Freshwater (Inland Fisheries):
Fisheries Services' 2009 Year In Review
Western Region, District I Garrett and Allegany Counties
Savage River Trophy Trout Fishing Area
The Savage River Tailwater continues to be one of Maryland’s top fishing destinations for trophy wild brook and brown trout. Our 2009 surveys show that adult trout densities remain at high levels with an average of just over 1,000 per mile throughout river. The highest numbers were found in the Fly Fishing Only Area with an estimated 1,258 adult trout per mile; however, the Artificial Lure/Trophy Trout area of the river holds impressive numbers of wild trout as well. Brown trout continue to dominate the population, while brook trout are shown to make up about 11% of the total number of adult fish. There are also a few quality adult rainbow trout in the river, reaching nearly 17 inches, to add to the fishing experience. The numbers of quality size brook trout (> 8 inches) and brown trout (> 12 inches) inhabiting the river is remarkable, with brook trout up to nearly 11 inches and brown trout up to 17 inches collected in the 2009 survey. Reproduction was considered fair for brook trout, while the 2009 brown trout year-class was considered poor. Currently repairs on the Savage River Dam are underway and the expected completion date is sometime during early spring of 2010. We will continue to update the status of the gate replacement as information becomes available. Also in 2009, the invasive algae Didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) were collected from the Savage River Tailwater. Didymo has the potential to devastate the fisheries in which it becomes established, so anglers are advised to utilize the wader wash stations located along the river to minimize the spread of this harmful invasive species.
The Youghiogheny River Catch and Release Trout Fishing Area
The trout population has now completely recovered after the record hot summer of 2005, with fall population estimates reaching the management goal of 1,000 trout per mile. The upper station near Hoyes Run has the highest trout densities at 1,628/mile, while even the lower Sang Run area had densities more than 1,000 per mile. Brown trout measuring 19.5 inches and rainbow trout measuring 21 inches were collected in 2009. Annual fingerling stockings support this fishery and the total number of fingerlings stocked in the Yough River C&R TFA during 2009 met our management objective. A cooperative agreement with the Deep Creek Lake Hydro-station to maintain the coldwater habitat through temperature enhancement releases during the critical summer period worked well in 2009. This year will always be remembered as the “Year of Big Rainbow Trout” in the Yough. I caught my personal best Youghiogheny River rainbow trout, a gorgeous 20-inch hook-jawed male, during an awesome caddis hatch in early spring. My son Kyle landed a couple of dandy 18-inch rainbows, and he reminded me that he has bigger rainbows to his credit. Good fishing continued through early winter when Stephan Farrand and Tracie Gibbons braved some cold, snowy Garrett County weather to fish the Youghiogheny River Catch and Release Trout Fishing Area. They had a great day catching some gorgeous trophy rainbow trout! Between the two anglers, they landed 17 trout using size 18 Pheasant Tail nymphs and size 20 Brassies.
The North Branch Potomac River (NBPR)
With 50 miles of managed trout water ranging from Put and Take, Delayed Harvest, Catch and Release, and Zero Creel Limit trout management areas, the North Branch Potomac River offers something for everyone. We stocked the Delayed Harvest Area of the river bordering the Potomac State Forest via CSX rail-truck to get trout into this remote area. Thanks to the relatively cool summer, anglers reported catching rainbow trout throughout the summer in this beautiful section of the river. The upper Catch and Return Trout Fishing Area downstream of the Jennings Randolph Lake Dam contained an estimated of 590 brown and rainbow trout per mile. Trophy rainbow trout measuring 20 inches and brown trout measuring 14.5 inches were collected in 2009. The Garrett College Fisheries Management Class provided the necessary manpower to conduct the electro-fishing survey in one of the most difficult rivers to wade in Maryland! The Put and Take Areas at Barnum and Bloomington received more than 10,000 adult trout and benefited from the generous donations of large rainbow trout throughout the year from the Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute.
We evaluated the area of the North Branch Potomac from Westernport downstream to Pinto, MD for the management efforts of the Trout Zero Creel Limit (ZCL). We stocked about 70,000 rainbow trout fingerlings and 11,500 brown trout fingerlings in the ZCL with the objective of supporting a high quality put-and-grow coldwater fishery. The length frequency distribution of rainbow and brown trout pooled from all stations within the ZCL show multiple year-classes indicating continued year-round growth and survival of fingerling-stocked trout. Many of these fish are attaining trophy size, with Age 2+ Kamloops rainbow trout averaging about 14 inches in total length. This is the place in Maryland to catch a trout of a lifetime – as we collected plenty of trophy-size trout measuring more than 20 inches.
