DEEP CREEK LAKE -- Of all anglers, the chaser of freshwater trout is most enthused by the chances to take a respectable fish. It matters not whether it be a brook, rainbow or brown, although the latter -- because of its inherent wariness -- is more challenging.
That explains why I ended up here in a boat with George Denton in pursuit of a fishery that is enjoying a rebirth -- stocked trout, both browns and rainbows, in Maryland's largest and best impoundment.
Sorry, no meandering mountain streams shaded by the trees, but there are other compensations. How about the 6-pound, 5-ounce brown taken by Bill Frankhouser of Oakland on a Rat-L-Trap plug in the area of the dam?
Sorry, again, but there will be no additional information on that catch. Would you be more specific about a nook from which came a 25 1/2 -inch trout? Then there was the 20 1/2 -inch rainbow of 4 pounds, 5 ounces that was taken on a spinner by Larry Nesline, who also remains secretive about exact location.
To all of this, consider that in 1968 Simon Cogley took Maryland's record brown of 13 1/2 pounds and 33 inches here. And in recent weeks, scores of fishermen have been landing both browns and rainbows of a couple of pounds thanks to the Department of Natural Resources' stepped-up stocking program, which features larger-than-usual trout that are reared in hatchery pens.
The most popular and productive technique, according to lakeside tackleman Johnny Marple, is fishing a free-swimming minnow hooked through both lips three feet below a bobber in eight to 10 feet of water. I prefer a less sedentary approach and cast small spinners and spoons.
I allow the lure to drop several feet below the surface, then work it slowly, keeping it at least three feet down in an effort to attract the same trout that take minnows. It worked well but not for the kind of fish I wanted. I caught three smallmouths between 12 and 15 inches, four nice yellow perch and four bluegills, the largest of which was 10 inches.
To me, that seemed like a giant bluegill, but it hardly rates a look out here this summer. Joe Brunner of Cumberland weighed in one of 11 1/4 inches at Johnny's Bait Shop. That 1-pound, 1-ouncer took a worm.
Denton, who chose the minnow method, caught two browns and one rainbow, each of about 15 inches, which might sound great, but many of the fish stocked only last year are even bigger. The lake's chemistry is right, forage is abundant, and these fish are expanding in weight and length more rapidly than anyone could have hoped, according to Bob Bachman, the DNR's freshwater boss.
A couple of nine-inch bluegills, two crappies, one largemouth bass, a 17-inch pickerel and a 15-inch walleye also were caught by Denton.
Deep Creek Lake stays cool all summer so the trout are expected to remain hungry, said local angler Rod Benjamin, who was setting out as we came in. He has taken three of 3 pounds so far and about a dozen in the 15-inch range, all on minnows.
Marple said almost all the trout are at least 14 inches. John Baker pulled alongside with a 16-inch walleye, which aren't as evident this year as last. He took it on a minnow while fishing for trout.
We relayed that news to Mike Burnside, who was in the bait shop ordering 100 dozen worms. He's heading for walleyes in the boon docks of Canada, where worms are hard to come by, and he prefers worms on trolled Erie Derie spinners.
Black drum moving north
* The current mid-Chesapeake Bay black drum run, the earliest in memory, has moved farther north with many of the fish now found in the Poplar Island to Eastern Bay sector with some remaining at the Stone Rock. Fishermen in some boats caught as many as 20 yesterday. Many charterboat skippers impose a daily limit of one of these big fish to each angler, although there is no legal limit.
* On another fishing front, the flounder run at Chincoteague has improved dramatically with half catches being of legal size.