A couple winters back I headed up to Deep Creek Lake in the extreme western portion of Maryland in Garrett County. Although this is a well-known summer and winter resort area, it is also an amazing fishery with the largest lake in the state at 3,900 acres. Ice fishing is alive and well at Deep Creek, especially this winter, but sometimes you'll have to work pretty hard to catch a batch of those delicious yellow perch - the fish that we usually target and the staple of the ice angling crowd.
My buddy Ron Munshower had a bead on some concentrations of perch and we hit the lake for a 2½ day gig recently. I wish I could tell you that we murdered them, but the truth is, we had to work for every fish we caught. Still, I was able to come home with a bunch of fillets.
We fished several areas from the State Park to the Glendale Bridge region and then beyond toward the Route 219 bridge - a very expansive area of several hundred acres. Our first day we drilled about 150 holes through 10 to 12 inches of clear, hard ice. We caught about 85 percent of our fish in a fairly small area that ran about 20 to 22 feet deep. We used short jigging rods and Rapala Ice Raps tipped with maggots and jigged them right off the bottom. Some of our strikes were very subtle, almost non-detectable, as we would pay close attention to our wire strike indicators for the slightest of movement.
It should be noted that the daily yellow perch limit at DCL is ten fish per angler. There used to be no limit on perch here, but the DNR employed an angler survey in 2010 and it was overwhelmingly approved that a creel limit should be established and that it should be at 10 perch a day. This is one of the few instances that I know of where angler imput, not biological data, served as the basis for initiating a fishing regulation. I say "bravo" to all the anglers who took the time and effort to fill out the survey.
Now, back to the fishing. Bottom line, we got 57 perch and one walleye during that stint. That may seem like a lot, but we were discretionary and kept only 12-inch and up specimens. Deep Creek is one of the top lakes in the nation for producing tanker perch. Our catch included two perch of 14½ inches and both of those fish likely exceeded two pounds - true trophy perch by anyone's standards. This winter has seen an increase in legal-sized walleyes and many anglers are catching some along with the jumbo perch.
The perch gig should continue well into March with this extended winter as these fish will move shallower and bunch up as the spawning season approaches. If you have a hankerin' to go, call ahead at Bills Outdoor Center for the latest scoop on the ice. Late ice can see sensational fishing. Four inches is minimum for safe foot travel. Their number is 301-387-3474. You can also check out fishdeepcreek.com or the Maryland DNR website fishing reports for the latest as well.