Antietam Creek has to be one of the most heavily stocked streams in Maryland. This small stretch of water received at least 500 fish during stocking every period in the spring of 2008. In addition, when I was chatting with the friendly park employee in the parking lot , he told me that Maryland also stocks smallmouth bass in the same area and had just dumped in another load of late season trout. While 500 may not sound like a lot of fish, the fact that they are compressed into such a small stretch of water makes this a spot with exceptionally high fish density. To top it off, Maryland dumps some “big boys” in here to make it interesting.
I was here at the end of the season — June — and only had a few hours to fish as I was in route to a business meeting up near Philadelphia. A few hours is all you need to fish the park — if that. The park section starts where the water spills over the dam into a fairly deep and wide pool. It then runs across a reasonably shallow riffled section with a couple deep spots near the fishing pier in the middle of the park. It transitions back to a shallow rifle with deep runs on the edges and finally spreads into a deeper pool down by the bridge. Underneath the bridge, there are two very deep pools which always hold fish if they have been recently stocked. Beyond the bridge, the creek switches into a typical Maryland trout stream with overgrown banks which are far enough away from the road to make stocking problematic. On the Maryland DNR map of the stock section, it shows the stocked area extending a significant distance below the park. I believe most of fish are centralized up in the park area itself as it provides a nice family oriented fishing opportunity without the challenge of wading or dealing with sticker bushes and poison ivy along the banks.
The park is a manicured, first-class operation. The grass is cut, picnic tables are pervasive, the banks are improved and lined with stone walls. It even sports a concrete handicapped access fishing location. The park employee I spoke with emphatically pointed out that wading was prohibited in the park itself. A quick look at the other guys up to their waist in the water revealed that this directive is uniformly ignored. Granted, you don’t need to wade anywhere to fish this place as it is narrow and all parts of it are directly accessible from the bank. It is only up where the dam spills into the deep pool that wading provides an advantage. In that section, the creek is about 20 yards wide, making it impossible to fish the middle from your perch on the bank. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether to disobey that rule or not.
On the afternoon I was here, fish were being caught all around me. Folks were using powerbait, worms, spin gear and there was even one other fly fisherman on site. As I mentioned above, even though the trout stocking plan did not indicate any stocking after May, the park employee told me that the water had just been stocked the week prior and he anticipated additional stockings in the weeks to come. Now, some of those may be the smallmouth stockings he also referred to but I was pleasantly surprised that Maryland was continuing to insert trout into the water this late in the summer.
Even though fish were present, it does not mean that I was successful. In fact, I was a total failure. I tried every variation of fly that I had available to me. Given that I could set up and run another franchise of overstock.com for fly fishing supplies given my overly aggressive financial commitment to the sport, that statement says a lot. I tried dries, I tried streamers, I tried nymphs — nothing worked for me while the spin guys and bait guys were having a great time. This is “put and take” water, so no problem with that.
The fishable section of the park above the bridge is only about 100 yards. I have the sense that fish wash downstream into the broader, normal trout water below the bridge. I fished this a little bit and came up skunked there has well. Given that 100% of the people fishing were fishing above the bridge, I think that tells the whole story.Bottom line: Bring your family here and get some “guy” credit while still being able to exercise your addiction. This is about as far from a fly fishing experience as you can get. Rather, it’s a fish harvesting experience. The fish, when stocked, are densely packed in this section and seemed to fall easy prey to everything except what I had. I may come back here later after this section is stocked again to fully explore and fish the area downstream of the bridge. But for that to be productive, there has to be enough water to disperse the fish.
Getting There: From I70, take exit 49 onto US 40 towards Braddock Heights. Stay on westbound US 40 for 12 miles and then turn left onto Lappans Road (MD 68). Follow it to the Antietam Creek Park (about 3 miles).
Google Local Coordinates: 39.537145,-77.712479
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the Maryland DNR stocking plan.
Looking upstream into the park from the bridge
Looking back towards the bridge
The dam is at the upper end of the park
These guys were catching huge carp on spin gear
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore