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Maryland Freshwater Fishing

Updated on October 10, 2014

Freshwater Fishing in Maryland

This page has information about all types of freshwater fishing in Maryland USA.

Maryland's diverse environment offers a wide range of freshwater fishing for species such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, black crappie, yellow perch, tiger musky, pike, pickerel, walleye, catfish and others.

Maryland streams are popular with fly fishing enthusiasts, who come to fish for wild brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout.

In addition to native species of freshwater fish, several lakes are stocked with striped bass and other non-native fish.

bluegill sunfish
bluegill sunfish

Where To Go Freshwater Fishing in Maryland

Maryland is a very diverse state. To the west is the rugged terrain of Garret and Allegany counties, where anglers can choose from large lakes, small private impoundments or rocky streams.

Moving east, visitors find gentle hills and open grasslands in areas like Hagerstown and Frederick, with a mix of freshwater fishing.

The middle of the state is the most populated, with Baltimore, Annapolis and the other metropolitan areas. These areas are known for their large reserviors which hold bass, sunfish and other species.

Southern Maryland is more relaxed, with a mix of developments and small towns, marinas and the like.

Across the bridge is the eastern shore, where freshwater species inhabit small ponds and slow moving rivers lined with dense vegetation. The eastern shore is known for excellent freshwater fishing, especially for largemouth bass, pickerel and other cover-seeking species.

Maryland is home to several rivers and creeks where freshwater species of fish thrive. The heart of Maryland is the Susquehanna River which divides the state and begins the Chesapeake Bay. The upper Susquehanna is an excellent river for smallmouth bass fishing.

The Severn River is designated by the General Assembly as a Maryland Scenic River. The Act mandates the preservation and protection of its natural values, and Maryland governments are required to take whatever action is necessary to protect and enhance the qualities of a river so designated. The river is home to a variety of freshwater fish species.

On the Eastern Shore side are rivers including the Choptank, Honga, Nanticoke, Wicomico and Pocomoke. These rivers tend are home to a mix of freshwater and saltwater fish. In the non-tidal sections, fish include largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, pickerel, gar, white perch, yellow perch, shiners, herring, shad and bullhead catfish.

In addition to rivers and creeks, the Eastern Shore contains hundreds of small to medium ponds. These include natural waterways as well as farm ponds, irrigation ponds, borrow pits and other man made freshwater structures. Many of the smaller ponds are have healthy fish populations, with native species such as bluegill, pumpkinseed, largemouth bass, crappie, bullhead catfish, pickerel and others.

Farm ponds and other private water systems are stocked by their owners with species such as bluegills, redear sunfish, rock bass, largemouth bass or other members of the bass and sunfish family. Pond owners may also introduce bullhead catfish, pickerel, perch, carp or other fish. Some private ponds even have populations of non-native crayfish which become an important food source for hungry bass.

maryland yellow perch
maryland yellow perch

Yellow Perch Fishing

Fishing for yellow perch in Maryland is a fun family activity. Simple gear is used for catching yellow perch; a fishing license, rod, reel, small hooks, bobbers, and live minnows are all that is needed.

In late Winter, yellow perch school up in rivers of the Chesapeake Bay in preparation for their spawning run. Spawning runs typically begin when water temperatures in the tributaries hit the 40 degree threshold.

Spring yellow perch runs usually peak as water temperatures in tidal rivers and creeks of the state rise into the 50's and 60's.

Maryland anglers usually enjoy good spring fishing for yellow perch in several locations including the Cedars in Allen's Fresh, channel edges near Perryville (Susquehanna River), Northeast River, Nanjemoy Creek, and deep holes in the Chester River near Crumpton.

wild rainbow trout
wild rainbow trout

Maryland Freshwater Trout Fishing

Anglers have a variety of trout fishing opportunities in Maryland.

The state's Put and Take Trout project is popular, providing trout are cultured by the Hatcheries and Finfish Restoration program.

The program stocks brown trout and rainbow trout in rivers, streams and ponds throughout the state.

Trout are reared to fingerling size at state owned hatcheries, then released into the wild. The program grows 500,000 trout annually for stocking. Approximately 10% of these fish are stocked as trophy size trout.

Maryland also has fisheries for wild trout, especially in coldwater streams of the western part of the state. Maryland streams are home to wild brook, brown and rainbow trout. Of the three species, only brook trout are native to the state.

Top rivers for trout fishing in Maryland include the Savage River, Potomac River North Branch and the Gunpowder River. Public access to stocked and wild trout is available in several Maryland state parks.

In order to protect fish populations and keep habitat healthy, Maryland DNR reminds anglers to clean and dry their gear between streams and outings. According to MD DNR, scrubbing equipment with dish soap or a 5 percent salt solution is an easy way to prevent the spread of invaders such as didymo and whirling disease.

Wader wash stations are available at several Maryland wild trout areas including the Gunpowder River, Savage River, the North Branch of the Potomac (Barnum area), and Big Hunting Creek.

photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

maryland tidal creek
maryland tidal creek

Maryland's Tidal Rivers

Maryland has hundreds of rivers, creeks and streams, many of which eventually turn into tidal environments. These estuaries support a mix of freshwater, saltwater and anadromous fish.

The State of Maryland runs several anadromous restoration projects including a yellow perch restoration pilot project, an Atlantic sturgeon restoration effort and the ongoing re-introduction of American shad and hickory shad.

maryland chain pickerel
maryland chain pickerel

Maryland Chain Pickerel Fishing

Chain pickerel are long, slender, predatory fish, popular with anglers for their aggressive attacks, size and for their spectacular leaps.

Chain pickerel are members of the pike family which includes the grass pickerel, redfin pickerel, northern pike and the muskellunge.

Members of this family of fish range in size from 12 inch grass pickerel to monster muskellunge, which can exceed 50 lbs.

In tidal rivers along the Eastern Shore, chain pickerel are common in summer. They love lily pads and other dense vegetation, where they sit ready to strike. Most Maryland fishing guides offer summer, fall and winter pickerel fishing trips.

Western Maryland Lakes

The following Western Maryland lakes are popular areas for freshwater fishing:

Broadford Lake (Garrett County) - This 140 acre lake has populations of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, panfish, and tiger musky.

Blairs Valley Lake (Washington County, Maryland and Franklin County, Pennsylvania) - Anglers fishing at Blairs Valley Lake catch largemouth bass, tiger musky, bluegill sunfish, redear sunfish, black crappie, yellow perch, brown bullhead, and carp.

Deep Creek Lake (in Garrett County) - Covering roughly 3900 acres, Deep Creek Lake is the largest freshwater impoundment in Maryland. The lake is populated with largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegill sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, black crappie, walleye, yellow perch, chain pickerel, northern pike, rainbow trout, brown trout, common carp, and other freshwater species.

Piney Reservoir (Garrett County) - This lake has largemouth bass, yellow perch, tiger musky, rainbow trout, and a variety of pan fish.

Youghiogheny Reservoir (Garrett County, Maryland and Fayette / Somerset counties, Pennsylvania) - Fish species found in Youghiogheny Reservoir include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, northern pike, yellow perch, brown trout and rainbow trout.

Lake Habeeb (Allegany County) - Also known as Rocky Gap Lake, This lake is home to largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, brown trout, rainbow trout, and sunfish.


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