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What to Know About Local Fishing

Make the most of your time on or by the water 

Lake Fishing 

Licensed anglers may fish from the shoreline year-round at Pine Lake at Wheaton Regional Park, Lake Needwood, and  Lake Frank (Rock Creek Regional Park), and Little Seneca Lake (Black Hill Regional Park). Shoreline fishing is permitted year-round; limits on lengths and counts, open seasons, and trophy bass and trout regulations apply. 

Popular targets include Largemouth Bass, sunfish, and catfish. Tiger Muskellunge and Northern Snakehead are also top predators lurking in Little Seneca Lake. Tiger Muskie season is open year round, but only a single individual larger than 36 inches in length may be kept in accordance with Maryland Regulations for Freshwater Seasons, Sizes, and Limits. Northern Snakehead is an introduced, invasive species that should be harvested when caught in accordance with Maryland Regulations and Montgomery Parks guidelines; read more about fishing for Northern Snakehead in Montgomery Parks below.  

Seasonal boat rentals are available at Black Hill Regional Park via Black Hill Boat Rentals, and at Rock Creek Regional Park via Lake Needwood Boats. Fishing from private boats is also permitted in accordance with Regulations for Private Boats.  

Per Montgomery Park Rules and Regulations (Chapter 1, Section 5): 

(A)  No person shall operate or launch a boat or other watercraft on any lake, stream, pond, river bank, or other Park Property except as authorized by Permit. 

(B)  Operators and occupants of permitted watercraft must comply with all applicable Park Directives and local, state, and federal law governing the use and operation of such watercraft. 

Boating activities have the potential to introduce and spread invasive species. Stop aquatic hitchhikers and learn more about aquatic nuisance species.  

Seasonal Considerations 

Private Boats are permitted on Little Seneca Lake at Black Hill Regional Park and on Lake Needwood at Rock Creek Park from March 1 – December 15. All boats must have a Seasonal Permit or Daily Permit. Seasonal Permits can be purchased at Activemontgomery.org  and the decals will be mailed to your address. The Seasonal Permit allows access to either Little Seneca Lake or Lake Needwood. Daily passes may be purchased via Activemontgomery.org  or in-person at the Black Hill Boat Rental or Lake Needwood Boathouse during operating hours.  

Boating times are:  

  • March 1 – October 31, 6 am – Official Sunset 
  • November 1 – December 15, 7 am – Official Sunset 
  • The lakes are closed to boating from December 16 through the end of February 

Review Montgomery Parks Regulations for Private Boats for more detail. 

Night Fishing 

Montgomery Parks are open from sunrise to sunset unless posted otherwise. 

After-hours fishing is only permitted on five designated dates in Little Seneca Lake annually. View the Black Hill Boat Rentals page for details and upcoming dates.  

Lake Species

There are a wide variety of fish species that can be found in lakes around Montgomery County. Here are some of our common lake fish species.

Trophy Bass 

Montgomery County is not typically known for its trophy bass fishing opportunities.  However, there are still some places within where you can try your luck at bass fishing:
Trophy Bass Fishing Area regulations are in effect at Lake Needwood, Lake Frank, and Little Seneca Lake.  

Little Seneca Lake (Black Hill Regional Park) is managed as a Slot Length Limit Area, meaning: 

  • Anglers are limited to possession of five bass (largemouth and smallmouth bass combined) per day.  
  • Only one bass in possession may be 15 inches or longer. 
  • No bass in possession can measure between 11 and 15 inches long. 

Seasonal restrictions for bass also apply at Montgomery Parks’ lakes and reservoirs. 

  • OPEN SEASON: From June 16 through the last day of February, anglers may keep: 
  • A total of five (5) largemouth or smallmouth bass in aggregate per day, of which only one (1) may be 15” or over. 
  • Bass less than 11” in length are subject to the five (5) per day limit. 
  • CLOSED SEASON: It is ILLEGAL to possess largemouth or smallmouth bass from March 1 – June 15.   
  • “Catch-and-Release” bass fishing is permitted. 
  • SPECIAL NOTE:  It is illegal to possess largemouth or smallmouth bass from 11” up to 15” at any time of the year. 

Trout (Lakes) 

Montgomery Parks hosts several locations stocked with Rainbow Trout and Golden Trout (a subspecies of Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)), including Lake Needwood, Pine Lake, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Park Pond (MLK Jr. Pond): 

  • Pine Lake and MLK Jr. Pond are both managed as a Put-and-Take Trout Fishing Area with an annual Closure 2 designation for a period in March.  
  • Lake Needwood is managed as a Put-and-Take Trout Fishing Area without any closure period (Closure 0) and can be fished for trout following opening day, traditionally in the last week of March and posted to Maryland Regulations for Put-and-Take Trout Fishing Areas.  

