Monday, April 4, 2011

Fishing Loch Raven Reservoir the Right Way, Part I

Loch Raven Dam

One of my most-read posts of all time is a 3 year old clunker about a ho-hum day fishing at Loch Raven Reservoir, one of Baltimore City's water supply reservoirs (and recognized as one of the best largemouth lakes in the Mid-Atlantic states, alongside Round Valley Reservoir in NW New Jersey). I always feel apologetic when I check my web stats and see that people are visiting that post so frequently, looking for good information about fishing the lake, and what they find is, um, significantly less than that.  Well, I have come to deliver you that post. Finally. Well, part of it.  Finally. (5-25-11 - here's the second part - finally).
Loch Raven Reservoir is a drowned river valley impoundment of the Gunpowder River near Maryland's Fall Line - the boundary between coastal plain and piedmont.  It features an interesting variety of fish habitats, from shallow coves, to rocky cliffs, islands, and rock piles over and in deep water, to extensive grass beds, to deep water.  There are three ways to get to the fish, of which two (the first two) are reasonable for most anglers:

1.  Shoreline fishing
2.  Renting a jonboat, kayak, etc. at the Fishing Center
3.  BYO Boat

Shoreline fishing
Shoreline fishing is certainly the most popular way to access Loch Raven.  While a buffer of "public" lands with a solid trail system surrounds the reservoir, many spots are a 2+ mile hike away from legal parking spots.  Due to pressure and trash - especially from subsistence fishermen - any shoreline spot within a quarter mile of legal parking will usually be burned out (no fish) and basically a mess of worm buckets and old fishing line tangles.  It's a shame.  Common access areas orbit around the major roads that cross the Reservoir (just pull up a digital map and see for yourself).  Obviously, the closer to the road you are, the more pressured the fish will be.  Legal point to remember - no fishing or boating between the dam and Loch Raven Drive.  There's a serious network of trails as well as fire roads throughout the City watershed property, and these are absolutely key to getting to the fish on foot.  Give yourself extra time to walk in and walk out!
Most of the reservoir's shoreline has overhanging limbs, and a fair amount of dead trees in the water.  It's easy to think that these are good fishing spots, but many of the trees fall into large, open coves with less than 12" of water, due to extensive runoff from the deer-damaged forest.  In the spring and late fall, fishing the dropoffs on both the gradual slopes and the rock cliffs can offer some exciting fishing for large bluegills and 1-3lb largemouth bass.  Even in those seasons, this may require you to use a rod/reel combo that will help you reach out great distances.  Please do not bring a surf rod.  Or six surf rods. 
During the summer, excellent casting is even more important, as the reservoir's grass beds get thicker and thicker by the week.  The beds are mostly floating, and seem to ring the reservoir from the shoreline to about 30 feet out.   Some beds seem totally unattached, and float to the windward shoreline on any given day. Fishing in these conditions would be epic if you didn't snag  your lure in the grass during every retrieve.  My experience has also been that it's extremely hard to catch big fish from shore in Loch Raven in the summer heat - we normally pack it in by 10am.  I think there are three reasons for this - 1) the grass beds I mentioned above, 2) lack of access to large areas of deep water with structure, and 3) inability to cover large areas of woody, cliff-y shoreline on foot before the sun gets up over the trees.

There are numerous rocky points to fish throughout the reservoir, but the fish are very spooky in these areas.  If your big shadow falls over the water, you're probably done. If you are skilled at "ambush fishing" - I am not - you can land some monster fish on these dropoffs.  Depends on how far you want to belly crawl across a cliff.

