Nestled in the Catoctin Mountains , about 1 mile west of Thurmont, Maryland, off of Rt 77, is 43 acre Cunningham Falls Lake, also known as Hunting Creek Lake. This small and overlooked mountain top jewel is within the Cunningham Falls State Park and is just one of the many attractions that this diverse park can claim. Although hiking, camping, pic-nic tables and swimming can draw a sizable summer crowd, it is the fishing in this little lake that gets my attention.
The current attraction at the lake is the abundant largemouth bass and bluegill population. A few years ago Maryland DNR shocking surveys indicated strong numbers of quality — sized individuals of both species. Several individual bass were collected that weighed between 5 and 7 pounds … trophy fish anywhere in the Mid Atlantic region. Along with that an almost untapped population of bluegills and red-eared sunfish that would go either side of a pound in weight. Indications also showed that there was a small but self sustaining population of nice-sized black crappies and the occasional channel catfish that could exceed 5 pounds in weight.
Aside from the annual spring and fall stockings of rainbow trout, CFL gets little attention from anglers apart from those put and take efforts. The lake is steep and clear near the dam and has shallow spawning substrate in the upper third of the lake with a couple of cold, incoming streams. A small boat launch is available off of Catoctin Hollow Road and there is a handicapped fishing platform adjacent to the ramp. Trolling motors only are allowed and it would be wise to bring the small craft as there are only about a dozen trailer spaces in the lot.
I have fished CFL about a dozen times over the years and my biggest bass there is about 3 ½ pounds. I have seen bass much bigger as about every log that is in the water holds a bass or two during April and May. Plastic worms and creature baits would be the lures of choice. Summertime swimming and boat rental activity put the bass deep and an evening approach would be a better option in the heat. The big panfish spawn in the upper third of the lake in May and June but can also be caught throughout the summer and early fall on slow drifted nightcrawlers and worms in 15 to 20 feet along the steep shores north of the launch ramp. Our best efforts have yielded gills and red-ears in the nine to ten inch range.
Those overlooked crappie options are for real. I fished here in the fall of 2012 and scored very well on black crappies from 10 to 13 inches with pink hairjigs and other jig options, both with and without floats. As the fall approaches, quality fish move shallow along with those big bass and panfish. This lake is truly a sleeper.
Indeed this is an overlooked, small lake opportunity that I believe has the potential for huge largemouths. For more info on fishing and park regulations call 301-271-7574. Keep in mind that this is a 'day use' lake and only electric motors are permitted. There is a small boat rental facility located near the swimming beach. It would be wise to fish Cunningham Falls Lake during a mid-week time frame to avoid the crowds.