Fishing can be a great family activity and there are so many spots to drop a line in Maryland.
by Karen Stysley
Julie Anne Lynskey may be just 9 years old, but she already has a few fishing tales to tell.
Once the Churchton resident was pulling in what felt like a huge bluefish when she realized, “Oh my gosh, it’s two fish!”
She also loves to tell of the 20-inch bluefish she caught—her biggest yet—and the fact that it’s still in her freezer three years later.
Julie Anne has been fishing with her dad, John, since she was 4 or 5 years old and loves the hobby.
“It’s fun—the thrill of it, to catch the big fish and reel it all in,” she says.
She and her dad head to a pier on the Chesapeake Bay at dusk, when fish come in to feed in the shallows. They usually manage to catch something, whether it’s spot, croaker or perch or even big rockfish and bluefish in the fall. But most of the time, they throw them back.
“You actually have to hold the [blue]fish in the middle so they don’t bite you,” Julie Anne expertly advises.
Fishing is a great family activity because it gets kids outside and encourages respect for our natural resources, says Letha Grimes, biologist for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR encourages families to try organized fishing “rodeos” with groups of young novice anglers or to take part in an online fishing club, where kids can post pictures of their catches.
“If we don’t promote (fishing) to the youth, we won’t have future fishermen,” Grimes says.
Many ponds in Maryland have bluegill and bass, while the DNR stocks trout in some local lakes and rivers as well. Bluegill will most likely be a child’s first catch because it swims closer to shore and takes the worm quickly, says Grimes. But if nothing bites on your first time out, don’t force it; let the kids take a break and do something else fun outdoors, she says.
“Try your hardest and don’t get too disappointed if you don’t catch a fish,” says Julie Anne. “There’s always next time.”
Updated May 2016
Maryland ponds perfect for family fishing
Kinder Farm Park, Anne Arundel County
There’s not just one, but two ponds available for catch-and-release fishing at Kinder Farm Park — Cattail Pond and Bunks Pond. The ponds are surrounded by shade trees and have a variety of fish for kids to catch. When the kids tire of fishing, check out the shaded playground, working farm with animals and trails to keep them happy.
Fish: Chain pickerel, sunfish and brown bullhead
1001 Kinder Farm Park Road, Millersville
Lake Artemesia Natural Area, Prince George’s County
This 38-acre lake features a picturesque pier and gazebo — and the opportunity to combine a fishing trip with bird watching. The lake is stocked by the DNR with trout, which you can catch-and-take with a trout stamp. When fishing gets old, there is a birding trail nearby.
Fish: Bass, bluegill, trout
Berwyn Road and 55th Avenue, Berwyn Heights
Lost Lake, Patapsco State Park, Baltimore County
Lost Lake or Avalon Pond is in the Avalon area of the park and is a good start for kids because it is shaded, close to parking and not far from bathrooms. It is stocked with trout by the DNR and, until recently, was only open to children and seniors. It is close to a paved trail that leads to a swinging bridge and there is a playground nearby. The Patapsco River also has good fishing spots and is great for wading.
Fish: Largemouth bass, bluegill, a few bullheads, trout
5120 South St., Halethorpe
Centennial Park, Howard County
Try fishing from a boat at Centennial Lake. Rent a rowboat from the boathouse and, once on the water, kids can try for a variety of fish available in the lake. You can also fish on the shoreline, which is easily accessed from the main path around the lake. For a break, there are four playgrounds situated around the lake.
Fish: Largemouth bass, tiger muskie, panfish, channel catfish and rainbow trout.
1000 Maryland Route 108, Ellicott City
Calvert Cliffs Park Pond, Calvert County
Foraging for fish as well as fossils can make a trip to Calvert Cliffs worthwhile. With the right license, you can fish on the beach at Calvert Cliffs, but with inexperienced fishermen, it may be easier to start with the park’s small fishing pond. The pond is just 1 acre and is located in the picnic area and close to a playground.
Fish: Largemouth bass, bluegill, also a few redear sunfish
10540 H.G. Trueman Road, Lusby
Tuckahoe Lake, Queen Anne’s County
There are plenty of bass and bluegill in this 19-acre lake, but if you fish near stumps and roots you will also find chain pickerel, a predator fish that might thrill the kids. When fishing gets old, head to the recycled tire playground or hike a nature trail. Also check for free family activities during the summer.
Fish: Bass, bluegill, chain pickerel, white and black crappie, pumpkinseed sunfish, perch, brown bullhead and carp
13070 Crouse Mill Road, Queen Anne
Tips when taking kids fishing the first time
First time taking the kids fishing? Here are some tips from the Department of Natural Resources and Letha Grimes, DNR biologist.
- Be familiar with Maryland fishing regulations, including where fishing is allowed and limits on the number of fish that can be caught, all of which are in the Maryland Fishing Guide available online at eregulations.com/maryland/fishing.
- A fishing license is required for ages 16 and up, but there are license-free fishing areas, which can be found at dnr2.maryland.gov/fisheries/Pages/license-free.aspx. [so maybe Get a fishing license for everyone 16 years or older. …]
- Find a fun rod for the kids. Children’s rods with characters are popular and cost less than $20. Grimes recommends a closed-face (rather than open-face) reel, which is common for beginners.
- Bring bait. Worms work well and can be dug up or purchased at area convenience stores or tackle shops.
- Consider taking a class to learn the ropes. Howard County Recreation and Parks offers classes. Visit howardcountymd.gov/fishing.htm for details or check your local recreation department.
- Keep safety in mind. Kids can wear life vests and be careful with hooks. Grimes recommends waiting to put the hook on the line until arriving at the fishing destination.
- Pick a spot where fish are known to bite. The better chance kids have of catching something, the better chance they will enjoy it, Grimes says.
- Once at a location, look for fish habitats like downed trees, tree roots, rock areas, docks or other places to drop your line.
- Don’t forget bug spray, sunscreen, wipes and snacks to keep the kids comfortable while there.
- If nothing bites, don’t force it, Grimes says. Let the kids take a break and do something else fun outdoors.
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