The Casselman River is a 56-mile-long river in Maryland and Pennsylvania. A tributary of the Youghiogheny River, this meandering river has a fairly slow and steady flow. Its two forks rise in Garrett County Maryland before meeting at Grantsville. From there the river flows north into Pennsylvania.
The Maryland section of the Casselman River has higher water quality than the longer Pennsylvania section. In Maryland a lot of the damage from acid mine drainage has been mitigated. Things have been improved so much that the state of Maryland actually manages a Delayed Harvest Trout Fishing Area over the border.
On the Pennsylvania side the river remains heavily impacted by a number of factors. On top of pollution from coal mines, the river also has other issues including runoff. For example, signs posted near the river in the town of Rockwood warn the public about sewage releases.
Still the river manages to maintain a population of fish. Tributaries to the Casselman River contain populations of naturally reproducing brook trout. This goes to show that the river could support much more life in Pennsylvania if the quality of the water was improved.
Fish species in the Casselman River
The Casselman River is home to several fish species in Pennsylvania. The main species encountered by anglers are smallmouth bass, rainbow trout and brown trout. The occasional brook or brown trout will descend from a tributary to the Casselman River too. Though it’s more common for trout from the Casselman to travel into tributaries in search of cold, clean water. You can also catch rock bass here.
An average Casselman rainbow
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks rainbow and brown trout into the Casselman River twice each spring. These fish are planted from the Maryland border downstream to the town of Boynton. Trout can actually be found throughout the river though. I’ve caught them around the towns of Rockwood and Confluence with regularity.
At least ten tributaries to the Casselman support wild trout populations in Pennsylvania. As I mentioned earlier, some of these wild fish end up in the Casselman from time to time. They may even use the river as a migration route between streams when conditions allow.
Fishing in the Casselman River
The Casselman River is a low gradient freestone waterway. For most of its course the river maintains a somewhat steady course. There aren’t a lot of outwardly obvious features like big deep holes. When fishing this river it helps to pick the water apart. Look for things like slightly deeper sections, boulders, overhanging trees, stream inflows and lines of foam bubbles. That’s where you will find most of the fish.
While parts of the Casselman flow through private property, there is plenty of access to the river. You can get into the Casselman at many road crossings. Some of the most popular access appoints for anglers and boaters are easily found in the small towns of Salisbury, Boynton, Rockwood, Markleton and Fort Hill. In addition, the Great Allegheny Passage trail follows the river from Garret to Confluence.
I have fished the Casselman River in Pennsylvania a few times. I did fairly well each trip. I’ve caught some decent smallmouth bass here. I’ve also caught a number of average stocked trout. All the standards for smallmouth and stocked trout work. I had success with the Original Floating Rapala, Original Storm Thunderstick, custom hellgrammites, Swiss Swing spinners, twister tails and woolly buggers.
A chunky Casselman smallmouth
This river is not particularly deep. Much of the water would be about waist deep for an average adult male. Some sections are shallower than that. The deeper sections you do find are often great spots for bass. Trout tend to be found more near cool water inlets from smaller mountain streams.
The water in the Casseleman is often stained or off color. Because this you can get away with slightly more visible line than you might otherwise water to use in a trout and smallmouth stream. Most of the time any reasonable sized monofilament will be fine here.
My normal approach with most lures here is to quarter my cast downstream. Then I will slowly retrieve the lure. This creates a swing effect with plenty of action. I aim my casts so that they will cover the best water on the retrieve. I catch a lot of fish near the opposite bank.
When fishing something like a hellgrammite here, I cast ahead of likely spots and let my lure drift naturally with the current. I may slightly move the lure here and there to give it action or steer it clear of snags.
Wading opens up a lot of the Casselman to fishing. You can slip into the river and cover a lot of water. The river’s easy flow makes it easy to wade, though certain sections can be difficult. The rocks on the bottom of the river around Rockwood are particularly slippery. Perhaps it has something to do with the aforementioned sewage system.
Casselman River fishing regulations
The section of the Casselman River from the Maryland border downstream to a spot 300 meters downstream of the confluence with Coal Run is classified as a stocked trout water by the PA Fish Commission. That means this section of the stream is closed to fishing from late February until the first day of trout season in April.
In the stocked section, anglers are permitted to keep five trout over seven inches during regular trout season. The limit is lowered to three trout during the extended season that runs from the day after Labor Day until the third Monday in February of the following year.
The larger portion of the river downstream of the stocked section is subject to general regulations. Fishing in the entirety of the Casselman River within Pennsylvania can be done with traditional angling methods using bait, lures, and flies.
To the best of my knowledge, this is accurate as of the time of writing. Of course regulations are subject to change. For current regulations be sure to check the Pennsylvania Fish Commission website.
Casselman River fishing at a glance
- Fish species present: Smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, rock bass.
- Closest tackle shops: B&L Bait N Tackle, Yough Lake Sports Shop, Confluence Hardware, The Knotty Angler.
- Recommend spin fishing tackle: Light or medium rod, 4-8lb monofilament line.
- Recommend fly fishing tackle: 5-6 weight rod, WF floating line, 3x monofilament tippet.
- Recommend bait/lures: Original Floating Rapala, Swiss Swing, Original Storm ThunderStick, Custom Hellgrammite.
- Recommend flies: Cone Head Olive Woolly Bugger size 6, Cone Head Zuddler size 4, Zoo Cougar size 4.
- Nearby hotels: Casselman Overlook Guest House, The Casselman Inn, Comfort Inn Grantsville.