Lower Savage River, Gunpowder Falls show big increase in trout population


December 09, 1990|By PETER BAKER

Saltwater fishing seems to have gotten all the attention this year, what with striped bass fishing briefly reopened, bluefishing slowed and destined for limitation next year, and virtually every sport species under new management schemes or being studied for management plans.

Striped bass, of course, captured most of the attention as preparations were made for the first season in more than five years -- and undoubtedly will receive more as the 1991 seasons are hammered out.

But while fisheries managers, sportsfishermen, charter-boat operators and commercial fishermen haggle over who gets which shares of the fishery, there are a couple of success stories to report from above the tide line.

* On the lower Savage River, populations of trout have boomed to the extent that stocking programs and variable size limits will be discontinued as of Jan. 1.

* On the Gunpowder Falls, stockings of fingerling trout and eggs have produced a fourfold increase in the trout population over the past four years.

In the cases of the Gunpowder and Savage, cooperation among various interests is largely responsible for the tremendous gains.

The success on the Savage, said Robert A. Bachman, chief of inland fisheries for the Department of Natural Resources, is the result of the continued cooperation of the Army Corps of Engineers, which has maintained a more consistent flow release from Savage River Reservoir Dam downstream for four years, and regulations designed to protect trout until they were big enough to spawn.

"We have such good natural reproduction and recruitment from brook trout and brown trout [on the lower Savage] that not only is it not necessary to stock that river, it is counterproductive," Bachman said. "You would shoot yourself in the foot by stocking it.

"We have just a dynamite wild trout fishery going. All you have to do is go fish. It doesn't get much better than that, and we are rapidly heading in that direction on the Gunpowder as well."

In September, the DNR and volunteers from the Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited electroshocked the Gunpowder at eight stations over a 10-mile section of the river. The procedure showed a fourfold increase in the extremely healthy brown trout population.

Again, the key to the growth of the trout population was cooperation among various groups -- in this case the city of Baltimore, which regulates the flow of reservoir water, the assistance of Trout Unlimited in stocking and monitoring the river, and the DNR's protective regulations and stocking programs.

"So we have two dynamite tailwater fisheries that are there for the fishing," Bachman said. "But these are not things that you just do overnight."

The beauty of the areas on the Gunpowder and the Savage is that each is a tailrace fishery and as such may be fished 365 days a year because the water coming from the bottom of the lakes above the dams does not get below 40 degrees.

"Right through the winter, when you get nice sunny days, you still have midge hatches and you can actually see fish rising and get some nice fly fishing in the middle of winter," Bachman said.

On the Savage, from the reservoir dam to the confluence with the northern branch of the Potomac River, the new regulations set creel limits of two trout per day and size limits of 18 inches for brown trout and 12 inches for brook trout. There would be no size limit on rainbow trout. That trophy trout area would be divided into two sections, fly fishing only from the reservoir to the lower suspension bridge and artificial lures only for the rest of the lower river.

On the Gunpowder, the regulations will be more restrictive, Bachman said.

"Because the river is so close to Baltimore, and the number of XTC people who want to take advantage of the river is so great, we have added a new, three-mile catch-and-return area [from York Road downstream to Bluemont Road]," Bachman said. "There will still be sections where you can keep fish, but clearly there are not going to be as many fish there as there are in the areas that are catch and return."

The three-mile section will be designated for use of artificial lures only.

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