Sampling fall's outdoor bounty
The Roddy Road Covered Bridge is near the entrance to Catoctin Mountain/Cunningham Falls state parks. (Bill May photo)

These days it seems fall is one of the busiest times of year, especially for families. Yet the weather can be so delightful, and the scenery so beautiful that the call of the outdoors is nearly irresistible.

So here are some simple and easy ways to enjoy this bounty.


Easy Fishing, No Boat Needed

Trout. The Maryland DNR has been stocking trout in local waters the past few weeks. See for the list of waters. As stated on this website, it is important to check the regulations. Some on these fisheries have catch-and-release and delayed harvest restrictions, some prohibit bait fishing, and even put-and-take waters have different creel limits.

This can be easy fishing. Many of these waters can be fished from shore, and many of the streams require only hip boots for wading access. Tackle requirements are minimal.

The most basic tackle is a light spinning outfit with 4 or 6-pound monofilament line. Two types of lure usually suffice for stream or still waters -– small spinners like the size #1 Mepps with a silver or gold blade, or Berkley PowerBait Trout Worms in pink or red.

In streams, a spinner is usually best fished by casting across the stream and letting it swing down with the current then cranking it back. Then change the distance and/or angle of the cast and repeat to cover water. In still waters cast and steadily retrieve, paralleling breaklines where possible. Attaching the spinner to the line with a small snap swivel reduces line twist

For worm lures, attach a size #8 hook to the middle of a 2 to 3-inch section of the worm, either stringing the middle section of the worm along the hook shank or hooking it at a right angle, "Wacky" style, and attach a small split shot about 6 inches above the hook. This rig can be ticked along the bottom, the most effective way, or fished below a small float, the easiest way. Cast across or upstream to drift the worm in streams. In still waters, let the worm settle, then slowly retrieve it.

For bait fishing, the simplest rig is a ¼-inch ball of Powerbait Glitter Trout Bait in Rainbow molded onto a size 8 to 10 single or treble bait hook with a small split shot rigged above it. Cast out and allow the bait to settle to the bottom or near it then fish as described above for the worm but retrieve even more slowly.

Recommended streams include the Patapsco River below the dam at Daniels, above and below the Route 99 bridge, the Avalon area from the playground up to Bloede's Dam and the South Branch River Road area. All are put-and-take areas, and any lure or bait can be used. Morgan Run is a catch-and-release fishery, and only artificial lures are allowed. (Scented lures, like the Powerbait worm, are prohibited.) Klee Mill and Jim Bowers roads provide access.

Recommended lakes include Cunningham Falls Lake, Centennial Lake and Piney Run Reservoir (shore fishing only after Oct. 31.)

All these spots are popular and can be crowded, so you might consider fishing weekdays. The lakes offer more elbow room.

Upper Potomac. This fishery will close down quickly except for the warm water discharges. But in the next few weeks, smallmouth and sunfish action can be great. Using medium spinning tackle and 6 to 8-pound braid with a fluorocarbon leader or monofilament Jig and grub combinations, 4-inch "stick" worms like Senkos, spinners, slowly fished shallow crankbaits and surface lures will all produce. My favorites are the Tiny Torpedo on the surface and a Zoom Salty Fat Albert grub in watermelon red, Texas-rigged on a 2/0 hook with a 1/16 to 1/8-ounce bullet weight. The Rebel Wee Crayfish and floating Rapala are good crankbaits.

The area above Brunswick, Knoxville and below Weverton are some favorite spots.

Other fishing. Some other options are Chesapeake Bay for stripers and perch, Bay tributaries like the Magothy and Severn for perch pickerel and many incidental species, Eastern Shore ponds for bass, pickerel and panfish, reservoir bass and panfish, and Susquehanna River smallmouths are other options. All require a boat of some kind to be fished effectively.

But there's more than fishing (and hunting) available in fall.


Biking. Biking's popularity is growing to the point that a majority of the vehicles at traditional fishing areas are for people bringing bikes or hiking. There are plenty of options in our area. Two websites worth checking are: and

Hiking. This is another growing family activity with a lot of options. Search "Central Maryland Hiking" and see some good locations on and other sites.

Birding. Fall brings migrations of geese and other species to our area. The National Wildlife Refuge system probably provides the best viewing opportunities in our area. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge is arguably the best known in Maryland and is also a favorite of eagle fans. Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Rock Hall is closer and is visited by more than 240 bird species. Speaking of eagles the gathering of eagles (and photographers) is about to begin.

Multiple Fall Activities. Some nearby places offer multiple pleasures. For example, the general area of Catoctin Mountain Park/Cunningham Falls State Park offers scenic hikes, lake and trout stream fishing, waterfalls, historic sites and covered bridges. The Avalon area of Patapsco Valley State Park has hiking and biking trails, trout fishing in the river plus a pond dedicated to youth and aged fishermen, playgrounds and picnic areas. Piney Run Park offers fishing (shoreline only after Oct. 31), hiking trails, playgrounds and picnic areas. Web searches for Catoctin Mountain Park and Maryland parks reveal details and maps of features of these great natural resources.

Weather. It can be changeable in fall and fallen leaves, especially when wet, call for caution in hiking and biking.