Highlights from a memorable year

Jud Larrimore shows his best fly-rod largemouth bass, one of the highlights from our 2014 fishing season.
Jud Larrimore shows his best fly-rod largemouth bass, one of the highlights from our 2014 fishing season. (Jim Gronaw photo)

Every year I like to look back on the fishing year and try and get a feel for what we accomplished, and what we didn't. First catches of new or different species, exceptional catches or new and exciting places usually rank high on the list of memories. This season, as with most, I spent a lot of time fishing 'close-to-home' waters within an hours drive, but usually much closer. Here is the short-list of angling memories we shared this past year, so I'd like to share them with you…

January 24 & 25…With a record cold winter in our midst and 8 inches of ice on most local waters, I broke out the ice auger and did the ice-fishing gig…something we do very little of in the Mason Dixon area due to lack of safe ice. To my great surprise, I found two local ponds that were producing big largemouth bass…a fish historically viewed as a 'rare catch' to ice anglers. In two days of fishing, I managed to jig up 16 bass, with five of them exceeding the 20-inch mark. I was fortunate to land my personal best 'ice bass' at 22 inches on a brutal 12 degree day with the wind howling. All total, I managed 38 bass through the ice in 2014, another personal standard. But I could still settle for a mild winter this year.


April 25…My good friend Jud Larrimore told me that the smallmouth bass bite was 'on fire' at certain stretches of the Monocacy River and twisted my arm for some wading in insulated chest waders and tossing hair jigs for these fish. I had fished the river and many of it's tributaries during my lifetime, so this was a 'return' to small stream bassing. The short story was, plain and simple, the very best effort I had ever had on this river for quality fish measuring 14 to 17 inches in length. On a warm and rainy afternoon, we caught powerhouse smallies and giggled like school girls, as fish after fish nailed our jigs and jumped high and fought hard. Before we got totally soaking wet we had caught and released 60 bass from a half-mile stretch of the river. River smallmouths…welcome back!

May 2…As if to return a favor, I invited Jud to fish one of my favorite ponds in quest of bluegills and bass. Throwing a beadhead crayfish pattern on his 6 weight fly rod, Jud hooked and landed his 'personal best' largemouth on the fly…a fish of 19 inches. Yes, I know, a lot of you reading this have caught bigger and better, but to Jud, this was a special fish, taken from muddy water, and a challenge on the long pole. Next year, he's shooting for a 22 inch class bass on the fly gear!

May 12-15…I was invited to an outdoor writers camp at Pymatuning State Park in northwest Pennsylvania with rumors of big, slab crappies from this 13,000 acre waterway. I was paired up with local hot-stick Ken Smith on the first day, and he was quick to show me that 12 to 15-inch crappies are not a 'deep south' exclusive. With well-planed drifting tactics, we put a heap of broad-shouldered black crappies in the boat using 1/16th ounce Bobby Garland jigs and Crappie Nibbles as a tipping agent. Throw in some nice bluegills and yellow perch and it was a hoot. Side trips to Shenango River Reservoir for 14 to 19 –inch small mouths and 'behind the cabin' evening fishing for big bluegills made this a very memorable trip.

August 9…At a local pond, my son Matt set up for channel catfish with liver sacs and European-style carp fishing gear and collared our biggest kitty of the season…a hefty 32-incher that was sporting a circle hook from a past encounter that left somebody heartbroken. We got the hook out of the fish, took some hero-style photos and then set her on her way. We estimated the fish to go 13, maybe 14 pounds. Next year, she'll be bigger!

September 7…Family fishing is one of my favorite things, so we loaded up the gang and hit a small public lake for a little 'bobber watching'. As luck would have it, my 2-year old grand daughter, Abby, took to fishing like a pro, landing her very first fish…a pumpkinseed sunfish. She caught a number of fish that evening, and her mother, Julia caught a citation-sized pumpkinseed that took big fish honors of the day. Neither Elena nor Abby seemed to mind getting 'worm dirt' on their hands and fingers, or touching and playing with the fish. These grand girls of mine…I think they're gonna' amount to something one day!

There were other highlights during the year as well…a 24-inch largemouth caught while trolling for stripers at Piney Run and a 16-pound carp caught the day after Christmas at Lake Marburg. Throw in many 'high number' catch and release trips to local lakes and ponds where 8 to 10 inch class bluegills ruled the day. All toll, Team Gronaw caught 3,971 fish in 2014 of 10 different species. We kept 152 panfish this past year for fish frys and friends…less than 4% of our total catch, releasing the rest. And as a great way to top it all off, my brother-in-law, Paul Sell and I, teamed up for a total catch of 104 fish on December 27 from a small, public lake that will remain 'under the radar'.

Yes, 2014 was very good to us…can't wait for 2015 to get under way!

Jim Gronaw is a Times outdoors writer. His column appears every other Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or sports@carrollcoun<cci:code_dp class="macro" displayname="code_dp" name="code_dp"/>