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Posted on March 17, 2014 | Permalink

Water Temps Slowly Warming in Upper Potomac

Type: Freshwater
Region: Western
Location: Upper Potomac

Although winter continues to maintain its grip, water temperatures in the upper Potomac are slowly warming into the 40s. Smallmouth fishing has been good, especially on warm afternoons.

Snowmelt has kept flows high, so look for bass in calmer areas behind islands and in shoreline eddies. Tubes and hair jigs have been best, but dont overlook jerkbaits and crankbaits too. On a recent outing in Alleghany County, Steve Peperak and I had a great day catching and releasing many quality-size smallmouth including several over 17 inches.

Tags: Smallmouth Bass

Posted on March 12, 2014 | Permalink

Action Picking up on the Upper Potomac

Type: Freshwater
Region: Western
Location: Upper Potomac

The snow and ice jambs have finally melted away and river temperatures are now in the 40s. With the recent hint of spring, both fish and fishermen are beginning to stir. The Walleye action has been consistent with fish taking a variety of jigs and crankbaits. This time of year Walleye are constantly on the move and fishermen should be too if they want to consistently find them. Greg Myers and I spent a recent cold day on the river in search of Walleye. We had to do just that, but by days end we did manage to catch and release about a dozen between 18 and 22 inches, mostly on ¼ oz jigs fished tight to the bottom. The bites were subtle, no more than a slight “tick” of the line as the jig swept downstream. Dave Baker was also out recently and caught some nice smallmouth and a bonus Walleye.

Always check river levels before planning a trip (http://www.erh.noaa.gov/marfc/Forecasts/ ) and PFDs must be worn from November 15 through May 15 (see page 27 in 2014 Maryland Fishing Guide for details).

Tags: Walleye, Smallmouth Bass

Posted on September 5, 2013 | Permalink

Observations from the Upper Potomac

Type: Freshwater
Region: Western
Location: Upper Potomac

Final sites were completed this month for the annual Potomac River summer seining survey. The survey is used to monitor annual smallmouth bass yearclass strength, as well as the abundance of nongame forage species. A total of 120 hauls were completed on the Potomac at sites from Cumberland downstream to below Great Falls. Additional sites were surveyed on the two largest Potomac tributaries, Conococheague Creek and the Monocacy River. The geometric mean number of young smallmouth bass collected per haul is used as an index of yearclass strength. Smallmouth recruitment was expected to be low this year because of flooding that occurred during early May while the bass were spawning. Strong river flow and colder-than-average water temperature increase mortality of bass eggs and bass fry by displacing them from the nest, covering the eggs or sac fry with sediment, or requiring fry to use more energy to swim and feed in the heavier currents. This year’s index fell below the long term median values throughout the mainstem Potomac (1.2 bass per haul, median 1.7) and the Monocacy River (1.2 bass per haul, median 1.9). Yearclass strength was slightly higher in Conococheague Creek (2.2 bass per haul, median 2.4) and the North Branch Potomac River between Cumberland and Oldtown (1.7 bass per haul, median 1.6). It is common for yearclass strength to vary from year to year.

While conducting the seining survey other fascinating animals are often encountered. This year is was quite common to find freshwater shrimp Palaemonetes paludosus, frequently referred to as ghost or grass shrimp, in the seine. Grass shrimp are nocturnal, hiding in vegetation during the day and feeding on phytoplankton during the night. In turn, they are preyed upon by many birds and fish. The abundance of aquatic vegetation in the Potomac this year is providing ideal habitat for the shrimp…and the hungry fish.

As water temperatures begin to cool this fall the large beds of aquatic vegetation will begin to die and decompose. As aquatic plants and autumn leaves decay, the process releases organic substances called fatty acids that reduce the surface tension of the water allowing air to mix with the water producing bubbles and foam. The foam will be more evident downstream of dams and rapids where the water is more easily mixed with air. Although a large amount of foam can indicate pollution, it is more commonly the result of decaying organic matter and the mixing of air and water.