There is no minimum size for Rainbow Trout in these areas, but the following restrictions apply: 

  • Creel Limit: Rainbow/Golden combined 5 Daily/10 Possession (provision includes Brown Trout, where present) 
  • Season: Areas are closed to all fishing in Montgomery Parks from sunset of the first date of the designated closure period, to sunrise of the second date of the designated closure period, except as provided for by special regulation or where more restrictive fishing hours are posted. 

Anyone 16 years of age or older must possess a valid Maryland State Fishing License as well as a trout stamp (additional fee). A resident senior consolidated sport fishing license that includes a trout stamp along with tidal and nontidal coverage is available for Maryland residents ages 65 and older through Maryland Department of Natural Resources COMPASS. A different fee structure is in place for anglers visiting from other states. 

View the Maryland Fishing Regulations for Put-and-Take Trout Fishing Areas for applicable dates and other details. Access a trout identification sheet and learn more about Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ trout stocking here: https://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/pages/trout/index.aspx.   

Northern Snakehead 

The Northern Snakehead (Channa argus) is a formidable freshwater fish that has been introduced to Maryland’s waterways. Although a thrill to hook while fishing, their presence in Montgomery Parks can be disastrous to other fish and native wildlife.  

It is against Maryland, Virginia, and federal laws to possess, import, or transport live Northern Snakehead (i.e., it is ILLEGAL to possess live snakehead fish). If you catch a Northern Snakehead in Montgomery Parks, or anywhere in Maryland or Virginia, and you want to harvest it, you are required to kill it by removing its head, gutting it, or removing its gill arches to prevent accidental introduction to other water bodies. Consult Maryland DNR’s Northern Snakehead Frequently Asked Questions for more information. 

Montgomery Parks strongly encourages the harvesting of Northern Snakehead to aid in population control of this introduced, harmful species. There is no minimum size or creel limit, and anglers are encouraged to catch and eliminate snakeheads year-round; however, bowfishing is prohibited per Montgomery Park Rules and Regulations (Chapter IV, Section 15). 

Ponds & Streams 

Popular destinations include the pond at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Park for shoreline fishing, or casting from the accessible fishing pier at the pond in Kings Local Park. Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park and Paint Branch Stream Valley Park also feature tucked away, but trail accessible, streamside angling locations. Explore these areas, and other trails across Montgomery Parks for their fishing potential, by visiting the Montgomery Parks and Trails Atlas.    

Seasonal Considerations & Excluded Areas 

Licensed anglers may fish along pond shorelines and stream banks year-round, unless otherwise posted, and are subject to compliance with the angler’s licensing and other requirements.  

However, swimming, wading, and other water sports in streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers is permissible only in areas authorized by Park Directive and posted accordingly (per Chapter V, Section 15 of Montgomery Parks Rules and Regulations).  

Pond & Stream-dwelling Species

Bass & Panfish (Sunfish, Crappie) 

In search of beginner-friendly bluegill? Catch-and-release fishing is strongly encouraged, but if you wish to harvest individuals, be sure to review Maryland Fishing Freshwater Seasons, Sizes, & Limits and note: 

  • Bass (Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass) season is CLOSED March 1 – June 15, but catch-and-release is permitted at all times unless otherwise posted. During Open Season, individuals must be 12 inches (or as provided for by special regulations) and aggregate harvest (i.e., both species collectively) is limited to 5 daily and 10 possessions. 
  • Crappie (Black Crappie and White Crappie) fishing is permitted year-round with a daily limit of 15 and total possession limit of 30 in aggregate. 
  • Sunfish (Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Longear, Redbreast, Redear, and Green Sunfish) as well as Rock Bass season is open year-round. Anglers may harvest up to 15 individuals daily and are limited to possessing 30 in aggregate.  

Trout (Streams) 

A trout stamp is required for anyone 16 years of age or older to catch, attempt to catch or possess trout in nontidal waters. 

The Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River upstream of MD Route 410 to Norwood Road is stocked with Rainbow Trout and Golden Trout and managed as a Put-and-Take Trout Fishing area with an annual Closure 2 designation for a period in March. View the Maryland Fishing Regulations for Put-and-Take Trout Fishing Areas for applicable dates and other details. Maryland DNR also hosts a Trout Frequently Asked Questions page. 

Upper Paint Branch Stream Valley Park hosts a naturally reproducing and highly sensitive Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) population. As such, the Paint Branch and its tributaries upstream of Fairland Road are designated as Catch-and-Return Trout Fishing Areas with the following requirements: 

  • You may not possess trout while fishing in these areas (i.e., catch-and-release fishing only) 
  • All trout must be immediately released. 
  • You may only fish with artificial lures, including artificial flies. 
  • You may not possess or use any natural bait, live bait or any device enhanced with scent capable of catching fish. 

