News

Potomac River Watch

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Potomac Fishing Report – August 16, 2019

Little Girl Fishing at Little Seneca Lake

Managed trout areas in western Maryland are running low and clear, but the fish are there for patient and stealthy anglers. Hatches of aquatic insects have slowed, and anglers are throwing ant and beetle flies during the day, along with streamers.

The South Branch Potomac is low but fishing pretty well for smallmouth bass and sunfish. The Shenandoah has growing areas of algae in some spots, but is giving up some nice smallmouth bass, particularly in the North Fork.

The upper Potomac also is showing some algae as far up as Paw Paw, W.Va., and may be a result of continuing stormy weather and the lack of aquatic plants from more than a year of higher flows and decreased sunlight. Anglers are reporting some catches of smallmouth bass and catfish.

The upper Potomac is best in the mornings and evenings, and anglers are taking smallmouth bass off poppers and other topwater baits. During the day, fish are holed up in the shaded ledges and rock gardens near the bottom. The Brunswick section is fishing slow for bass, but catfish are biting well.

In the District of Columbia, Fletchers Boat House is reporting some bass and catfish. Washington Channel and the war college wall and grass beds consistently hold bass and cats. Anglers are targeting bridge pilings and docks as well as wood structure for largemouth bass and catfish.

Downstream, anglers are targeting the reduced grass beds and lilly pads for largemouth bass. Snakeheads continue to spawn and can be found up the tidal creeks in shallow water. Fish of about four pounds are no unusual. The deep channel off Fort Washington is home to some very large blue catfish.

From the Route 301 Bridge downstream, anglers are finding striped bass, a lot of Spanish mackerel, spot, and perch. Channel edge between Piney Point and St. Georges. Available spot are being used to live line for stripers (anglers are required to use circle hooks), as well as the rock jetties around Point Lookout. Anglers are taking lots of Spanish mackerel, with some bluefish and some nice cobia rounding out the opportunities. Crabbing remains good.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Steve Chaconas/National Bass Guides, Mike Dudash/Eagle Aquatics, River and Trail Outfitters, Aqualand Marina, and White’s Ferry.

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Potomac River Fishing Report – August 9, 2019

Children with fishing rods lined up along the side of a canal.Mountain trout streams remain in good shape for this time of year. Anglers are matching insect hatches or using streamers. Some nice trout are being taken in the North Branch Potomac. The South Branch Potomac is running fairly clear, and anglers are finding some nice smallmouth bass and catfish. The Shenandoah is in good shape, and the North and South forks are running clear and giving up some nice smallmouth bass.

The upper Potomac is giving up some smallmouth along the shore in the morning and evening, and out of shaded rock gardens and ledges during the day. Overall, the normally very productive stretch from Lander to Brunswick has not fished well this season. Catfish seem to be biting well most everywhere.

In the District of Columbia, bridge pilings and hard structure are providing largemouth bass and catfish. The Washington Channel and War College Wall and grass beds are giving up some largemouth bass and crappies. Some hydrilla beds in the main river hold some bass on moving tides.

Further downstream, the headwaters shallows of tidal creeks are prime territory for northern snakeheads and some bass. Lilly pads and grass beds in Piscataway and Mattawoman creeks are fishing well. The main channel off the Fort Washington lighthouse is a prime area for very large blue catfish.

From the Route 301 Bridge downstream, anglers are finding some striped bass, many of them small. Anglers are limiting out on Spanish mackerel, large spot, and white perch.  The Channel edge between Piney Point and St. Georges is a target area for stripers, and many anglers are using spot to live-line for the larger rockfish. Anglers are casting to rock jetties near Point Lookout for a mixture of stripers and bluefish.  Anglers also are finding some very nice cobia in the area. Crabbing is good.

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Potomac River Fishing Report – August 2, 2019

A little boy is holding up a fishing pole with a fish on the hook. Mountain trout streams are in good shape for this time of year. Anglers are matching insect hatches or using streamers. The same holds true for the North Branch Potomac. The Shenandoah is running a little low in the upper reaches, but the river is producing some nice smallmouth bass and catfish.

The upper Potomac is best in the mornings and evenings, and anglers are taking smallmouth bass off poppers and other topwater baits. Daytime action is in the shaded ledges and rock gardens near the bottom. The Brunswick section is fishing slow for bass, but catfish are biting well. Washington Channel and the war college wall and grass beds consistently hold bass and cats.