The Catch and Return Bass Fishing Area (C&R BFA) of the NBPR from Keyser to Cumberland supports a smallmouth bass population characterized by a diverse age and size structure, with an abundant number of sub-legal fish from the strong 2007 year-class. Smallmouth bass reproduction was documented for the 13th consecutive year, and reproductive success was considered “fair’. Largemouth bass were less abundant than smallmouth bass within the C&R BFA; however, correspondences with anglers indicate that largemouth bass are routinely captured within this special management area.
Deep Creek Lake
Studies conducted in Deep Creek Lake during 2009 showed Maryland’s largest lake is home to several popular gamefish and panfish species including walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, and bluegill. We also observed that the lake’s abundant common carp population has gained a following of anglers. Walleye are abundant, and the adult population hosts a large percentage of fish in the 16 to 18 inch size class, with fish measuring up to 24 inches in our sample. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are abundant in Deep Creek Lake as well, and their populations contain a high percentage of adults in the quality (>12 inches) and preferred (> 15 inches) size range. Reproductive success was considered “Fair” for smallmouth and “Good” for largemouth bass in 2009. We obtained more yellow perch data to gain more knowledge on this species life history in Deep Creek Lake, and a new creel limit goes into effect for Deep Creek Lake yellow perch effective 1 January 2010. The daily creel limit for yellow perch is now 10 per day with a 20 fish possession limit, with no size restriction.
Lake Habeeb within Rocky Gap State Park, Allegany County, MD has a surface area of 243 acres, a maximum depth of 74 feet, and has 9.4 miles of shoreline. Lake Habeeb prohibits gas-powered motors on boats due to the serenity of the surrounding recreational areas including the campground. The lake stratifies in the summer providing a zone of cold, oxygenated water sufficient to support warm and coldwater fisheries. Lake Habeeb supports at least eleven fish species including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegills, and channel catfish. Annual stockings of about 4,000 adult brown trout and rainbow trout provide year-round put and take trout fishing opportunities. We did find good numbers of redear sunfish that were stocked as fingerlings a few years ago, these fish will be on my “To Catch” list for 2010!
Western Maryland’s Garrett and Allegany Counties received generous numbers of trout from our dedicated Trout Hatchery Staff. Garrett and Allegany Counties received 131, 285 adult trout in the spring that were stocked into forty-two trout management areas including Put and Take, Youth and Blind, Youth, Blind, and Seniors, Delayed Harvest, and Catch and Release Trout Fishing Areas. Several of these areas received bonus stocking of trophy rainbow trout courtesy of a generous donation by the Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute. In addition, the fall trout stocking program sent 2,900 brown and rainbow trout to this area, and my son and I experienced some great fishing in Bear Creek during November.
Western Region District II
The upper Potomac River is one of Maryland’s most valuable resources. Surveys are conducted annually to monitor the river’s popular game fish species. Walleye are collected during late February and March to obtain age, growth, and size structure data while relative abundance and year class strength are determined from fall collections. Some of the mature walleye collected during the spring survey were retained for use as brood at the Cedarville Warmwater Hatchery. The fry produced from these fish were stocked back into the Potomac near Cumberland. Walleye survive and grow very well in the western stretches, but natural reproduction has not equaled downstream areas.
Walleye are present throughout the Potomac, but are most abundant between Dam 5 and Point of Rocks. Fishing in 2010 is predicted to be excellent. However, with no reproduction documented during 2008 or 2009 nearly all fish will be greater than the 15” minimum size and more than 30% will exceed 20”. Fishermen need to keep in mind that there is a 20” maximum size in affect on the Potomac from January 1 through April 15 to protect spawning females; all walleye greater than 20” must be released. Walleye are an outstanding addition to the Potomac fishery and provide great fishing, especially during the winter and early spring while other species are not yet active.
The Potomac muskellunge fishery continues to attract fishermen from Maryland and the surrounding states, and for good reason. Muskie occur from Little Orleans downstream to Whites Ferry and the population is maintained entirely by natural reproduction. To expand their range and increase fishing opportunities, eight sexually mature muskie were collected and transported to Cedarville for spawning. The resulting fry were stocked into suitable habitat near Cumberland and the adults were returned to the collection site. Unfortunately, a flood occurred shortly after stocking and fry survival is expected to be poor. No young muskie were observed or collected during 2008 or 2009.
It can be difficult to collect a significant amount of muskie data each year, the resource naturally occurs in relatively low numbers. To overcome this, data is collected from both electro-fishing surveys and angler catches. The highest catch rates were recorded in 2008 and declined only slightly in 2009. The size distribution of the population is excellent. Thirteen percent of the muskie collected during 2009 exceeded 42”!! Few males will reach this size and the average female takes nine years to do so.
As the popularity of the muskie fishery grows, it is important to have information on fishing effort, catch, and harvest to make management decisions that will maintain the high quality of this resource. If you currently fish or plan to fish for muskie on the Potomac, you can help by filling out this creel survey form. and returned by mail or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Releasing muskie is encouraged. For information on recommended handling methods and tools contact the above address.