Failure to obey trout management area restrictions is punishable by law and may result in suspension of fishing license or privileges. 

Yellow Perch 

Yellow Perch are a fun, but sometimes forgotten catch and are only found in a subset of Montgomery Parks’ streams, ponds, and lakes. If you hook one, you are encouraged to return it where caught; otherwise, Maryland Fishing Regulations allow: 

  • Daily harvest of 10 individuals with a possession limit of 20 from ponds and lakes 
  • Daily harvest of 10 individuals with a possession limit of 20; individuals must be 9” or longer from nontidal streams and rivers 

There is no closed season and licensed fishing for Yellow Perch can occur year-round.  


Let your sinker settle and reel in a catfish. Lake, pond, and stream pool habitats are likely to host Brown Bullhead or Yellow Bullhead while bigger waters closer to the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers may host Channel Catfish. There is no closed season or minimum size for Brown Bullhead and Yellow Bullhead in Montgomery County, while Channel Catfish have a daily limit of 5 and possession limit of 10. Capture and possession of Margined Madtom Catfish, a stream-dwelling, pollution sensitive species, is strongly discouraged. 

Anglers are also asked to keep an eye out for emerging invasive/nuisance species trying to enter and establish themselves in our waterways, including the Blue Catfish and Flathead Catfish. Harvest individuals, photograph, and notify Parks Information & Customer Service if encountered.  

Learn more at: https://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/Pages/catfish.aspx 


Cast a tiny hook and line and marvel at what you find! Besides sunfish and bass, streams in Montgomery Parks have abundant populations of minnows (family Leucisidae), catfish (family Ictaluridae), suckers (family Catostomidae) and some others that might surprise you.  

Microfishing still requires a valid Maryland Fishing License. If you are looking to retain anything you catch, be sure you are following Freshwater Seasons, Sizes & Limits for these popular catches and make note of applicable considerations: 

Fish TypeMinimum SizeSeasonLimitConsiderations
American Eel 9 inchesYear-roundDaily – 25
Possession – 25
Hook-and-line fishing only; commercial harvest is prohibited. Use of eel pots or other traps requires special permission.

Retaining American Eel from Montgomery Parks is strongly discouraged. 

CarpNoneYear-roundDaily – 15

Possession – 30

Carp are non-native species to Montgomery Parks; harvesting (within legal limits) is encouraged.
Darters & Sculpin NoneYear-roundFall under “bait fish” with aggregate limits inclusive of minnows, madtoms, and lampreys (see Minnows).The use of darters and sculpin as bait in Montgomery Parks is strongly discouraged.
Goldfish NoneN/AN/AReport observations of Goldfish in streams and other waterways to Parks Information & Customer Service and notify Park Police at 301-949-8010 if dumping of unwanted pets is observed.
Lampreys NoneYear-roundLamprey less than 8” in length fall under “bait fish” with aggregate limits inclusive of minnows, madtoms, and lampreys (see Minnows)The use of lamprey as bait in Montgomery Parks is strongly discouraged. Moving lamprey from one water body to another is strictly prohibited.
Minnows* (including Fallfish, stoneroller, shiner, dace, and chub)
& Top Minnows (Mummichog & Killifish)
NoneYear-roundDaily – 35 in aggregate

Possession – 35 in aggregate

The use of cast nets, seine nets, fyke nets, minnow traps and others for capturing and harvesting bait fish is prohibited and may result in seizure of equipment. These and any other restraint and collection methods needed for research investigations require an Aquatic Scientific Collection Permit from the State of Maryland and written permission from Montgomery Parks.

Releasing bait fish away from the point of collection is strictly prohibited.

* The following are considered invasive/nuisance species by Maryland DNR; take clear photographs of the fish, including the head and notify Parks Information & Customer Service if encountered:

(Gizzard Shad only)
NoneN/AN/AGizzard Shad are occasionally found in Montgomery County streams and there are no regulations set for the species in Maryland. Barriers to fish passage and migration generally prevent other shad and herring species from migrating upstream and into the County.
(White Sucker, Northern Hogsucker, Creek Chubsucker, Golden redhorse)
NoneYear-roundDaily – 30

Possession – 60


The Resource Analysis Section of the Park Planning & Stewardship Division monitors water quality, stream conditions, and fish communities throughout Montgomery Parks through the biological monitoring program. Connect with an aquatic biologist for a species list and other inquiries through the Public Information and Customer Service Office and report water quality concerns when observed. You can also learn more about local species and share your observations through Maryland Fishing, Maryland Biodiversity Project, and iNaturalist.