Downstream, main channel grass beds hold bass. The heads of tidal creeks hold bass and are loaded with snakeheads. Lilly beds at Mattawoman Creek and other areas are holding fish. The deep channel off Fort Washington lighthouse is a great place to target large blue catfish.

From the Route 301 Bridge downstream, anglers are finding striped bass, a lot of Spanish mackerel, spot, and perch.  Channel edge between Piney Point and St. Georges. Available spot are being used to live line for stripers, as sell as the rock jetties around Point Lookout. Anglers are taking lots of mackerel, with some bluefish and a few cobia rounding out the opportunities. Crabbing remains good.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Steve Chaconas/National Bass Guides, Mike Dudash/Eagle Aquatics, River and Trail Outfitters, Aqualand Marina, and White’s Ferry.

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Potomac River Fishing Report – July 12, 2019

Little Girl Fishing at Little Seneca Lake

Mountain trout streams in the western part of the basin are clearing. Management areas are fishing well. Be mindful of the white miller hatches occurring on many streams.

The North Branch is high and stained. The Shenandoah is in somewhat better shape, and the area downstream of Bentonville is giving up smallmouth bass.

The upper Potomac is stained and carrying some debris. The few reports from the area were reporting some smallmouth bass and catfish catches. So0me anglers reported taking some smallmouth downstream of Brunswick.

In the District of Columbia, the stained water is also carrying some debris from the storms. Catfish and a few striped bass were taken at Fletcher’s Boathouse. Bridge pilings are holding some largemouth bass and catfish. Anglers are having some success at the Washington Channel dock pilings and the grass beds off the War College wall. Anglers have been finding largemouth bass at Blue Plains.

Anglers are targeting grass beds in the tidal river mainstem and creeks. Bass are a focus in the grasses. Catfish are found on docks and pilings. Dark colored lures and chatterbaits will assist with catches in the dirty water. Snakeheads are nesting at the shallow  heads of tidal creeks on both sides of the river.

The river clears somewhat downstream of the Route 301 bridge, where anglers are trolling or chumming for striped bass, white perch, and blue catfish.

Near the river’s mouth, stripers are being taken at the channel edges near Piney point and St. Georges by trolling and chumming. Point Lookout also is giving up stripers. Some stripers are being taken by casting at the shoreline in low light. White perch croaker, and spot also are available. Crabbing is good.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is cautioning anglers about fishing in the warm waters for a species that is having population issues.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Steve Chaconas/National Bass Guides, Mike Dudash/Eagle Aquatics, River and Trail Outfitters, Aqualand Marina, and White’s Ferry.

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Potomac Fishing Report – June 28, 2019

Trout continue to bite in the western streams, mountain streams of the Shenandoah, and the North Branch and Savage.

The Shenandoah mainstem and its forks are giving up some nice smallmouth bass and catfish. Some algae is beginning to appear in spots.

The upper Potomac is in good shape, with reports of some nice smallmouth bass and catfish around Dams 4 and 5. As water levels slowly decline, fish may concentrate during the day in deeper ledges and rock gardens. Bank fishing with topwater lures will be more productive at dawn and dusk. Catfish can be found in any deep hole or channel with cut bait.

In the District of Columbia, anglers are finding lots of catfish at bridge pilings and deeper channels. Anglers are taking largemouth bass off the War College wall and adjacent grass. Some smaller striped bass have been caught as well. Downstream bass are being caught with crankbaits and plastics at Blue Plains and Fox Ferry point.

Bass are being found in the few main channel grass beds, piers, and other wood structure. Grass beds near the mouth of Mattawoman Creek are producing some nice fish. Snakeheads are breeding at the heads of tidal creeks, and appear to be spawning even in areas without grass, where they defend bald patches of creek bottom.