Although walleye and muskie add an exciting dimension to the Potomac fishery, the tenacious smallmouth bass is the Potomac’s most sought after sport fish. Smallmouth are monitored primarily by summer seining surveys to determine the abundance of young smallmouth and by fall electro-fishing to determine the relative abundance, size distribution, growth, and physical condition of the adult population. Only 23 young bass were collected from over 90 hauls conducted between PawPaw and Seneca indicating a poor hatch in 2009, well below the long-term average. High water events during May and June are believed to be the primary cause of the poor hatch
Electro-fishing surveys last fall collected a total of 1192 smallmouth bass from 12 sites between PawPaw and Edwards Ferry. Smallmouth bass were very abundant. Electro-fishing catch rates in 2008 and 2009 were some of the highest recorded in the past 20 years, particularly in the stretches west of Clear Spring. The catch rate for smallmouth over 11” was relatively uniform throughout the river with a few more large individuals available in the lower sections where growth rates are faster. Smallmouth produced from the record 2007 yearclass averaged 9.9” in the middle/upper river and 11” in the lower river. By five years of age the average smallmouth bass in the middle/upper river is 12.9”. At the same age a bass in the lower river has reached 14.6”. During the same period a bass in the lower river will reach 14.5”. There has been little change in the smallmouth size distribution since 2006. However, small bass were beginning to make up a greater proportion in the 2009 collections due to the record hatch in 2007.
In cooperation with the USGS National Fish Health Lab, samples of sexually mature smallmouth bass were collected from the Potomac at Williamsport and Lander to investigate contaminants found in the tissues of wild smallmouth bass. Information from this study will help to identify potential contaminants that cause intersex (organism having both male and female characteristics). Intersex in male smallmouth bass is common throughout the Potomac and other watersheds. Determining the chemicals present in the tissues of smallmouth bass will help identify possible sources of contaminants that cause intersexing, the first step in protecting the environment.
Electro-fishing surveys were conducted on Cunningham Falls and Greenbriar Lakes to monitor the largemouth bass fisheries. Cunningham Falls in Frederick County continues to support a tremendous largemouth bass fishery. Not only were bass extremely abundant, bass up to 5 and 6 pounds were observed as well. Over 60% of the bass collected during the 2009 survey exceeded 12” in length.
Greenbrier Lake, however, is a completely different story. Though large bass are present, the fishery could be characterized as overcrowded with many undersized fish. On the other hand, fishing for large sunfish is excellent. To improve this fishery, nearly 300 largemouth bass under 12 inches in length collected during three nights of electro-fishing were removed and stocked into nearby community ponds open to public fishing. If enough bass can be removed to reduce crowding, physical condition and growth rates should improve resulting in larger bass and better fishing. Prior to moving fish from one body of water to another a sample is tested as a safeguard against spreading disease. Future surveys will monitor the success of the removal efforts.
Put and Take trout fishing is enjoyed by anglers of all ages eager to cast a line and begin fishing no matter what the weather. A total of 100,000 rainbow and brown trout are stocked within Central Maryland each spring. These fish are stocked into publicly accessible streams and ponds throughout the area.
Northern Snakeheads made their annual appearance in Northwest Branch in Montgomery County. MD National Capitol Park and Planning staff captured one in June and one in October 2009. Both were roughly 2 ft. long and were found in the same pool complex that was home to the snakeheads last year. Photo by Jai Cole, MNCPPC.
The annual fall electro-fishing survey of the Gunpowder Falls tailwater in Baltimore County was again successful in documenting an excellent population of wild brown trout. We electro-fished 3 segments of the Gunpowder from Prettyboy Dam downstream to Monkton. A total of 661 adult brown trout were captured in the 3 stations. Based upon our data, the Gunpowder Falls has an average of 2143 adult brown trout per mile in the 9 miles of publicly accessible stream from Prettyboy Dam downstream to Monkton.
Piney Run Reservoir is an excellent largemouth bass destination. A fall electro-fishing survey on the reservoir found a high proportion of 12 inch and larger bass. A few really nice channel catfish were also captured in the reservoir. Yellow perch, black crappie and sunfish are abundant and for those who enjoy panfish.
Tidal Largemouth Bass Program
The purpose of the tidal bass survey in the Chesapeake Bay is to produce reliable indices of abundance, growth, survivorship, and other life history traits. These indices are used to monitor largemouth bass populations and allow us to protect the tidal bass fishery. Continuing work that has been done since 1999, the tidal bass survey team sampled five major rivers using boat electro-fishing to measure the status and health of black bass in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The rivers surveyed in 2009 were: Potomac River, rivers of the upper Chesapeake Bay, Choptank River, Marshyhope Creek (Nanticoke River), and Pocomoke River.
