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September is Top Water Time on
Deep
Creek Lake

 By Capt. Brent Nelson

My good friend and associate guide, Bret Winegardner cranked up his big Mercury 250 engine just after I backed his Ranger boat into the cool foggy waters of Deep Creek Lake.  The September pre-dawn darkness and mist seemed almost eerie through the running lights as we headed south. “Got to be on that secondary point near Holy Cross before the eastern sky turns gray to get bit,” Bret yelled out over the roar of the outboard.  I agreed as the boat came up on plane just after passing the State Park buoys.   Lights twinkled from cottages, condominiums and mansions along the shorelines as we passed under the Glen Dale Bridge in the pre-dawn mist.

Lurking somewhere beneath us in the crystal clear waters were smallmouth and largemouth bass, cruising through the stalks of submerged coontail waiting for small bait fish to gorge on the zooplankton that rose to the light.  Meantime, we tied on topwater lures and commended ourselves for being on time.

As the eastern sky turned caulky gray, Winegardner quietly lowered the Minn Kota trolling motor into the water, pushing the Ranger through the fog toward the rocky point. After casting his top water prop bait into the gray space beyond, the only sounds we heard were the gurgling lure on it’s return journey back to the boat and a distant flock of Canadian geese lifting from the water to begin their morning feed.  I tied a number 11 floating gold Rapala to the end of my spinning rod and cast toward a dock into the mirror like waters, all the while admiring the balsa plugs gold foil finish and remembering using this very same lure on Deep Creek Lake when I was a kid.

In hushed tones, both of us concurred on the reverence and solitude of Deep Creek Lake in September.  This high country upland reservoir was now devoid of the busy summer tourist activity that’s the disdain of the lakes fishermen. The decreased daylight leading into fall triggers the fish into fattening up for the winter.

Suddenly a huge swirl erupted from below and my Gator spinning rod bent sharply as the Diawa reel drag screamed.  The bruiser smallmouth exploded out into the mist, then dogged deep beneath the boat in it’s attempt to separate itself from the sharp treble hooks on the Rapala plug.  Bret slipped the net under a beautiful 3 lb smallmouth bass as the morning sky brightened.

Both of us continued hooking these fighting bass just after sun up.  Bret’s aggressive topwater prop bait fooled many of the fish while my twitching Rapala tricked several more    All these beautiful bronze backed hard fighting fish were gently released back into the lake and maybe will delight another angler on another day.

Topwater Tips
Deep Creek Lake is known for its stellar topwater action in the fall. Many times just after dawn, large schools of bluegills, perch and trout will be dimpling the surface feeding on the tiny zoo plankton that is attracted to the light.  More often then not, schools of marauding bass will be directly beneath these tiny fish and actively feeding on them.  Most of this activity is concentrated on secondary and main-lake points near and over deeper water. Usually this feeding activity lasts only one or two hours and ends when the mid-morning sun warms the surface water.

Our favorite topwater lures include many.  Topwater poppers such as the Pop R,  Rico and Skitter Pop really fit the bill.  A big bushy marabou tail feather is a plus as it undulates in the water when the plug rests between pops.  We also like a prop bait such as a Nip A Ditty, Tiny Torpedo or Woodchopper.  My favorite and most successful prop bait is Rapala’s Skitter Prop in the frog color.  These louder more aggressive top water lures are good when there’s a slight chop on the water.  When it’s calm, go to a floating Rapala.

A Zara Spook or Lucky Craft’s Sammy should always be included in a DCL angler’s top water arsenal.  You must make these lures “walk-the-dog”.  This is achieved by twitching and lowering the rod tip closer to the waters surface while at the same time, imparting slack in your line between twitches, allowing the cigar shaped lure to dance from side to side.  A tip here is to always tie the lure with a loop knot or better yet a small wire clip.  This gives the lure more action and increases your strike opportunities.

Excellent locations for using these top water techniques abound throughout the lake.  All main lake points from the Glen Dale Bridge to Turkey Neck Point have schools of smallmouth bass.  The submerged roadbed out in front of the point adjacent to the Honi Honi bar is a good bet.  Stump Point, towards the dam, can save your day when other areas fail.  The State Park shoreline is tried and true as is Hazelhurst (Chicken Point) and all points in both Green Glade and Turkey Neck Coves.

Vary your retrieves from fast and aggressive to mild and gentle finesse. Allow the fish to dictate the pace they want the lure presented.  Top water fishing on Deep Creek Lake is visually exciting and can bring a ton of enjoyment to the fall angler.

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 240-460-8839 Visit his website: www.fishdeepcreek for more information.