Late spring stirring in local reservoirs

Late spring stirring in local reservoirs
Crappie at Piney Run, and elsewhere, will also hit 3- to 4-inch flukes, as Joe Bruce demonstrates. (Bill May photo)

Fishing in local reservoirs has been outstanding so far this year and will likely get even better. Let’s hope the weather holds up.

Loch Raven has been the star attraction, and Piney Run has offered good bass and panfish action. Liberty and Prettyboy have not yet seen a good shallow water bite, but that will likely change soon.


The fishing this spring in Loch Raven for pickerel and largemouth bass has been phenomenal, with some experts saying this is the best action in memory. Good anglers working shallow water cover with spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and a variety of soft plastics, including wacky-rigged worms and Texas-rigged worms, grubs, flukes, crayfish, creatures and lizards have taken bass and pickerel in the 1½- to 3 ½-pound range by the dozens, with a number of “big one that got away” stories.

Billy Zeller and Joe Bruce have also taken some double-digit carp with their dropshot fly rigs.

Since I don’t have a Loch Raven permit I haven’t been in on the fun Billy and Joe have been telling me about by phone, email, and Facebook post. What I do have is a longer memory of Loch Raven fishing than these two. So when Joe was extolling the Loch Raven fishery over the phone, it was a deja vu experience for me.

Joe’s description of the action was nearly a word-for-word account of the best day’s bass fishing I’ve ever had in Maryland and probably the best day ever in terms of numbers.

It was about 10 years ago when the late Harry Pippin called me at work, and sputtered, “You’ve got to get off tomorrow.” He proceeded to articulate enough meteorological data that would have overwhelmed Jim Santore and the entire Weather Channel staff. My understanding was simply that after a prolonged cold spring, temperatures were to soar into the high 70’s, and the moon phase was set to pull bass in to pre-spawn shallows.

Most of the shoreline bass I’ve been taking at Piney Run are this size; several were larger.
Most of the shoreline bass I’ve been taking at Piney Run are this size; several were larger. (Bill May photo)

Harry nailed it. We both got off and took Harry’s reservoir boat to Loch Raven. It was incredible.

Every cove we fished was loaded with 1½ to 3½-pound largemouths, and they hit every lure we threw at them. We both tended after satisfactory success to experiment to see what else and where else worked. We kept trying different places and different lures, but the bottom line was every place and every lure we tried worked. Our lures included those listed above plus an assortment of crankbaits. Neither of us was big on counting numbers, and the numbers soon overwhelmed us anyway.

Harry finally suggested trying a certain cove that looked good but had never produced much. It did that magic day, just more of the same. We both returned to work the next day. Though we had a lot of good days at Loch Raven and Prettyboy before Harry’s untimely death a few years ago, we never had another day nearly like that one.

I wondered while Joe was talking if that’s the kind of phenomenon he and Billy experienced. It could be weather-related, since this spring was similar to that of the big day Harry and I had. Or maybe there are cyclical crops of fish.

Whatever, it’s the kind of fishing people dream of.

While Piney Run can’t match Loch Raven this spring, it’s hardly a disappointment. Joe and I used basically the same tactics. Here our bass sizes and numbers are smaller, with fish ranging from 10 inches to 3½ pounds, but mainly in the 1- to 2-pound range, and mid-20’s in numbers for a day’s fishing.

The more exciting part was what we saw — really big crappies, some yellow perch, lots of bluegills of all sizes and pad fields beginning to rise off the bottom. Every time I saw one of those big crappie, I switched to the offset spinner/1/8-jighead/and 2-inch chartreuse grub that has produced so well over the years. I had a couple of desultory follows from the crappies — and caught a couple of stray bass — but didn’t land a single large crappie.

Joe, meanwhile, stuck with the flukes we were using for bass and took several nice crappies. I should have “danced with the one that brung me;” I’ve caught lots of crappie on bass-sized flukes in Liberty.

So here are my projections for the reservoirs:


Loch Raven will continue to fish well for bass, with bigger, spawning bass coming to shore. Larger pickerel will soon move to deeper waters and to developing weedbeds.

Piney Run will soon see spawning bass moving to shore. As pad fields take shape, frog fishing the pads will begin. A variety of panfish plus trout, catfish, hybrid muskies and stripers add to the mix.

The shallow water bass fishing at Liberty and Prettyboy bass will soon come to life as waters warm. The variety of species at Liberty includes double-digit striped bass.

All these waters have good bluegill populations, and fishing the bluegill beds will begin a few weeks from now. Likewise crappie fishing will pick up at all. White perch fishing will also come to life at Loch Raven and Prettyboy, and large yellow perch will please at Liberty and Piney Run. Double-digit carp can be taken by the specialists

Fishing Loch Raven, Prettyboy, and Loch Raven requires not only permits, but all boats fishing these waters are restricted to only using these waters. (Considering the quality and nearness of these fisheries, having a second, dedicated kayak, canoe or small boat is a worthwhile investment.)

Shoreline fishing is available at all these waters, and some good fish can be taken by the adventurous, mobile angler.