Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fishing Loch Raven Reservoir the Right Way, Part II

In Part I, we looked at accessing the large-ish body of water known as Loch Raven Reservoir in central Maryland.  Now let's take a look at what actually catches fish there.  Perhaps the best way to start is by summing up the types of fish present, and then look at individual habitats.

Photo courtesy of Maryland DNR
Fish of Loch Raven
It's a pretty typical lake, dominated by largemouth bass and bluegill.  Smallmouth bass are also present, usually in cooler, deeper water, as are pickerel, pike, and several other species of panfish, including perch.  Each have their own feeding habitats and if you know how to fish for a given species throughout the calendar (i.e. when fish typically hold in what types of habitats), you can pretty easily target them on those habitats at Loch Raven.  Go find 'em!

Silty Shallow Shorelines.   Since the reservoir is a flooded river, there are other creeks, ditches, wetlands and springs that feed it - and many of those run through developed or heavily farmed areas on the way to the reservoir.   As a result, there is some sediment moving around in the reservoir from time to time (aka 8 months per year).   Areas with protection from wind and current are often built up in thick silt (muck). Areas exposed to the wind are more likely to have substrate of sand, gravel and larger stones - even boulders.  The silt flats can be fished for those prey fish - panfish and subadult largemouth - with topwater lures, terrestrial flies, and anything that won't sink into the debris. Save time by concentrating on areas with woody or rock structure along the shoreline (which is most of the reservoir).  Personal favorite lures: BPS Nitro Minnow (white, black, silver patterns), Blue Fox Big Crappie Rig (chartreuse/red).

Rocky Drop-offs. At Loch Raven, the silted in areas are usually shallow, with higher quality fishing (for larger fish) available where the silt drops off into deeper water - as the big boys wait for prey to swim out of the shallows.   Fishing the dropoffs from these silty coves is a great way to find big bass (and pickerel) that are hunting for food, and for that, I generally recommend unweighted creature baits, rubber craws, salamanders, and rubber worms, all in the seasonally appropriate can do the homework on that!! Personal favorites: 2" salted craw in pumpkin.  Rapala X-Rap.

Shoreline grass beds - Even an idiot (me) can find bass in aquatic vegetation.  Which doesn't mean you (I) can catch them.  Bass, especially big largemouths, love vegetation because it offers protection from birds like herons, osprey, and eagles, as well as hiding places to hunt panfish and shiners.  These big fish don't actually live in the vegetation, but in other structure around it.  Think of the aquatic vegetation as you would your own porch or deck. Somewhere to hang out, but eventually you retreat inside to your home.  Bass in the vegetation are usually keying in on other structure too, whether it be rock piles, logs, trees, etc. Keep that in mind since Loch Raven has a ton of downed shoreline trees and a ton more shoreline grass beds!   The key is to focus on where fish (any fish) are moving among the vegetation. Any disturbed area in the vegetation (where the bed changes depths, or where a tree has fallen on top of the water lilies, for example) is a good bet.

Do not fish Loch Raven's grass beds from the shoreline unless you are using the most weedless lures every, or are collecting aquatic vegetation for a salad or for composting.  These areas should be targeted by boat unless you just love frustration and wasted time.  I say this because the majority of a retrieve to shoreline will be through the bed, and the interior of the bed is less likely to hold big fish. The beds are thick, and regardless of whether you present a weedless lure, you will still have to clean your lure after each and every retrieve.

However, by sitting in a boat on outside of the bed, your lure can be worked parallel to the bed.   To do this, you will want three things: floating, weedless, and weedless!  Buzzbaits (probably my least favorite lure) can do wonderfully here if the bass are actively feeding - you'll have to do a very fast retrieve.  Rubber frogs can also be very effective once you learn the retrieve speed and type that the bass are keying in on.  Wacky rigged weedless worms too! Be creative and be patient.  Personal favorite lure: Yum Dinger in Bumblebee, wacky rigged.