Near the Route 301 Bridge, anglers are working the shipping channel, trolling, chumming, and jigging for striped bass. Chum slicks also bring blue catfish. The area continues to see very low salinity, average clarity, and a larger than normal dead zone of low oxygen is predicted. As temperatures rise, the stripers—especially larger fish—can exhaust themselves when being caught in the warmer water, Maryland Department of Natural Resources is cautioning anglers about fishing in the warm waters for a species that is having population issues.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are continuing jigging, chumming and trolling for striped bass on the  channel edges from Piney Point to St. Georges Island, with blue catfish in the mix. Shallow water fishing has yet to pick up. And anglers continue to wait for the arrival of croaker and spot. White perch are everywhere, and crabbing continues to be pretty good.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Steve Chaconas/National Bass Guides, Mike Dudash/Eagle Aquatics, River and Trail Outfitters, Aqualand Marina, and White’s Ferry.

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Potomac River Fishing Report – June 17, 2019

Trout are available in managed areas and down the North Branch. Shenandoah trout streams are doing well with several hatches going.

The upper Potomac is still stained on some areas from recent rains, but is clearing. Smallmouth bass and sunfish will be at the bank in the morning and evening, and moving to deeper ledges and rock gardens when the sun is up. Some nice musky have been taken near Dam 5. Catfish are available at most areas. The Lander and The North Fork and mainstem Shenandoah are fishing nicely for smallmouth bass and catfish.

In the District of Columbia, the Fletcher’s Boat House area is giving up a few striped bass and lots of catfish. In the tidal river, grass beds are few and far between, so bridge pilings, docks and other structure are holding fish. Some hydrilla and coontail are emerging.

Downstream, some main channel grass beds are emerging, and the tidal creeks on both sides of the river hold some nice largemouth bass and lots of snakeheads. Blue catfish are on the edges of the main river channels.

Striped bass action is picking up near the Route 301 Bridge, with anglers trolling and chumming the channel edges.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are jigging, chumming and trolling for striped bass on the channel edges channel edges from Piney Point to St. Georges Island. Many blue catfish can be. Shallow water fishing has yet to pick up.. White perch are everywhere, and crabbing continues to be pretty good.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, National Bass Guides, River and Trail Outfitters, Aqualand Marina, and White’s Ferry.

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About the Basin: Piscataway Creek

Piscataway Creek

We’re switching gears for this week’s About the Basin. Instead of extolling the virtues of a nature reserve or state park, we’ll be travelling down a short stream just south of Washington, D.C. called Piscataway Creek and discovering all the natural and historical treasures it has to offer.
Beginning just north of Rosaryville, Maryland, the Piscataway runs just 4.5 miles long. The headwaters pass through Piscataway Creek Stream Valley Park. This park is difficult to access and has few trails. However, if you are in the area, stop by Cosca Regional Park. The main feature of this park is Lake Cosca, which runs into Butler Branch, a tributary of Piscataway Creek. Boat rentals and overnight camping are available in this 690-acre park near Clinton, Md.
About the time Piscataway Creek flows under Indian Head Highway (Route 210), it opens-up into an embayment that provides a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking, boating, fishing, and educational adventures. The Piscataway Creek Trail can be found on the north side of the embayment. The highlight of this park is a short, easy hike with beautiful views of the river. Just west of the trail is Fort Washington Marina which offers two boat ramps and lots of parking.
Beyond the recreational opportunities, this area is rich with history. The mouth of the river is directly across from George Washington’s Mount Vernon and is largely protected because of its view of this historic piece of land. But long before George Washington dug a hoe into the ground, the Native Americans considered the area a special place. Many organizations work to preserve the history of this creek and its embayment.
On the west side of the marina is Fort Washington Park, one of the few forts still in its original form along the east coast of the United States. An important Potomac River stronghold, this fort showcases how it has adapted to the advances in artillery, ships, and warfare over the past two centuries.
Across the creek from the fort is National Colonial Farm at Piscataway Park, managed by the Accokeek Foundation. In addition to a boat ramp, hiking trails, arboretum, and forest restoration projects, the park hosts a living history farm from the colonial period. Visit the farm to learn what it was like to live as a middle-class family before the American revolution (spoiler alert: they didn’t have wifi!).
Just west of National Colonial Farm is Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Hard Bargain Farm, an environmental center focused on sustainable agriculture and cultural heritage. Most of the farm’s programs are for local students and teachers, but the center occasionally opens to the public for special events, such as last Saturday’s Pinot on the Potomac.
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Potomac Fishing Report, June 7, 2019

Children with fishing rods lined up along the side of a canal. Trout anglers are doing well in the managed areas. Some nice trout are being taken in a segment of the North Branch Potomac. Sulphurs and caddisflies are hatching in those areas, and streamers are working as well.