Tags: Potomac River summer seining survey, Smallmouth Bass, Grass Shrimp

Posted on June 13, 2013 | Permalink

Good Fishing on the Potomac

Type: Freshwater
Region: Western
Location: Upper Potomac

Fishing has been good on the upper Potomac River. On a recent trip we landed many bass, including this plump fish caught by fellow biologist Mark Toms. The bass were aggressive, and apparently a bit too competitive, as I landed two bass at the same time! Although we were targeting smallmouth using jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, and tubes, several Redbreast Sunfish and Channel Catfish also took our lures adding to the fun. Recent heavy downpours, however, have raised river levels and muddied the river in many areas. With more storms predicted, some sections may not be fishable for a while. Localized storms can muddy the water in one area while much better conditions can be found further upstream. Be sure to check levels, including the tributaries, before heading out. Potomac River bass fishermen please consider reporting your catch through our online volunteer survey. It's quick, easy, and the information will help us monitor changes in the bass population and fishing over time.

Tags: Smallmouth Bass, Redbreast Sunfish, Channel Catfish

Posted on May 21, 2013 | Permalink

Walleye Stocked in the Upper Potomac River

Type: Freshwater
Region: Western
Location: Upper Potomac River

Fisheries staff recently gave a helping hand to Walleye in the upper Potomac River. The Walleye is a popular sport fish with anglers, especially those that need to scratch the fishing itch even during the cold of winter and early spring while other species are less active. Although Walleye do reproduce naturally in the Potomac, surveys have indicated poor recruitment in recent years, likely due to harsh spring floods that reduce the survival of fry. To supplement the natural reproduction, mature adult Walleye were collected by electrofishing during February and March and transported to the Manning Hatchery in southern Maryland. The Manning Hatchery staff did an excellent job of successfully spawning the adults (they were then returned to the river) and rearing the fry/fingerlings to a stockable size. The fry/fingerlings produced were then stocked in suitable waters throughout the State, including the upper Potomac. A total of 33,000 fingerlings were recently stocked into the Potomac between Dam 5 (Clear Spring) and Dam 3 (Harpers Ferry). Those that survive will reach the legal minimum size of 15 inches in just two to three years. Future surveys will hopefully be able to determine to what extent the stocked fish have contributed to the fishery.

Tags: Walleye

Posted on March 25, 2013 | Permalink

Potomac River Walleye - Good Fishing and Fish for the Future

Type: Freshwater
Region: Western
Location: Potomac River

Walleye in the upper Potomac River move extensively during the early spring looking for suitable spawning habitat, typically found on rocky shorelines and riffles. As they move upstream, major barriers such as rapids, significant ledges, and dams will concentrate fish. This makes for productive fishing and provides an opportunity for Inland Fisheries to collect walleye to serve as brood fish for the hatchery. Crankbaits and various jigs are effective lures for walleye and should be fished near the bottom to be most effective. The walleye have begun to spawn and most spawning activity will be completed by April 1.

Mature male and female walleye were collected from the Potomac by electrofishing during early March and transported to Manning Hatchery to be spawned. After they are spawned they are returned to the Potomac. The fry and fingerlings produced are used to maintain walleye populations throughout Maryland, including the Potomac. Stocking efforts are concentrated in the river between Dam 5 and Dam 3. Although walleye reproduce naturally in the Potomac, yearclasses have generally been weak. Supplementing the natural reproduction with fingerlings produced in the hatchery will help to maintain the population at a level that provides good fishing.

Tags: Walleye

Posted on March 13, 2013 | Permalink

Potomac River Smallmouth Bass Survey

Type: Freshwater
Region: Western
Location: Potomac River

Inland Fisheries is seeking the help of Potomac River smallmouth bass fishermen. We are conducting a creel survey during 2013 to determine catch rates and fishing success for smallmouth bass. Information from this survey will be compared to past and future surveys, and in combination with our annual electrofishing surveys, help us identify bass population trends. You can participate in the survey by reporting your catch on-line at: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/survey/index.asp. The survey takes less than 5 minutes to complete and asks a few basic questions about the number and size of the bass you caught during your trip. We encourage you to record all of your trips, successful or not. Each angler that participates in the survey will be registered in a drawing to win a prize at the end of the year.