Potomac River: Similar to previous years, the Potomac River had the best fishery for largemouth bass, as well as the highest number of tournament anglers. A survey of angling activity on the Potomac River in 1994 indicated that largemouth bass were the major fishery, comprising about 56.7% of all fish caught. Most black bass tournaments held on tidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay are held on the Potomac River and from March through September. In 2009, we recorded data from 137 tournaments (March – November) and 77% of those were held on the Potomac River. Tournament activity and release boat conditions were partially blamed for a recent loss of about 600 largemouth bass from the Potomac River at the end of June (2009). While high temperatures and low oxygen levels also helped aggravate stress and lead to death of the largemouth bass, their deaths spurred frustration with large tournaments on the Potomac River during summer. In response, we imposed regulations on the captains of release boats and updated our recommended policies for tournament directors. Despite the loss of those fish during summer, our survey results indicated that the size and structure of the population was not very different from last year.
Upper Chesapeake Bay: The upper Chesapeake Bay has a splendid fishery of large and fat fish, with abundance second to that of the Potomac River. We caught the largest fish of this year’s survey in the upper Bay (a fish weighing 8 lbs). Largemouth bass do well in the upper Bay because of its massive freshwater inflow and the broad distribution of grasses that help support reproduction and survival.
The recreational fishery in the upper Chesapeake Bay has increased significantly since one of the first creel surveys conducted in 1958, when channel catfish dominated anglers’ catches. Commercial harvest of largemouth bass from 1947 to 1960 in the upper Chesapeake Bay possibly competed with recreational angling activity. When commercial harvest for largemouth bass ceased, more fish became available for recreational anglers. Since at least the mid-1980’s, catch rates by recreational anglers have steadily increased in the upper Bay. In 1997, a survey of recreational anglers from the upper Chesapeake Bay showed that black bass was the major recreational fishery. The level of harvest by recreational anglers was low.
Tournament activities have more recently increased over the past decade. But, the number of tournaments on the upper Bay is low relative to the Potomac River, with only 28 being recorded in 2009. Tournament activity is principally centered near Gunpowder State Park and the upper Northeast River. During this year’s survey, we caught several large bass in the Northeast River, especially near old piers and rip rap. Because the Northeast River is a release site for many tournaments, capturing large fish there was no more surprising than capturing large fish in Mattawoman Creek, another popular release site for tournaments.
Choptank River: There has been a noticeable decline in catch of largemouth bass from the Choptank River and Chester River since 2001. There are many possible reasons for this decline, including some extremely cold, wet and warm, dry years that affect survival, reproduction, and sampling efficiency. In 2009, the Choptank River yielded fewer bass, but a nice size range. The largest fish we surveyed in the Choptank River was about 4 lbs. The percent of trophy size (= 15”) largemouth bass was higher for the Choptank River (21%) than other rivers, but the number of fish caught was at least three times lower than other rivers surveyed. To help increase the strength of younger age classes, we stocked over 100,000 fry and fingerlings in selected reaches of the Choptank River. Over 5,000 fingerlings were also released to the Patuxent River and Middle River as well. These numbers add to a contribution of over 4 million stocked largemouth bass to tidal rivers of Chesapeake Bay since 1982 by MDNR.
Marshyhope Creek and Nanticoke River: There were 80 fish collected from Marshyhope Creek and 30 of those were juveniles. These fish ranged in total length from 3” to 17” and the largest was 2.7 lbs. While we only have 2 years of previous data, the population in the Marshyhope appears to have good reproduction. The population is small to moderate, but with a similar proportion of legal fish as the Potomac River and upper Bay. There were few large, 15” fish, which could be because we missed them or because anglers caught them. Average relative weight was above 100%, indicating a robust and healthy population.
Pocomoke River: There were 63 fish collected from the Pocomoke River, including 11 juveniles. These fish ranged in total length from 2.5” to 17” and the largest was 2.6 lbs. In some ways, the surveyed population of the Pocomoke River was similar to that in Marshyhope Creek. However, the proportion of juveniles was slightly lower than that for the Marshyhope. Also, the proportion of 15” fish in the Pocomoke was high and similar to that found for populations in the Potomac River. Average relative weight was above 95%, which also indicates a robust and healthy population.
Growth and Reproduction
Our survey results indicate that about 1/3 of the population for the Potomac River, upper Chesapeake Bay, Pocomoke River, and Marshyhope Creek (Nanticoke River) is legally harvestable at 12”. It takes fish about 2 years to reach the 12 inch harvestable size for most systems, but less time in the Pocomoke River and Marshyhope Creek. Juvenile bass grow about 1 inch per month, which slows to about 0.2 inches per month after their first summer. When they reach 12 inches in size, growth slows to about 0.1 inches per month. Growth for hatchery-reared fish is similar to that observed for wild-caught populations. Because growth and survival to legal size is an important aspect for the fishery, we are learning more about survivorship of different sizes of hatchery raised fish in order to enhance our stocking strategies. Growing fish to about 3 – 4 inches may be best, but algal growth in hatchery ponds kills fingerlings when they are removed from the hatchery ponds. The hatchery manager, Brian Richardson, is currently researching ways to spawn largemouth bass and raise their offspring in tanks that are protected against water net.
