You know, every year it seems like it always happens like this …
The weather gets good, real quick, and just about every specie and waterbody in the Mid Atlantic is on fire at the same time. If you have to work for a living, then options are limited on weekends that can be crowded or competing with other necessities in life.
If you are retired, like me, and don’t have to fool with all that silliness, then you have a whole lot more time and options for the important things in life — like fishing!
Be that as it may, the time is indeed right to fish at Carroll County’s own Piney Run Park. This 298-acre lake has abundant populations of many species to include popular targets such as largemouth bass, striped bass, channel catfish and most of the popular panfish species. As the heat came on and water temperatures spiked the first week of May, Piney Run, like many other waters, just exploded on the bass, crappie and bluegill front. By the time you read this, Piney Run water temperatures will likely be in the low 70’s as warm, seasonal weather continues to be the long-range call.
I got a text from my good friend Maryland DNR Officer Andrew Shifflett last week that said the crappies were just on fire.
He had back-to-back kayak trips to the lake that resulted in just crazy numbers of quality fish with some crappies in the 12- to 13-inch category, releasing all. So, Alvie Sickle and I decided to give the lake a good effort from our kayaks.
We were not disappointed.
I am no stranger to Piney Run, having worked there for 12 years and served as the maintenance supervisor for six years.
I have been on at least a dozen DNR shock surveys, organized many tournaments, and weighed and measured hundreds of award-sized fish of all species. I used to ride my motorcycle in the lake floor before the reservoir was flooded and supervised many fish-structure projects at the lake. Having fished there for over 30 years, I knew that the crappie bite was poised to erupt. It was just a point of getting down there and “hitting it while it’s hot” that was the issue.
The crappie gig at Piney is no secret, as locals and beyond have enjoyed the cyclic patterns of this tasty fish at the park for decades. It didn’t take long after launching to realize that not just crappies, but bass and bluegills were indeed shallow, and on the pre-spawn to post spawn feed.
There are several popular beaver huts at Piney Run that get hit pretty hard during the crappie run, but there are also many fallen and downed trees and tree limbs that also attract fish as well. When we fished last week, I can honestly say that there were fish on every single log or tree I checked, either crappies or bass.
Some were easier to catch than others.
To my surprise and delight I found large bluegills making a pre-spawn movement along several sloping shorelines that had adequate substrate and sparse, emergent weed growth. Piney Run regulars are well aware of the difficult aquatic vegetation scenario that occurs each year during late summer with both hydrilla, lily pads and other weed types, making shoreline fishing all but impossible.
The pads were just starting to sprout and the water was very clear. By the time you read this the pads, and other weeds, will be well on their way. The next three weeks will likely offer good shoreline angling for bass and panfish. However, look for the crappie/wood pattern to diminish soon as these fish wrap-up their love-making chores, heading then to deeper weed bed edges.
Carroll County Daily Headlines
For the rotund bluegills I used a 1/80th ounce jighead with a whole meal worm about three feet below a bobber. The fish were aggressive, and bobbers dunked promptly once a big gill eyed the offering. Crappies were more related to fallen wood, and I caught most of my 48-fish on the same jighead only dressed with a one-inch Bobby Garland Itty Bit Swim’r.
The cool thing about the kayak is that you can sneak up, and over, a group of crappies without spooking them and get a fix on where they are exactly. Then, simply drop back about a cast away and pitch small jigs or live minnows to them. Many lure and bait options will work now but we prefer lighter jigs of 1/32nd of an ounce or smaller that fall enticingly to the fish.
Most of my crappies were taken with just a cast and the “free fall” of the jig. When you feel weight or a “bump” you have a fish.
Almost all of the crappies were dark, char-broiled males and a few were plump, egg-filled females. Our larger fish were foot-long specimens, but we spied some magnum males that looked to be in the 15-inch range deep within the branches of deeper wood and brush. I also had numerous 9-inch bluegills, most of which were males, but saw no evidence yet of bedding bluegills in the areas I fished.
If you decide to hit Piney Run try to make your trip a mid-week gig as the park can get chock-full of both anglers and pleasure boaters on weekends, making fishing tough.
Boat and kayak rentals are available on the weekends until Memorial Day and then that service is offered throughout the week after the big holiday. This is a “trolling motor only” lake with day-use options only.
However, specific nights throughout the season are open for night fishing. Additionally, there is a boat launch and park entry fee as well, and season passes are available. Call 410-795-5165 for additional info.