Winter no time to put away fishing gear

November 01, 1992|By Gary Diamond | Gary Diamond,Contributing Writer

With winter just around the corner, most fishermen are thinking seriously about stowing their fishing tackle until next March, a time when Deer Creek will be stocked with another batch of rainbow trout.

Unfortunately, those individuals likely will spend the winter shoveling snow, watching reruns of old football games and developing a severe case of cabin fever, a dreaded disease that only affects recreational fishermen during the dead of winter.

Most are unaware that some of the best cool-weather fishing of the season is just beginning.

When you think about it, fish are a lot like people. They don't enjoy cold weather, and most saltwater species, such as bluefish, drum, croaker and spot, migrate south to the Carolinas or Florida shortly after the first frost.

Freshwater fish don't have the luxury of spending their winters in Key West, so they must endure five months of relatively cold weather while waiting for spring to arrive. However, this is not the case for fish inhabiting selected areas of Harford County, locations where winter water temperatures range from 50 to 75 degrees despite the surrounding conditions.

There are three locations where warm water is discharged into Conowingo Lake, with the most popular being downriver of Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant.

The facility is situated just inside the Pennsylvania state line on the west side of the river. An excellent launch ramp capable of handling trailer-able boats of all sizes is just a few hundred yards upriver of the


Winter anglers catch hybrid white bass, catfish, smallmouth bass, big crappie and red-eye rock bass in the heated water discharged from the nuclear reactors. Although Peach Bottom is in southern Pennsylvania, Conowingo Lake is a reciprocal boundary lake and as such fishing regulations are governed by Maryland law.

Three miles north of Peach Bottom, on the east side of the river, is Muddy Run Pumping Station, a hydroelectric facility that discharges water from Lake Aldred.

Because water supplying electrical turbines is drawn from deep beneath the lake, temperatures are substantially higher than those found on the surface and in some instances, can reach 50 degrees.

Although the action's not as good as Peach Bottom, big crappie, walleye and yellow perch often are taken from downstream areas adjacent to the discharge gates.

Holtwood Dam, situated at the upper end of Conowingo Lake, is a hydroelectric facility that uses the waters of Holtwood Pool. Water is drawn from deep beneath the surface, so discharge temperatures are often considerably higher than the surrounding surface waters. This is a good location for big walleye, smallmouth bass and an occasional hybrid white bass.

The tailrace waters of Conowingo Dam, a hydroelectric facility that draws its water from 70 feet beneath the lake's surface, is always a good bet for winter walleyes.

Even during times when Conowingo Lake is frozen solid, the tailrace area below the dam is always ice-free. During mild winters, this is also a good area for trophy-sized smallmouth and slab-sided crappie.

The most productive bait for all species of fish inhabiting hot-water discharge areas is live minnows.

If they're not available at your local tackle shop, grass shrimp are usually a good second choice, followed by various forms of cut bait and as a last resort, worms. Purists who insist on using various lures or flies usually go home with nothing more than a shattered ego.

The old saying, "Patience is a virtue," really holds true when it comes to fishing during the dead of winter. However, it's difficult to be patient when your lips are dark blue and you're shivering uncontrollably while waiting for a semi-comatose fish to hit your bait.

The only way to overcome winter's discomfort is to dress properly for the occasion. This usually involves wrapping your entire body with several layers of clothing until both arms and legs are immobilized until you look a lot like a penguin when walking, but at least a warm penguin.

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