Survivorship of Bass Following Tournaments
Survivorship of bass following tournaments has not changed in the Potomac River since 2005. Immediately after weigh-in, the proportion of fish that survived since 2005 has averaged 97.3% per tournament. For the upper Chesapeake Bay, survivorship was lower in 2009 than previous years, but at similar levels measured for the Potomac River (> 95%). Following 6 weekends of large tournaments (> 50 boats), the number of dead fish on the water after 24 – 48 hours was estimated. Delayed mortality averaged 5.4% and ranged from 0 to 18.6%. The highest level of delayed mortality was observed following a weekend at the end of June when four tournaments were held. Based on our estimates of mortality in 2009, we found that about 1 fish per 4 tournament anglers was removed or harvested from the population. We’ve also found that total annual mortality due to tournament and non-tournament fishing is a small fraction of natural mortality for populations in the Potomac River and upper Chesapeake Bay.
The year of 2009 was a good one for anglers in the southern Maryland. Fishing the tidal freshwater of the Potomac River proved to be the waterway with the largest fish and the place with the most angling diversity. Although known for its largemouth bass fishery, the tidal freshwater Potomac running through Prince Georges and Charles Counties has quite a plethora of species to meet many anglers’ expectations. The invasive blue catfish and northern snakehead continue to be a nuisance to fisheries managers, but a tackle tester to anglers seeking new large species to add to their fish wish list. The largest blue catfish are approaching 70 pounds, while it is more common to catch specimens averaging 20 to 30 pounds. Snakeheads unfortunately are increasing their stronghold in the tributaries of the Potomac. They have been documented in many of the tributaries upstream of the tidal line and have infested several floodplain ponds. Both species are also enjoyable in the culinary aspect of the fishery. Other popular fishery resources in the tidal Potomac are black crappie, white and yellow perch, striped bass, several sunfish species, American and hickory shad, herring and channel catfish. Other interesting species available in the Potomac, but rarely sought after by anglers are longnose gar and carp. These 2 species can be caught hook and line but, also allows bow fishermen to test their archery skills.
Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs have had good reports from anglers throughout 2009. These 2 sister impoundments have a large diverse fish population that draws attention from anglers. Each reservoir has a solid population of largemouth bass, some exceeding the 8 pound range. Smallmouth bass can be found in Triadelphia reservoir (the northern of the 2 impoundments) although largemouth are more common. Small populations of walleye and striped bass are found in each lake. These 2 species have shown limited to no spawning in the reservoirs, but fry and fingerling are stocked annually to supplement spawning stocks. An average size walleye would be 2 or 3 pounds, but occasionally a fish is found that is more than 10 lbs. There is a naturally reproducing population of northern pike in each reservoir and specimens have been caught exceeding 40 inches. Black and white crappies offer an excellent opportunity for an angler to have some fun, especially in the spring. Most fish will be around 8 inches, but there are a few 15 to17 inch lunkers mixed in. For inland anglers seeking white perch, who don’t want to drive to the tidal waters; Triadelphia is a place for you. Several years ago, someone illegally stocked white perch in the 2 lakes and their population has exploded especially in Triadelphia reservoir. Most of the white perch are less than 8 inches, but it should be easy to catch a bunch in the spring. Other fishable species in the reservoirs include large channel catfish (up to 20 lbs), several sunfish species and a large population of carp, fishable by rod and reel and also with a bow and arrow.
The tidal freshwater of the Patuxent river offers good angling for large yellow perch (best during spring spawning run), quality white perch, channel catfish and a seasonal striped bass fishery. In addition, there are some nice size black crappie and several sunfish species in the mix.
Trout stocking is an event that is waited for by anglers of all ages. Trout anglers were supplied with more than 22,000 rainbow and brown trout for the put-n-take waters across southern Maryland during the spring and fall. Hats off to our hatchery personnel, who did an excellent job of raising beautiful rainbow and brown trout, a few up to 5 and 6 pounds.
A fall 2009 electro-fishing study conducted on St Mary’s Lake show a high percentage of small bass. Twenty-three percent of all bass collected were within the slot length of 11-15 inches and only 4% were larger than slot length. Although most of the bass were short, they were plump and healthy. The bluegill and redear sunfish and black crappie were abundant and would be fun for a panfish anglers outing. There are some large chain pickerel and yellow perch surviving in St. Mary’s lake, but their abundance is not as high as some of the other species. If there are anglers looking for an unusual sunfish species to seek, there is a small spawning population of flier (Centrarchus macropterus) residing in the watershed.