Spring-fed pools. Loch Raven is fed by a number of above-ground and underwater cold springs. I haven't found them all - I'm sure - and I'm persnickity about the ones I do know about, so go find them yourself! During the hottest months, when the rest of the reservoir is very difficult to fish (for quality fish), spring-fed areas will be full of small baitfish and a few hungry predators, especially largemouth. The springs I know about are difficult to access unless you have all the time in the world to boat or hike to them. Let's put it that way. As a result, I don't know what the best lures are for those areas. Think: lots of baitfish, cool, clear water, and big fish holding deep and dark. Which makes me think of spoons and lipless crankbaits like gotcha plugs. If you're a swimbait pro, there's no reason why a swimbait shouldn't work in these habitats, especially if the water is clear, as it tends to be once the spring rains subside and the flow entering the pools is from above ground or submerged springs (springwater, like you pay $2/bottle to drink).  Personal favorite lure: large beetlespins, Joe's Flies, small Acme Kastmaster spoons.

A rocky point at Loch Raven (my photo)
Rocky cliffs, gravel points, boulder islands, and submerged rock piles. At Loch Raven, the stony shorelines and drop-offs are key hunting habitat for large predatory fish - especially largemouth bass and pickerel.  Depending on the season, conditions, and time of day, large fish will work these areas, hanging very close to vertical rocks and literally cruising the shoreline like sharks.  If you haven't been to Loch Raven during a severe drought, you can't know where 80% of the submerged rock structure is.  And even if you have, you still haven't seen 40% of it.  Deeper rock piles are excellent places to target smallmouth and mid-day largemouth.  This is the habitat type that I have the least experience fishing, but I do know that lightly weighted rubber worms, craws, tubes, and twist-tail grubs can be highly effective, especially when the water is clear.  Very traditional bass anglers may prefer diving crankbaits and jerkbaits, but I honestly haven't had a lot of success with those in water over about 6' deep. Personal favorite lure:  2" rubber craws.

Deep Water.  So you're going to fish Loch Raven in July in the middle of the day.  Good luck.  But the fish are still there, and they may actually be biting.  Especially catfish, but bass too.  You need to get  After the bigger bass finish their post-spawn feast in the shallows, they slip on down into deeper water to keep cool, coming shallow again on some (but not all) nights.  On many summer mornings, I've watched them literally change from a shoreline hunting pattern to a "swimming out to the channel" pattern when the sun breaks the treetops.  So how do you fish for these lazy lunkers? 5 deep water anglers will tell you five different things, but it's hard to go wrong with weighted pork trailers, stinky twist-tail grubs, and scented crawfish lures.  Sometimes scented tubes and mini-tubes will also work on smallmouth bass.  Another very different method is to use blade baits and heavy spoons.  These haven't been effective for me at Loch Raven, but I think that's attributable to my fishing style (and lack of fishfinder), not the effectiveness of the lures. No personal favorite lures.

I hope that the surprising masses of people who visit River Mud looking for information about fishing Loch Raven Reservoir find this more informative than my historically very random reports of my fishing trips there. If you landed here first, be sure to check out Part I, which speaks a lot about shoreline and boat access.

Thanks for stopping by, you lurkers!


gorckat said...

I was at the loch for the first time today. That first pic looks like where I caught a pickerel (only fish). Is it a little south of the Jarretsville pike bridge?

I saw a couple good sized carp along some rocky shore as well- they were just cruising as some little fish hung around the rocks and teased me.

It is gorgeous out there and I hope to to hit it again this weekend. Love your site.

gorckat said...

Lol- never mind about that photo location- checking in this morning on the new post I realized the photo I asked about was provided by DNR :P

Kirk Mantay said...

I'm going to guess it's upstream of the JP/Dulaney bridge, closer to the Warren Mill bridge.

There are more pine trees south of Dulaney Valley in the coves.

But who knows?

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