Fall fishing, family, friends
A family enjoys a hike and bird watching trip to the Avalon section of Patapsco Valley State Park. (Bill May photo)

Fall is the favorite time of year for most area outdoorsmen, with a wealth of fishing, hunting and other outdoor activities.

I'll list some fishing and other possibilities, but first I want to make a plea for making time for families and friends.


On a fall day several years ago on a western Maryland stream I met a young fly fisherman who was struggling with his casting and fly presentation and therefore not catching any trout. He bemoaned his lack of proficiency caused by the demands on his time with kids' sports and other family activities.

This grandfather gently counseled him, from personal experience, to treasure his precious and fleeting time with his family. I told him I realized that fall seems to have become prime time for every sport, school, church and social activity and outing, but, I said, pointing to the stream, "These are just trout."

It's great if the family can join in on an outdoor activity all enjoy. But if there's a conflict, go with family and friends first.

So here are some ideas:

Simple Fishing

Bay tributaries — Pickerel and white perch provide good, light tackle fishing in many of the upper Bay tributaries from now until late spring –- as long as your casts aren't bouncing over a sheet of ice. The Magothy and Severn Rivers are my fall favorites, but there are a lot of good tributaries like the Susquehanna, Nanticoke and Leeds Creek, and most of these waters also have largemouth bass, catfish, stripers and yellow perch. This fishing can be simple: Use 2-inch grubs on 1/8-ounce jigheads, with or without clip-on offset spinners, on light spinning tackle and drag the lures along the bottom.

Upper Potomac — For the next few weeks early morning action can be terrific for smallmouth bass and sunfish. Fish small surface lures like the Tiny Torpedo or Pop-R on medium spin tackle with 6 or 8-pound monofilament, or fly fish with poppers and sliders. Good subsurface lures are jig and grub combinations, 4-inch "stick" worms like Senkos, spinners and Zoom Salty Fat Albert grubs in watermelon red, Texas-rigged on 2/0 hooks with 1/16 to 1/8-ounce bullet weights. As waters cool wet wading must be replaced by use of waders.

Ponds, Reservoirs and Tidal Potomac — As holes again develop in weed and pad fields, frog fishing again provides exciting, and sometimes frustrating, surface action. Flukes will still work as well as plastic worms, spinnerbaits and crankbaits.

Reservoir Panfish — Most of the reservoirs have good populations of white perch, crappie or both. These panfish school in the fall and can be taken in large numbers once found. In those reservoirs without significant weedbeds I like to locate the crappie by trolling with the depthfinder running. I rig several rods with a pair of small jigheads and 2-inch plastic curlytails in white or chartreuse. Since the fish tend to be deep in the fall, I set one pair of jigs at 10 feet, another at 20 feet, and a third even deeper. Once I locate fish, either with the lures or the depth finder, I turn off all electronics, let the boat drift and fancast the area. When action ceases, I repeat the trolling and searching techniques. Small minnows, fished either on jigheads as above or on bottom rigs, can be even more effective for crappies.

The same techniques work for white perch, but trolling spinner and nightcrawler rigs is generally more effective. Nightcrawler bits on a bottom rigs are usually a better bet once fish are located.

Trout Streams and Ponds — The Maryland DNR stocks a number of local streams and ponds in October as water conditions allow. Unlike spring, the numbers of fish stocked are lower, and notices of stockings are posted online after the events. But the number of fishermen is usually lower, too.

The put-and-take fishery on the nearby Patapsco is a good choice for taking kids and other inexperienced anglers, and this river and some local stocked ponds can be fished from shore.

Perhaps the simplest, most effective rig is use of light spinning tackle with 6-pound monofilament and a 2 to 3-inch section of a pink or red Berkley Trout Worm. Use a size 10 or 12 hook and attach the worm either by stringing the middle of the worm along the hook shank or by running the hook point through the middle of the worm at a right angle to fish it "wacky" style. Clip on a tiny split shot 6 inches above the lure and drift it below a small float. Adjust the float to keep the worm just off the bottom. Or you could just let the worm drift along bottom, but expect to get hang ups with this approach.

Local Parks and Farms — Fall is a great time for hiking, biking and picnicking. Some of my favorite spots are Piney Run Park, Patapsco River State Park, Catoctin Mountain Park/Cunningham Falls State Park. All also offer chances for casual fishing.


Some other good options are local farm museums and farms offering hayrides, corn or hay mazes and fruit and vegetable picking including pumpkins. All of these places can be enjoyed by families and friends with a minimum of preplanning or cost. Some choices are the Carroll County Farm Museum and Baugher's Orchards and Farm plus their restaurant and fruit stand in Westminster, Lawyer's Farm in Thurmont, Larriland Farm and Circle D Farm in Woodbine.

Eastern Shore — My family pioneered fall trips to Ocean City over 50 years ago. Now the world has caught up with weekend fall seashore pleasures. But you needn't go that far or for that long; Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, with its abundant eagles and waterfowl is one of many Eastern Shore attractions that can be enjoyed in a day trip.