Along with the Tidal Bass duties completed in 2009, the Eastern Regional Inland Fisheries Team completed several impoundment surveys. Traditionally, those surveys are completed in the fall; however a boat electro-fishing survey of Urieville Lake (Kent County) was completed in the spring before the aquatic weeds made it impossible to do so. The pond historically has had severe siltation and aquatic weed growth problems from poor land use practices in its watershed, which limit its water quality. Surprisingly, the electro-fishing survey yielded good numbers of catchable sized bass and some truly trophy sized panfish. Fishermen skilled in fishing thick vegetation should be able to do very well!
Despite being heavily fished, Tuckahoe Lake (Caroline/Queen Anne Counties) is currently home to healthy populations of bass, bluegill and black crappie. The largest bass weighed just over 4 pounds, with many in the 2-3 pound range. The redear sunfish stocked over the last few years are becoming quite large, and very abundant. Large chain pickerel were also encountered. Fishermen without boats need not despair! The State Park office rents canoes out to anglers in the warmer months. Call (410) 820-1668 for information.
A comprehensive fisheries assessment was completed of Allen Pond by Eastern Regional Staff to guide future management decisions. Allen Pond is a small, shallow, county owned impoundment just south of Salisbury. Aquatic vegetation was very abundant. Species encountered were coontail, lilies, duckweed, watermeal, filamentous algae and parrotfeather (an exotic invasive weed species). The shallow depth and vegetation made electro-fishing quite difficult, but a short survey was completed. Good numbers of largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish, and black crappie were collected. Smaller bass below minimum legal size were most abundant, but a few larger fish were encountered. Managing a high-quality fishery in Allen Pond will be difficult given its obvious excess nutrient and siltation problems. However, redear sunfish were stocked to enhance the panfish opportunities.
For those seeking something “new” to fish for, I suggest trying for flathead catfish in the Susquehanna River and Conowingo Reservoir. Illegally or unintentionally introduced into the river a few years back, individuals are now being encountered with increasing frequency by our staff and fishermen. Some individuals have tipped the scales at over 30 pounds! Flatheads are non-native invasive species that can cause serious damage to our ecosystems with their predatory feeding habits. Fisheries Service asks for your help by keeping any flatheads you catch that are > 10” (this minimum size applies to tidal water only). Flatheads prefer live bait, so try fishing small white perch or panfish in the deeper pools of the Susquehanna. They are fantastic eating!
Walleye fishing in the Susquehanna River was fantastic in 2009. We are asked frequently why the fishing has been so good. We have no documentation of walleye successfully spawning below Conowingo Dam. Although we do stock walleye above and below the Dam when they are available, we believe that the majority of the walleye are “washovers” from above Conowingo Dam. Reproduction in the Reservoir was excellent in 2005; it is likely that many of the larger individuals were from that year-class.
Warm Water Hatcheries is a bit of a misnomer for the DNR fish culture facilities at Manning Hatchery (Charles County) and Unicorn Hatchery (Queen Annes County). These facilities actually culture coldwater, cool water and anadromous species in addition to traditional warm water species such as largemouth bass and bluegill. Together, these two hatcheries culture American shad, hickory shad, Atlantic sturgeon, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, hybrid sunfish, redear sunfish, fathead minnow, golden shiner, walleye, musky, tiger musky, rainbow trout, channel catfish and striped bass to meet statewide management needs. These needs include population restoration programs, corrective stocking, “put and take” trout fishing, children’s fishing rodeos and population enhancement. These facilities also perform experimental work with species such as American eel and Northern snakehead and investigate new marking, spawning and culture techniques.
Our warm water culture facilities are constantly expanding their facility resources, knowledge and experience to better meet management needs. The previous year was no exception as we delved into new culture techniques for several species.
Atlantic Sturgeon Culture
We improved our ability to eventually stock hatchery-cultured fish to aid restoration of imperiled Atlantic sturgeon in Maryland. Atlantic sturgeon eggs were purchased from the Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar Company in New Brunswick, Canada. Unlike U.S. Atlantic sturgeon stocks, Canadian populations are high and stable and support an active commercial fishery. Purchase of these commercially-produced eggs allowed hatchery staff to refine culture techniques prior to the availability of wild-origin brood fish from the mid-Atlantic. Culture trials such as these ensure that resources and staff are in place so there is no need to experiment with the ecologically valuable wild brood fish from our captive breeding program (see Anadromous Restoration Year in Review section). Hatchery staff were able to successfully culture these fertilized eggs to hatch and juvenile size so we feel confident that we will be prepared to spawn wild-origin Atlantic sturgeon brood stock when the time comes.
