day. When fishing mid-day, it can be effective to stick close to one of the bridges where low speed limits reduce traffic noise and there’s structure present for the fish.
What about chasing those trout? This will be the choice for many fly anglers, and there are a number of different opportunities. Some, like the Casselman River, are managed with delayed harvest and seasonal tackle restrictions. Others, like the Youghiogheny, are managed for put-and-take fishing. And some others, like the North Branch of the Potomac, have different sections with different regulations. (The Maryland DNR has an excellent Public Angler Access interactive map on their web site, which is easy to interpret and includes information on access, parking, regulations, and other aspects of fishing each individual river or stream).
Western Maryland Trout Fishing Tip:
When these waters are running clean and clear, expect the fish to be uber-spooky. Use very light tippet and make sure it’s at least nine or 10 feet long.
Reach For the Beach: Ocean City, MD
Ocean City, Maryland, isn’t called the “White Marlin Capitol of the World” for nothing, but don’t let that moniker fool you into thinking there isn’t a long list of big-game challenges to found here. Yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi, sharks of all varieties, blue marlin, and swordfish are all swimming in the waters off Maryland’s coast. Drop a bait down to the bottom in those same deep waters these pelagics are found, and you can encounter strange creatures like golden tilefish and black-belly rose fish. Stay closer to home and fish over a wreck or reef inside the Continental shelf, and you can catch black sea bass, doormat flounder, triggerfish, and tautog. But keep your eyes peeled, because in these same waters you may see cobia swimming along the surface, bluefish busting water, or Spanish mackerel on the attack.
This is only a partial list, people – you quite simply never know what you’ll encounter out on the open Atlantic. Zany species like tripletail, barracuda, houndfish, and even sailfish which wandered farther north than usual show up on occasion. The same is true of cold-water dwellers like ocean pout and cod, proving once again that our Mid-Atlantic orientation bring us the best fishing of both worlds both north and south.
One of the great things about fishing in Ocean City is that if you don’t want to trailer or charter a boat, you can also rent one to fish in the bay. Even if you’d rather keep your feet planted on terra firma, there are so many options it’s mind-boggling. Fish the jetties for stripers and sheepshead, cast from the public piers for flounder when it’s warm and tog when it’s cool, or walk out on the beach and cast in the surf for kingfish, spot, blues, and stripers.
Ocean City Fishing Tip:
If you’re going to try offshore fishing for the first time consider getting a charter. This is a complex and intense form of fishing that takes years to master, and the substantial charter fleets in OC are world-class.
Bay Bound For the Chesapeake
Up and down the shores of Chesapeake Country there are countless fishing opportunities, but to pick a top destination for the travelling angler we had to choose just one. Thanks to its central location, excellent fishing, and easy accessibility for anglers up and down the Mid-Atlantic region, after much debate we settled on Calvert County.
These are several charter fleets found here, as well as public boat ramps and shoreline fishing opportunities. Access to both the open Bay and Patuxent River means that you can find a place to wet a line whether it’s windy or calm, fishing in anything from a kayak to a convertible. And this section of the Chesapeake sees a wide diversity of species ranging from the striped bass to the speckled sea trout.
Speaking of striped bass: as the spring trophy season arrives, you won’t find a better location to experience a shot at the striper of a lifetime. Small boat anglers who trailer here should plan on amassing a big trolling spread (read Spring Trophy Striper Trolling Spreads, to get the skinny). Once summer hits striper fishing becomes a numbers game as opposed to a hunt for a trophy, and tactics like live-lining, chumming, and jigging come to the fore. This zone is also where you may begin to encounter schools of huge bull reds, in the late summer and early fall. Find breaking blues, rock, and/or Spanish mackerel, drop a jigging spoon or similarly heavy lure deep below them, and you may be in for the fight of a lifetime.
Calvert County Bay Fishing Tip:
If you launch a boat in the Patuxent, don’t be in such a rush to make a long run out into open water. The piers and pilings of the lower Pax often hold good numbers of schoolie stripers and white perch plus, some years, the occasional speck or redfish. Light tackle anglers casting plugs and jigs can often do just as well inside the river as outside of it – and sometimes even better.
Whew! Well, that certainly was a whirlwind tour! But it’s a tour well worth taking, because the shockingly diverse angling opportunities in the state of Maryland are just too good to pass up.