Updated: Dec 28, 2022
I’ll never forget our first night spent in a tent on the fringe of the Gettysburg battlefield. Around three in the morning, I heard a series of cannon-like booms in the distance and what sounded like screams. Not just any screams, though. These were screams of agony, and unlike any I’d ever heard before. I turned to my wife Natalie in the darkness and said, “Did you hear that?”
“Yes,” she said, nudging closer to me on the air mattress. The hair on our arms stood up. I don’t know how long we lay there quietly in the dark listening, but eventually we fell back asleep. In the morning, we ate breakfast at a diner and set off to explore a few local trout streams. That’s the beauty of Gettysburg. It’s the only place I know of where you can catch fish and hunt for ghosts, sometimes both at the same time.
Marsh Creek and Little Marsh Creek
Located in Adams County, Marsh Creek and Little Marsh Creek are the two main trout streams closest to the battlefield. Both streams are within an easy drive of the battlefield, and they offer quality fishing for those who want to experience the area in a whole new way. I’ve toured the battlefield numerous times. I’ve seen Little Round Top, The Angle, The Peach Orchard, and made all the stops along Confederate Avenue, but it was only while fishing these streams that I felt connected to the land and what Gettysburg is all about.
Marsh Creek is stocked with rainbow and brown trout from the bridge on Cashtown Road in Biglerville down to the bridge on Route 30. Little Marsh receives a stocking of brook and brown trout. The upper reaches of both streams are classified wild trout waters by the PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), but that doesn’t mean these sections hold populations of wild trout. Rather, they possess the qualities needed for wild trout. Whether or not any natural reproduction takes place there depends on water temperatures. Unusually hot summers with prolonged stretches of ninety-degree weather kill the fishing, as they do in most marginal trout waters, but cooler summers allow some fish to hold over.
Marsh and Little Marsh are in the early trout opener part of the state, which is perhaps the best time to fish both streams. Higher water helps Little Marsh, especially, because, as its name implies, it’s a fairly small stream. It’s unique, though, in that many places have huge boulders with narrow chutes and runs and lots of productive pocket water. It takes a massive amount of rain to make Little Marsh unfishable, which makes it a good choice if other streams in the area are blown out.
Like trout in many southeastern Pennsylvania streams, trout stocked in Marsh and Little Marsh tend to be nomadic. Although the lowest stocking point on Marsh Creek is the Route 30 bridge, you can find trout for miles downstream, including the pool at Sachs Bridge.
Once the water starts to warm up in late spring, the pool at Sachs Bridge is a great place to find a variety of warmwater species such as largemouth bass, crappies, and other panfish. I’ve caught largemouths of varying sizes throughout the entire stream, but the main concentration of larger-sized fish seems to be around Sachs Bridge, which happens to be the bridge the Confederates used as they retreated from the battlefield. It’s also a prime location for ghost hunters, so if you notice increased human activity on the bridge right before dark, don’t panic. It’s the non-human activity you have to worry about!
Take Time to Be A Tourist
If you’re planning a trip to Gettysburg this year, spend at least a couple of days touring the battlefield. Don’t try to see it all at once. There are so many intricacies and unique stories surrounding the battle and the town that it’s almost impossible to absorb that much information in just one day while gaining an appreciation for all that happened there. That’s just one reason why trout fishing fits into the agenda so well. It’s a nice break between touring the battlefield and other attractions. And the fishing can be quite good. Although most of the streams flow through private land, most landowners permit fishing, so please be courteous and respectful on every visit.
Our first trip to Gettysburg, my wife and I took one of the battlefield bus tours. The tour guide grew up in Gettysburg and told a story about one of the teachers he had in school who had actually met General Sickles, one of the Union generals who’d participated in the battle.
Let that sink in a minute…our guide’s teacher met General Sickles. All of a sudden, the past was put into perspective, and everything that happened on that battlefield didn’t seem so long ago.
The Battle of Gettysburg played an important role in our country’s history. While it’s good to visit all of the typical sites and attractions, next time you’re there, soak up a little solitude on Marsh and Little Marsh creeks, too. You won’t be disappointed, even if you don’t encounter any ghosts.
Trip Notes and Recommendations
Must See: Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tours (gettysburgbattlefieldtours.com), Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center (nps.gov/gett), Gettysburg Cyclorama, Jenny Wade House. Many of the ghost walks are also a neat way to spend an evening about town.
Fishing Gear: For most trout fishing situations, a 7 1/2-8-foot, 4-5-weight fly rod will do the job. The streams have a gentle gradient which makes for fairly easy wading when water levels are normal. An assortment of streamers and nymphs will catch trout all season long.
Information: Destination Gettysburg (destinationgettysburg.com).