Walleye were traditionally obtained from out-of-state sources as fertilized eggs. Due to biosecurity concerns, all DNR hatcheries are looking for solutions to limit interstate transfer of fish and eggs. It is less probable that pathogens will spread if the brood stock is of local origin. In 2009, hatchery staff coordinated with field staff from Inland Fisheries Regional Operations to collect and transport walleye brood stock from the Potomac River. Staff were able to successfully spawn the fish and produced over 70,000 walleye fingerlings for stocking into state lakes and rivers.
Muskellunge and hybrids
For similar reasons, hatchery staff also sought to develop procedures to spawn pure musky and hybrid tiger musky. Since this has never been attempted by DNR, staff conducted experimental spawning trials in 2009 for both species. Pure musky brood fish from the Potomac River were spawned using several techniques. Some of the fish successfully spawned and approximately 8,000 larvae were produced. A portion of the larvae were returned to the Potomac River and the rest were cultured in hatchery ponds. Survival was poor in the ponds, most likely due to cannibalism. Research will continue in 2010 to increase survival to juvenile size. The adult brood stock were returned to the Potomac River.
Tiger musky are produced from a hatchery cross between female musky and male Northern pike. Planned experimental tiger musky spawning was not attempted due to scarcity of ripe Northern pike males in 2009. DNR was able to obtain tiger musky eggs from a certified, pathogen-free source and staff produced approximately 35,000 tiger musky larvae. Similar to pure musky culture, severe cannibalism reduced juvenile culture success, both in culture tanks and grow-out ponds. Research in 2010 will concentrate on techniques to reduce cannibalism.
In order to improve efficiency in operations, hatchery biologists performed experimental trials to spawn largemouth bass in hatchery tanks. Traditional largemouth bass spawning techniques require brood fish to be placed in ponds where they are allowed to spawn naturally. These fish are subject to the effects of weather and temperature, which can affect spawning behavior and development of the plankton blooms that pond-cultured larvae depend on for food. If hatchery staff can develop successful techniques to spawn largemouth bass in hatchery tanks, they will have more control over culture conditions and improve spawning, hatching and growth rates. Staff were able to successfully spawn 60% of the brood stock that were placed in hatchery tanks. This success is very encouraging but the process still needs refinement. In addition to improvement of spawning success, staff will also concentrate on research to investigate feeding and nutrition in intensive tank-culture situations and conversion from live, natural foods to commercially-prepared fish diets.
Both Manning Hatchery and Unicorn Hatchery culture rainbow trout over the fall and winter for “put and take” stocking in Southern Region and Eastern Region. Stock is provided by DNR’s Albert Powell Hatchery and warm water staff culture them up to larger size until spring stocking. This creates more culture space at the traditional trout hatcheries and reduces travel and transport time for stocking. In 2009, Albert Powell Hatchery also provided some larger, holdover trout for stocking in spring 2010 so anglers should look forward to the chance to catch some larger trout in these non-traditional trout waters. Hyperlink to stocking schedule
Cultured Fish for Fishing Rodeos
DNR’s fishing rodeo program is popular with kids all across the state. Traditionally, rodeo species include rainbow trout and hybrid sunfish. In 2010, we are pleased to be able to add channel catfish to that list. Hatchery staff are culturing a limited number of nice channel catfish right now and they should be fighting size in time for late-summer fishing rodeos. These fish were purchased from a certified, pathogen-free source but in 2010 we hope to spawn our own channel catfish brood. If successful, we should be able to provide plenty of opportunities for kids to hook into one of these whiskered whoppers.
Once again Maryland hatcheries provided quality fish for another successful spring trout stocking season. Over 250,000 adult-sized rainbow, brown, and golden trout were stocked into Maryland waters. Included were an additional 5,000 two-year-old holdover trout and 1,000 three-year-old and four-year-old trophy fish. The stocked trophy fish weighed between six and ten pounds each.
During the spring, summer, and fall of 2009, coldwater hatcheries also provided nearly 180,000 fingerling-sized trout for “put and grow stocking”. Fingerlings are requested by fisheries biologists to be stocked in locations where there is the greatest chance of survival in an attempt to establish a better fishery.
Currently there are 16 Maryland counties that offer fishing rodeo events for children and families to attend. In 2009, nearly 11,000 trout were stocked from Albert Powell Hatchery for Maryland DNR’s fishing rodeo program. This successful program continues to encourage children and families to enjoy outdoor recreational activities.
For 18 years our fall trout stocking program has provided excellent fishing opportunities for die hard anglers. Nearly 19,000 trout were stocked this October with fish averaging one pound each. Included in nearly every load was a trophy fish that weighed between six and ten pounds. With fishing pressure at a minimum, this is the best time of year for anglers to land a trophy trout and enjoy some solitude on our waters.
