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Big Fish on Deep Creek Lake
By Capt. Brent Nelson

Here is everything you always wanted to know about catching big fish in Deep Creek Lake but were afraid to ask.

The 4-pound largemouth bass Mary Ann Johnson lifted from the chilly, high-country waters of Deep Creek Lake was just one example of the lunker action that awaits anglers in far western Maryland .

The trophy fish struck a Case Plastics Fat Grub fished slowly on the bottom in 9 feet of water.  It was one of the larger bass of Johnson’s fishing career.  She just needed someone to point her in the right direction.

Tucked away in Maryland ’s western most county, Deep Creek Lake offers an angler 65 miles of shoreline surrounding 3,900 acres of water. Deep Creek Lake is Maryland 's largest freshwater impoundment. The lake was created in 1925 to provide water for generating electricity, which it still does, but it now also provides a variety of water- based activities for the summer vacation community which since has grown up around the lake. 

This high country impoundment has long been known for its stellar coldwater fisheries. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, trophy-sized trout, pike, pickerel, walleyes, bluegills and yellow perch are abundant here. Three Maryland state record fish were taken from
Deep Creek Lake over the last ten years. A bluegill that weighed 3 pounds and seven ounces, a yellow perch that touched the scales at two pounds six ounces and a behemoth northern pike that weighed in at twenty four pounds twelve ounces are now in the record books.

Area anglers who want to sample this excellent fishery have only a short ride and the well maintained Deep Creek Lake State Park , to begin their quest.  The park offers shoreline anglers a handicapped accessible fishing pier where walleyes, perch, trout, pike and bass can be taken with some regularity. Adjacent to the fishing pier is the 4 lane boat launching facility with piers and boat slips.

Seasonal Tactics and Patterns
Seasonal fishing tactics vary on Deep Creek Lake . The end of March usually signals ice-out and many fish species begin to migrate to warmer northwest coves and shorelines facing the sun’s southern rays.  Walleyes, perch and northern pike are the first to spawn and savvy anglers pursue these fish in the lake’s shallow, back-cove waters.  Northern pike find it hard to pass up a big shiner minnow, free-lined under a float.  Another tactic we employ is a 1/2 oz Big Mouth spinnerbait slow rolled through the up-lake backwaters in the pike's nursery. The walleyes and perch prefer smaller presentations such as Case Plastic plastic grubs, in-line spinners and smaller Rapala Countdown in a perch color.

As lake waters warm in April and May, both smallmouth and largemouth bass make short sojourns from deeper secondary lake points to these same shallow waters to take their turn in the spawning ritual. Bass are aggressive now and can be easily hooked.  Here's where a Mizmo tube shines when pitched and skipped under secondary point docks. A closed season on bass, until June 15th, was implemented by Maryland ’s Department of Natural Resources three decades ago and as a result, bass populations are healthy and prolific on Deep Creek Lake .  You may fish for either species, but they must be returned to the lake immediately.

Summertime is tourist time on Deep Creek and congestion from ski boats, jet skies and pontoon boats turn Deep Creek Lake into the Times Square of Garrett County.  Most anglers fish early or late in the day to avoid the rush.  Many fish feed nocturnally and night-time anglers score big on bass, trout and walleyes.

Early AM is “topwater” time. As dawn arrives, tiny zoo plankton, attracted to the light migrate to the lakes surface, signaling breakfast for small perch, bluegills and trout.  Bass form the back-end of this food chain and feed aggressively on these small fish. A noisy topwater popper, Rapala Skitter Prop or Bigmouth buzzbait will imitate this behavior and garner vicious strikes from both smallmouth and largemouth bass.

As the sun gets high in the sky, bass retreat to the shadows and shade offered by docks and pontoon boats moored around the lake. A medium action spinning reel spooled with ten pound test monofilament mounted on a Gator Rod will become the successful anglers best tool.  Bigmouth Jigs, Case Magic Stiks, Mizmo tubes and plastic worms must now be presented to these fish by skipping the bait across the waters surface and up and under the docks and pontoons.  Allow the bait to fall on a semi-slack line. Look for any movement of the line signaling that a fish has picked up the bait before setting the hook.

For the kids, nothing beats a piece of night crawler or a cricket on a small hook under a float.  Bluegills, perch and bass are caught by young anglers every year who employ this technique.

The cool, calm and peaceful high-country days arrive again after Labor Day and anglers usually have the lake all to themselves. Submerged aquatic vegetation (milfoil and wild celery) in the deeper water has peeked and many fish find sanctuary here.  A weedless worm or jig presentation works well as does a white spinnerbait, for the lakes bass.  Walleye anglers troll crankbaits and vertically jig spoons with plenty of success as fall temperatures cool the lake waters.

Don’t expect to become a piscatorial vacuum cleaner every time you visit this jewel in the Maryland mountains.   Some days and nights, and especially after a high pressure system dominates the weather pattern, the bites can be few and far between. But if you’re the enterprising type angler with an eye for a different change of venue, give Deep Creek Lake a try and reap its menagerie of rewards.

Cumberland native Brent Nelson is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain and guides for Ken Penrod’s Life Outdoors Unlimited.  He shepherds anglers on Deep Creek Lake and the Tidal Potomac River near Washington D.C. He can be contacted at (410) 799-9326 Visit his website: www.fishdeepcreek for more information.