Smallmouth bass activity on the Potomac has increased with the recent warmer weather. River temperatures are currently in the low 40s and bass are beginning to move from wintering spots to traditional spring locations. On a recent trip, my fishing partner and I caught a number of nice smallmouth on jerkbaits and tubes. I recommend moving around a bit until fish are found. We caught 5 to 10 fish at some spots while similar looking areas produced none.

Tags: Smallmouth Bass

Posted on February 28, 2013 | Permalink

New Delayed Harvest Trout Fishing Area

Type: Freshwater
Region: Central
Location: Catoctin Creek Park

Inland Fisheries and the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department have partnered to offer trout fishermen a new fishing opportunity at Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick County. Catoctin Creek within the park boundaries is now managed as a Delayed Harvest Trout Fishing Area subject to the following restrictions: October 1 through May 31 artificial lures only, catch and release and from June 1 through September 30 no tackle restrictions and a daily possession limit of 5 trout (check Maryland Guide to Fishing 2013, page 23 for details).

Fishermen should park in designated areas, be respectful of other park visitors, and be aware of the park hours. More information about the park, driving directions, maps, and other programs available at the park is available at http://frederickcountymd.gov/index.aspx?NID=2927.

Catoctin Creek was recently stocked with 1,000 rainbow trout with the assistance of park staff and volunteers. With more than a mile of water to stock and no close access for a large hatchery truck, several ATV utility vehicles were used to distribute the fish. A small aerated tank on the ATV was used to haul the trout closer to the stream where they were then carried in buckets to the release locations. The trout handled the transfer well and are now thoroughly spread throughout the fishing area. Catoctin Creek offers a variety of habitat from slow pools, log jambs, riffles, and rocky runs. Please enjoy and respect this opportunity so that we can continue to provide fishing recreation at the park for many years to come.

Tags: rainbow trout, trout stocking

Posted on February 21, 2013 | Permalink

5th Annual St. Judes Benefit Tournament

Type: Freshwater
Region: Western
Location: Upper Potomac River at the Brunswick Campground

The 5th Annual open tournament to raise money for St Judes Children’s Research Hospital was held on the upper Potomac River at the Brunswick Campground on February 16. Dave and Mary Baker have hosted the popular winter tournament since 2009 with the help of many generous sponsors (http://www.2riversfishnhounds.com/stjudetournamentsite.htm). Although State regulations permit five bass per angler with a 12” minimum size, tournament rules limited anglers to five bass per boat with a 15” minimum size.

You never know what kind of weather Mother Nature will dish out for a February tournament, but it's usually a safe bet that it will be cold. This year fishermen were treated to a cloudy day in the upper 30s and favorable river conditions. A number of the upper Potomac’s savviest river anglers were on hand and they brought some very impressive smallmouth to the scales. Twenty two boats brought in a total of 69 bass with 14 that were = 18”. There was a tie for Lunker with two anglers weighing bass of 4.4 pounds and a close runner up had a bass of 4.3 pounds. First place went to the Gene Milburn and S. Saville who brought in five bass with a weight of 16.6 lbs. Congratulations to all the anglers that participated to raise money for a good cause. Several of the winners also donated their winnings.

Open tournaments like this one are a good opportunity for Inland Fisheries to determine angler catch rates, which are useful in monitoring smallmouth population trends. This years tournament had the highest catch rate since the tournament began in 2009. Bass from the above average year classes produced from 2005 – 2007 are now over 15” and, combined with the favorable conditions, contributed to the high catch rate. Following the weigh-in procedure and data collection, the bass were held in an aerated tank and subsequently released back into the Potomac.

Tags: smallmouth bass

Posted on February 20, 2013 | Permalink

Winter Smallmouth

Type: Freshwater
Region: Western
Location: Potomac River

River smallmouth bass fishing can be very challenging during the winter months, but under the right conditions it can very productive as well. The best fishing is usually during warming trends and just prior to an approaching weather system. Steve Peperak and I were fortunate enough to be able to fish the Potomac River under these conditions recently and landed many 14 - 17" smallmouth on a variety of lures. I can't think of a better way to spend a winter day!

Tags: smallmouth bass

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