Renting a Boat
Loch Raven has a City/County-run fishing center where you can rent one of several types of boats.  In all cases, the gear you rent will help you putt along the reservoir (no outboards allowed, period), but don't count on covering long distances because you can't rent a boat before 6am (so 630am before you're actually on the water) and you have to be back at sunset or earlier (whenever the fishing center closes).  Plus, the fishing center is in a part of the reservoir that (I've found) is just not super productive for fishing.  So you need another 10 minutes to get outta there via trolling motor (or 30 minutes via paddle).   Get out to the channel (location of the old river bed) and then choose a tributary/cove to putter into.  If you rent a trolling motor, rent an extra battery.  A solid $5 investment.
Boat fishing is a great way to adapt to changing conditions in the reservoir (ie summer breezes).  You can fish the outside of the grass beds (epic), deep structure in the lake, or any of the islands in the lake.  You just have to get there, which takes some time.  If you are planning to fish Loch Raven in hot weather, plan on doing it by boat, and planning on using deeeeeeeeeeep running lures, because you probably won't get to a good shoreline spot before the bass move out of the shallows in the early morning.  Even though the Fishing Center (seasonally) opens at 6am, it's really a challenge to be out on a more productive part of the water before the fish go deep.

BYO Boat
Note: 2011 launch permits went on sale and sold out on April 1.  No more for 2011. This part is frustrating.  If you want, you can register your boat, canoe, or kayak for the City reservoirs (there are three, total).  There are a slew of rules, you have to pay for the permit (I believe $100), they usually run out of annual launch permits around April 1st - which is the day they go on sale (!!!), and you have to sign an affidavit that due to the threat of zebra mussels, your boat will not be used - all year - anywhere other than the Baltimore City reservoirs.  The "King Pro Staff" of Loch Raven has two giant trolling motors rigged up to his boat.  It is tore up, but hey, the guy can cover some water!
Another bummer is that you can only (boat) access the reservoir from the Fishing Center.  No putting in your canoe or cartop boat anywhere else - and it's a big reservoir.  And of course, let's not forget that you are not allowed to ground or anchor your boat for the purpose of walking ashore and fishing.  No sir.

I personally can't see a situation that would include this making sense for me.  But to each, his own. 
So there you have it.  How to access Loch Raven Reservoir for fishing (you can drive around it on your own and find out exactly where the parking is).  Hopefully this gives you a more solid idea of whether you should walk the shoreline, rent a boat, or register your own boat depending on your time constraints, need for speed, and what time of year it is.  Part II focuses on fishing the different habitats at Loch Raven - be sure to check it out here.  Thanks for stopping by!


tugboatdude said...

as I was reading I was hoping you would mention the extra trolling motor and you did.We have fished thsi place multiple times and I have never caught a bass there.that doesn't mean I won't try again though.

Kirk Mantay said...

Ha ha, no you haven't, but Whitey caught that nice smallmouth off of that island...remember that?

I have never caught a bass over 2lbs there, despite many, many attempts. And in the same time period, I have caught bigger bass in other places. Getting on the fish right at dawn, I believe, is the key, and it's hard to do that at LRR because of access issues. I think most of the parking areas read "no parking before 7am" or something, too.

tugboatdude said...

haha yeah I do remember that.he caught it on that stump jumper crappie lure.That dude has the strangest luck!

{nUtTyPrOfFeSsOr} said...

it's voodoo, hence the strangeness.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone offer any tips for fishing there? What time(s) of year is the fishing the best? Thanks.

Kirk Mantay said...

That depends on a lot. What are you fishing for, are you fishing all day, are you fishing from a boat, what style fishing do you prefer, etc.

It's like anywhere else in the Mid-Atlantic. Spring and fall can either be great or really bad. Summer is usually really slow, punctuated by catching some giant fish. I've never fished it after November 15 or before April 15, so I don't know about winter.

All that being said, the fish at LRR seem to respond sharply (positively and negatively) to weather conditions. More so than many other places.

michaellaslo said...

I've fished (via renting a boat for the most part) and have had a LOT of success!! Really, any time of the year you can catch bass. You just have to adjust your techniques, speed, etc to the season and water temps. I just went out Tuesday this week and we did fairly well. Now when he says deep running, 10 ft. for now is good enough. I fished with crankbaits and jigs. No luck on jigs, but good fishing with the cranks. Landed 4 largemouths and a good sized pike for out here. 3 of the largemouths were over 3 pds, and one of those was about a 5 pounder.

