MCHENRY, Md. — The first thing you notice is the cool air. Nestled in the western mountains of Maryland, not far from the West Virginia border, is a unique lake which can be a gem for a summer retreat.
Deep Creek Lake is a highland reservoir that features attributes normally confined to the deep south.
“It has characteristics of each,” said Brent Nelson, a longtime guide on the lake. “You go really far south into Turkey Neck and Green Glade you feel like you’re in a southern impoundment. there’s a lot of meadow grass, lily pads, and cattails. Then you get down to the dam you get that rocky shoreline and it looks like a highland reservoir. We have two very different types of habitat on the lake.”
The deepest point in the area near the dam is about 90 feet. Nelson said however, anything deeper than 30 feet is a waste of time. A thermocline keeps the fish in more shallow depths with a lack of oxygen in the deepest portions. However, fish at Deep Creek have no need to go very deep, the surface temperature through July and August stays in the 60 to 70 degree range. Nights and mornings are the magical times.
“They are all crawfish oriented and the crawfish become active as night time approaches. So the bass in turn come up into the shallows, especially smallmouth to feed on crawfish,” Nelson said. “Then we have a great top water bite early in the morning. The zooplankton rise to the surface at night and the tiny fish feed on those, then the larger smallmouth and largemouth start feeding on those and take the upper end of that food chain.”
Nights also become much calmer on this popular water. The area is a haven for pleasure craft. Personal water craft, water skiing, speed boats,and pontoons ply the waters during the day, but in the evening the activity dies down dramatically and offers calmer and quieter conditions to search out hidden pockets which hold fish.
“The menagerie of fish we have in the lake is phenomenal. We have some of the biggest bluegills in the eastern United States, jumbos 10 or 12 inches. We have tremendous walleye population, a lot of yellow perch, nice crappie,” Nelson said. “It’s just a nice lake featuring a wide range of species.”
He left out the northern pike and chain pickerel which also thrive in the cooler waters at the higher elevation.
“A lot of things have changed in the last few ears or so, our aquatic vegetation has really become prolific out in the lake. A lot of the bass have changed up and they’re not under the docks, they’re out in that deeper grass,” Nelson said. “The savvy anglers are figuring it out, it’s not an easy deal, but once you figure it out you can catch some nice ones.”