Liberty Reservoir now ranks as prime spot for super stripers


January 11, 1998|By LONNY WEAVER | LONNY WEAVER,Special to the Sun

Liberty Reservoir is Maryland's premier freshwater striped bass water. In the past three years, Liberty has produced four state-record striped bass, the latest being a 41-pound, 9-ounce haul on Dec. 23 by John Reedy of Catonsville. Some of the reservoir's regular striper fans, as well as a couple of Department of Natural Resources professionals believe fish weighing more than 60 pounds are waiting to be caught.

Striped bass were stocked by Maryland in Liberty and nearby Piney Run reservoirs back in the early 1980s. According to the DNR's Ed Enamait, they were stocked strictly for sport because it was not thought that conditions were ideal for spawning at either location.

But, within six years DNR biologists were finding striped bass fry in both reservoirs. On reflection, biologists think that the denser than average oil globule surrounding the Chesapeake strain of fish eggs used contributed to the spawning by keeping the eggs buoyant in the slow lake waters.

Though the small, 300-acre Piney Run Reservoir offers unusually good freshwater striper fishing, Liberty's 31,000 acres and generally cool water temperatures are proving to be a nearly ideal habitat.

During a recent DNR survey, Liberty's stripers were averaging nearly 30 pounds!

Hot spots for Liberty's striped bass anglers from now through late March and early April are found throughout the lake's upper reaches. Interestingly, many of these freshwater trophies are being caught by shoreline anglers as well as those casting and trolling from boats. Reedy's record fish was reportedly caught near Nicodemus Bridge, which is famous locally for being a hotspot for crappie and perch.

Stripers can be hard to figure out. They don't hang around easy to identify spots like largemouth and smallmouth bass do. Lure selection is less involved and often you will find live bait to be the top choice.

These freshwater stripers will school up and chase baitfish to the surface, just like you will see happen on the Chesapeake. When that occurs, and if you are in casting distance of the surface feeders, catching them can be quite easy -- and in my book, quite exciting.

Generally, casting for stripers is fruitful only when these fish are close to the surface and actively chasing or hunting baitfish. Most surface action (like on the bay) occurs in the fall, but can also be discovered early and late in the day during mid-summer. Jigs, vibrating swimming plugs, noisy topwater lures and even flies are good bets. I like light colors, such as white, silver and yellow at these times. In the spring, when Liberty's stripers are in the shallows and moving up or toward the lake's many tributaries, casting vibrating swimming plugs and minnow-like divers can be very effective.

Jigs can be cast or trolled and they are best used in non-schooling situations, such as vertical jigging in 20 to 50 feet of water. This is a good method throughout the summer months and into early fall.

Typical jig favorites include lead-headed jigs with bucktail bodies, slab-sided jigging spoons, and long, slender jigging spoons. If conditions permit, either drop the lure to the bottom and slowly jig it back up, or jig it rapidly, then free-spool the lure so it will flutter back like a wounded fish.

Local favorite jig colors are white, yellow, silver, and chrome and sizes vary with the depth, the size of line and the type of tackle fished.

Though medium to heavy bass tackle is usually adequate for most freshwater striper fishing, fairly stout tackle comes in handy when big fish are targeted. I have a pair of 7-foot rods loaded with 15- and 20-pound test lines that I like to use for Liberty's early spring stripers.

I notice that while none specifically deals with freshwater striper fishing, quite a few seminars scheduled for this week's Jan. 15-18 Bass Expo, Saltwater Fishing & Fly Fishing Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, in Timonium, will prove valuable to Liberty striper anglers. Two such seminars are Friday's 6 p.m. "Tackle Tips for Stripers" and a 3 p.m. session on "Light Tackle Stripers." Both will be conducted by Keith Walters. On Sunday at 2 p.m., Bill Burton will present "Deep Jigging for Stripers" that also should be of value to Liberty anglers.

Pub Date: 1/11/98

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