Trout an integral part of fin and games


March 22, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Think fishing in Central and Eastern Maryland, and Chesapeake Bay rockfish or river and impoundment bass probably come to mind first. But the state also has a burgeoning freshwater trout fishery that is attracting thousands of anglers of all ages.

"Maryland has surprisingly good resources here for as far south as we are," said Howard Stinefelt, cold water specialist for the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service. "If you know anything about the geology of Maryland and the Piedmont zone of the East Coast, Maryland has the southernmost native trout in the Piedmont -- and that's kind of a unique resource."

While waters that hold large numbers of native trout have become scarce in metropolitan and suburban areas, a fisheries service stocking program brings trout back to many lakes, rivers, ponds and streams each spring and fall for the put-and-take fishery.

This year, the put-and-take season opens Saturday, and the Fisheries Service expects more than 80,000 anglers to participate. Fisheries personnel and volunteers already have stocked more than 200,000 rainbow and brown trout, and by the end of stocking in May more than 500,000 fish will be stocked, the most ever.

"On opening day, your chance of success is quite high," said Bob Lunsford, director of restoration and enhancement for the Fisheries Service. "It's great fun. You get to enjoy the outdoors and there's nothing as tasty as a fresh, pan-fried trout."

The purpose of the put- and-take stocking program is to create short-term fisheries where water temperatures allow trout to survive from late winter to late spring, before water temperatures become too warm.

"Survival of these fish over a year is not expected, except occasionally in the cooler regions of Western Maryland," said Fisheries Service Director Bob Bachman. "It provides excellent fishing with high catch rates. In addition, fishing can be offered near large cities."

At put-and-take areas, anglers are allowed to take five trout per day. Stinefelt said that at small lakes and ponds, probably 98 percent of the stocked fish are caught and kept.

Rainbow trout are the mainstay of the stocking program and most are 10 to 12 inches long. But thousands of the fish are allowed to grow an additional year and are a trophy-sized 18 inches when stocked.

While rainbows are the mainstay, brown trout are stocked in many areas where there is higher quality water.

Among the put-and-take areas stocked with brown trout are Deer Creek, Little Gunpowder Falls, the Daniels area of the Patapsco, Friends Creek, Owens Creek, Antietam Creek and the North Branch of the Potomac River.

"Along the Patapsco, there are excellent stretches where the fishing can be good into June," said Stinefelt. "Some sections in the Daniels area are very good, and we often will save some of the bigger, heavier browns for the last stocking of the year in May."

In addition to the put-and-take areas, the Fisheries Service also oversees stocking and maintenance of trophy, catch-and-return, and delayed-harvest areas.

Portions of Gunpowder Falls, Savage River and the North Branch of the Potomac, in fact, can provide some of the best year-round fishing on the East Coast for naturally reproducing trout.

In many of the higher quality stocking areas, brown trout are the workhorses of the fishery.

"Brown trout and special trout management areas like Morgan Run, Patuxent River, Town Creek and the Casselman River, where long-term survival is desirable, seem to be made for each other," Stinefelt said.

DNR has been experimenting with stocking trout in Liberty and Prettyboy reservoirs, with an eye toward developing fisheries that produce trophy-sized trout east of the mountains.

In Western Maryland, portions of the Casselman River, Town Creek and the North Branch of the Potomac have been developed as delayed-harvest areas, where catch-and-release is allowed (artificials only) from Oct. 1 to June 15. From June 16 to the end of September, anglers can keep two trout per day.

"Instead of having the trout expire in the stream once the water warms, fishermen can catch them," said Stinefelt. "Most streams stay cool enough to keep trout alive into late June."

Different regulations apply to put-and-take, trophy, catch-and-return and delayed-harvest areas. All areas are identified and creel limits and lure and bait restrictions listed in the Maryland Freshwater Sportfishing Guide, available where fishing licenses and mandatory trout stamps are purchased.

Put-and-take trout fishing areas

Anne Arundel County: Lake Waterford and Severn Run upstream of Route 3/Interstate 97.

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