Maryland coldwater hatcheries continually strive to improve production capability. The Albert Powell Hatchery staff is evaluating circular tanks for experimental culture in an effort to establish rearing units capable of supporting larger fish with minimal water usage. If effective, this will create more rearing space for future production at the Washington County facility.
An experimental recirculating aquaculture system, commonly referred to as RAS, has been in operation at Bear Creek Rearing Facility in Garrett County. RAS culture allows fish to be reared with minimal water usage and with alternate water sources. Last year, nearly 16,000 fingerlings were successfully reared for “put and grow” stocking. Most recently, staff constructed a mixed cell raceway to rear fingerling to adult sizes. The experimental culture in the RAS unit at Bear Creek provides valuable experience for future trout culture in statewide facilities.
For the first time in three years, limited adult production at Bear Creek Rearing Station has been initiated. 20,000 brown trout and 3,000 rainbows have been placed in concrete raceways and are tested monthly for whirling disease. With continued negative testing results, this would allow us to increase production to nearly 40,000 fish for 2011.
Western Maryland Hatcheries
DNR has developed cooperative aquaculture programs with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) to educate and train at-risk youths and simultaneously produce cultured fish for state management needs. Adjudicated youth at these camps act as hatchery technicians performing daily water quality monitoring and data collection. These students have the opportunity to use their knowledge gained to expand resumes and chances of employment when reentering society. Release from the camp is based on completion of their educational and counseling programs. DNR staff also assists with other aspects of environmental science teaching through hands-on instruction, as well as curriculum development with teachers and high-level DJS staff. These programs are aligned with Governor’s directives such as No Child Left Indoors and the Civic Justice Corps, as well as other youth and nature-driven initiatives. Currently, cooperative programs are established at DJS Meadow Mountain Youth Camp and Backbone Mountain Youth Camp. There were some exciting new developments for this project in 2009.
In May 2009, Western Maryland Hatcheries staff oversaw construction of a 24 x 30’ addition to the existing environmental sciences classroom located at Meadow Mountain Youth Center. After building completion, two recirculating aquaculture rearing systems (RAS) were constructed. These systems include four 500-gallon tanks and one 600-gallon tank for fish culture. RAS have several advantages over traditional fish culture procedures. These systems provide the fish culturist with total control over environmental conditions such as water quality and temperature and have the added advantage of using much less water than conventional aquaculture. Intensive culture RAS techniques also provide better feeding efficiency. Hybrid sunfish, tilapia, rainbow trout and brown trout were reared at the facility before this expansion. The building expansion will enable the project to increase production and species diversity. To supply fish for targeted youth angling programs such as fishing rodeos, system biofilters have been inoculated and will be receiving hybrid sunfish from DNR Manning Hatchery in January 2010. Striped bass have shown good growth and survival in a local lake. We plan to experiment with the rearing of this species for local stockings when fingerlings are available in May. The first stocking of fish from this facility occurred in June of 2009 when 200 hybrid sunfish were released into a pond for a handicapped children’s fishing rodeo. Angling reports from the rodeo organizers was very positive.
In the spring of 2009, two 15 x 15’ net pens were constructed in a pond on DJS property at the Backbone Mountain Youth Camp. This pond historically has had depressed pH due to limited acid neutralizing capacity of the parent geology and acid deposition of the local precipitation. Application of several sizes of limestone and installation of an alkaline production system has corrected the pH to acceptable culture parameters for hybrid sunfish. This project is still in the research stage as it is located near the highest elevation in the state and ice cover and the acidity of spring thaw waters have not been fully studied. Approximately 1,400 hybrid sunfish were placed in the pens for grow out. These fish will also be utilized for youth angling opportunities.
Studies were initiated by hatchery staff to proactively address potential changes in hatchery watersheds caused by invasive organisms such as gypsy moths and woolly adelgids.
In 2007 and 2008, over 40,000 acres of oaks were killed by the European gypsy moth in Garrett County. Subsequent timber harvesting began on state lands in 2009. Hatchery staff implemented a study of the impacts of oak mortality on forest vegetation regeneration with two local university professors and one Forest Ecology instructor. A proposal was developed and reviewed by the Savage River State Forest Manager. A 20-year plot inventory study is underway to study the changes in forest composition as well as soil nutrient changes that affect water quality. Graduate and undergraduate students from two local colleges will be performing this work as part of their curricula. Changes caused by gypsy moth infestation could cause negative impacts to hatchery watersheds and important trout habitat. These changes could influence nutrient flow, microclimates, moisture retention and thermal conditions and subsequently reduce our ability to operate fish culture facilities in these areas.
In 2009, hatchery staff continued hemlock woolly adelgid studies in areas that impact important hatchery watersheds and trout habitats. We drafted a proposal with Frostburg University Forest Ecology and Ethnobotany professors to scientifically monitor adelgid infestations in Savage River State Forest.