The secret......use a swimming crankbait that is as natural of swimming you can find. It's expensive, but I got one at bass pro shops that was 15 bucks, but it's worth it! Never had any luck there with the normal stuff everyone uses; spinners, texas rigs, etc. They're even picky with the real nightcrawler!! And the coves away from everyone.

Kirk Mantay said...

That is a MONEY tip right there. We have never done really great on deep (8' + ) water bass at LRR, but I know they are there!

Dan said...

I am very interested in what I see refered to as Old Timber Cove. It looked a little like the area by Warren Rd Bridge.

Can anyone give me any info about where to find "Old TImber Cove"?

Dan said...

Thank you for the excellent information in these 2 articles. The first time I rented a boat last year, I caught nothing.

Today I tried again using your advice, and I caught the biggest Large Mouth Bass I've ever landed. He was 18" long, 4 lbs. I caught him while trolling, using the Rapala Xrap you suggested in Rusty Crawdad color.

One thing to mention though, you stated that the fishing center is in a part that is "not super productive for fishing", but this is actually where I caught him. My co-renter also picked up a huge Chain Pickerel in this same area. So my moral is just, if you do rent a boat there, it doesn't hurt to try everywhere!

Kirk Mantay said...

Dan, that's awesome! Just goes to show that indeed there are fish everywhere - they just respond to pressure and I guess nobody had been hitting that spot with the right lure or presentation.

Sounds like a great catch!

Kirk Mantay said...

Dan, I have heard several spots called this on LRR.

One is the first big cove on the SW corner of Dul Val Rd. Another is above Warren Road, like you mention. The Warren Road spot has been lucky for a lot of anglers at the right of year, with the right lure, but not me, not ever.

Dan said...

Thanks River! I love your Blog! I've only been fishing about 2 years and your advice has been great.

And FYI - I have never had luck at Warren Road Bridge either. I've only ever gone on foot, but I can't ever get so much as a bite there.

Kirk Mantay said...

Pickerel. Rocks closer to the bridge. That's what I've heard.

Dan said...

I will have to give that a try. I normally fish down the path to the right of the bridge that leads to the nice shaded cove. I've seen the fish in there, but they sure don't like biting for me.

Kirk Mantay said...

I'm not even joking, that cove (SE of DV Bridge) is called Dead Mans Cove. The water is extremely deep, but because there is no wind and no current, the grass beds are really REALLY thick there. It's pretty impossible to fish from shoreline (and catch big fish) most of the year. I bet in a boat, with a live minnow, you could catch some giant smallmouth there.

In a boat, you can fish the rock ledge of the island in the middle of the cove, that's not a bad spot, but haven't caught any big fish there either. The far side of that cove (by boat) can be fun too, because the tree canopy hangs out far over the water.

Anonymous said...

This post may be a couple years back, but it is definately helpful. I've been once over the last month and going again soon. Caught a 3lb largemouth by the fishing center trolling on a topwater lure! Caught 2 little pike, 1 on a flourescent jig and the other On a mid-water small natural looking lure. Was surprised to catch a yellow perch on a spinner bait too

Mark Adams Jr, said...

Bass are gravy at loch raven,I was disappointed when I read all these stories. It is sunday 6 22 2014,I have been fishing the lake for over 25 years . Fish just outside the weedbeds in 10 to 15 foot.Use natural color tube ,"my fav 4"green pumpkin with number 4 g lock hooks so your tube dosent slide off,with a bullet head sinker.the key is to make sure you are on the bottom. Than retrieve slow,if you think you are going to slow GO SLOWER!You will produce . Also when going from spot to spot troll a deep diving crankbait.And 1 more awesome lure is natural color bass assassins with no weight,just kind of jerk it,retrieve a little and continue process. Pop-rs when its hot and water is like a sheet of glass early in morning and before dark produces lunkers ! I KNOW THIS WILL HELP YOU . GOOD LUCK! From Mark Adams,if you need more help email

Arkansas cat said...

Has anyone caught any catfish on LRR.

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