Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Fly-Fishing Mecca…Maryland?

By Steve Chaconas

In 2016, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission (SFAC) recommended the creation of a Black Bass Advisory Committee (BBAC). Originally a loose group of volunteers meeting annually to discuss black bass management, the Black Bass Roundtable provided many of the original members of the BBAC. What began as a 13 member group is now down to 10, and only two of the original members. Seven attended last month’s virtual meeting for a fly fishing presentation.

SFAC Chair John Neely and BBAC Vice Chair Richard Batiuk co-created a vision for a Maryland fly fishing trail. The goal is to lead anglers on a fly fishing journey across Maryland to enjoy the state’s numerous fresh and saltwater opportunities.  In addition to the wide variety of species, Maryland’s Fly Fishing Trail would lead fly anglers to public and handicapped accessible locations and thus invigorate local economies including tackle shops, lodging, restaurants as well as historic sites. Such a program would be the first of its kind in the country and reach out beyond Maryland anglers to bring tourism dollars to the state.

Business is to be had as there are over 7 million fly fishers looking for new waters and new species. Maryland boasts wild brook trout, striped bass, sailfish, and even largemouth bass, all within a few hours. With so many opportunities, Maryland’s Fly Fishing Trail would enhance efforts to introduce fast growing fishing segments, such as women, youngsters, and minorities to fishing. Members of different cultures and classes would get the opportunity to experience fly fishing without extensive and expensive excursions to better known areas. Land or sea, Maryland waters enable fishing from shore, boat, canoe, or kayak.  More than attracting new anglers, Maryland Fly Fishing Trail opportunities could retain anglers when it’s time to renew their fishing licenses.

More than an economic boost, the Fly Fishing Trail would also provide access to local fishing knowledge and gear. Lists of licensed guides and charters across Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City will be on-line and in pamphlet maps with seasons and target species listed for fresh and saltwater, cold and warm weather fishing, and tidal and non-tidal fishing. Maryland is inviting anglers to pick up their fly rods, make a back cast, where able, and learn, hone, and enjoy statewide fly-fishing.

Articles, from local experts, will be featured online and in the soft roll out in July/August and will include photographs of various sites, tackle shops, and area restaurants and lodging.  Maryland’s Office of Tourism’s website Fish and Hunt Maryland will contribute.

Eventually, the DNR licensing site will promote the trail as well. Resident anglers benefit from in-state license fees and because they can travel up to 2 hours in any direction to find superb fishing opportunities. Out-of-staters face the reality of higher nonresident license fees, but with lodging, meals and other activities close to fishing, setting up a fly fishing trip is very convenient. The Maryland Fly Fishing Trail website will not be publicized in the soft rollout so it can be fully tested for functionality and accuracy. Articles published on other sites or in magazines will be solicited to add content. A possible awards program attached to the existing Maryland Awards Program would recognize the number of visits to trail sites and species caught. This year-round program should satisfy all fly-fishing seasons and introduce anglers to various spots in the state. A public launch is expected in September.

After Batiuk’s presentation, members were asked by the BBAC Chairman to go on record to support the trail. Members showed some interest; however, several were not sure how a fly fishing trail would affect management of the black bass resources, nor how it would enhance the fishing experience for bass anglers. Despite this, the Chairman added the trail to the committee’s list of issues to address at future meetings. Certainly, this trail would be a great resource for Maryland anglers and even attract anglers from nearby states. In the months to follow, Neely/Batiuk are asking the BBAC to contribute ideas on trail sites, vendors to be recognized, identify supporting or engaged organizations and recommend content providers for written and photographic content.

Eventually Maryland could find itself listed among top fly-fishing destinations around the world, if for nothing else but for the variety of fish and fisheries. Trailblazing the template for this trail will certainly trigger other states to follow, creating more opportunities to fish all over the country. Watch out Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, Maryland is looking to become the fly-fishing destination of the US.

Potomac River Bassing in FEBRUARY

With water temperatures around 38-45 degrees, Silver Buddy lures are the best to cover water. Look for out of the current areas with steep drops. Cast slightly ahead of the boat and work down drops with short burps of the bait. Tie Silver Buddys to 10 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line on a medium action rod

Drop shot in the same areas with leaders about 6-8 inches. Use Water Gremlin 1/8 to 3/16 BullShots on spinning gear. Small drop shot hooks with 4 inch soft plastics doused in fish attractant tied to main line of 10 pound Gamma Torque braid with a 6 pound test Edge leader.

3 inch stingray grubs on ¼ ounce ball head jigs tied to the drop shot line set-up can work as well. Use a sight lift and glide presentation. Keep hooks sharp. the best colors are avocado or other greens and brown. Also use the same set up for 4 inch curl tail grubs. Chartreuse and smoke colors are good in clear water. Green pumpkin and pumpkin seed when the water has a slight stain.

In very clear water warming to the mid 40s, try slow rolling a spinnerbait in water 6 feet or shallower, using 10 pound test Edge.

About the Author: Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac River bass fishing guide. Potomac fishing reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.

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