Many areas of the upper Potomac remain near bank full and are carrying some stain. Smallmouth bass and sunfish will be nearer the bank in the morning and evening, and moving to deeper ledges and rock gardens when the sun is up. The area between Lander and Brunswick is giving up some nice smallmouth bass, walleye, and the occasional musky. The North Fork and mainstem Shenandoah is fishing nicely for smallmouth bass.

In the District of Columbia, grass beds are beginning to emerge, although the fisherman’s friend, Eurasian milfoil, is yet to establish. Grass beds at the War College are giving up some largemouth bass and the occasional striped bass. Area fridge pilings, docks, and wood structure are giving up a lot of catfish and some largemouth bass. Bass are being found in the Blue Plains outfall.

The mainstem Potomac downstream of Washington lacks its summer grass beds, but the tidal creeks on both sides of the river have lily pads and grasses that are holding fish. Morning low tides will compress the beds, and fish can be teased out by getting plastics to the edges. Fish can also be found in structure near the beds. Monster blue catfish can be found in the channel around Fort Washington, but can be taken in shallows in many places along the river. Leesylvania State Park is another good spot to start from.

Downstream, anglers are jigging, chumming and trolling for striped bass on the channel edges near the Harry Nice Bridge, as well as some croaker. The same scenario is occurring at channel edges from Piney Point to St. Georges Island. Many blue catfish can be taken from the unusually fresh (not salty) waters. Shallow water fishing has yet to pick up, so the focus is on trolling and chumming from boats. White perch are everywhere, and crabbing continues to be pretty good.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, National Bass Guides, River and Trail Outfitters, Aqualand Marina, and White’s Ferry.

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About the Basin, Peculiar Potomac Edition: Waffle Rock

Waffle Rock

About the Basin, Peculiar Potomac Edition

A large rock with a waffle-like pattern on one side. Photo Credit: mdmarkus66, https://flic.kr/p/7WFfUy

Photo Credit: mdmarkus66, https://flic.kr/p/7WFfUy

Last week’s About the Basin covered the Jennings Randolph Lake near Elk Garden, West Virginia. This week’s article takes a closer look at a geological phenomenon known as Waffle Rock. This interesting rock stands guard at the West Virginia Overlook above Jennings Randolph Lake.

This massive rock has a large waffle-pattern on one side. Some have claimed it is evidence of visitors from another planet, some say it is the scale pattern of a ginormous lizard, and others say it is just an interesting geological formation. We’re going with the “geological formation” theory.

Several hundred million years ago, according to ICPRB hydrogeologist, Jim Palmer, “Joints opened up in the soft sandstone and allowed iron rich water to seep into cracks and form cement around sand particles.” This cemented sand is highly weather resistant. Regular sandstone is not. The soft sandstone eroded away from the rock while the grid-like pattern of the hard sandstone remained, creating a waffle-y rock.

The rock was originally part of a larger formation that broke off some point in the past few hundred million years. It ended up near Shaw, West Virginia, the ill-fated town that is now at the bottom of Jennings Randolph Lake. The rock had geological (and, according to the story, sentimental) value. Before the lake was filled in during the early 1980’s, the rock was moved to its final resting place. It now welcomes tourists and locals alike to ponder the deeper things in life while overlooking the scenic Jennings Randolph Lake.

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About the Basin: Jennings Randolph Lake

Jennings Randolph Lake

Less than 3 hours west of the Washington metropolitan area lies a massive man-made lake with a storied past. Tucked into the Allegany Mountains of West Virginia, Jennings Randolph Lake sits over land that was once a small town called Shaw. In 1981, the residents moved out and water moved in.

As part of the North Branch of the Potomac River, these are the source waters for the 5.1 million people in the Washington metropolitan area. In times of drought, the lake serves as an emergency reservoir to many downstream. In addition to water supply, the project was constructed for flood risk management, water quality, low flow augmentation, and recreational opportunities. The dam was constructed, and is still managed by, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

But Jennings Randolph is more than just a place to store water for thirsty people downstream. The 4,500 acres of land and water is a recreational hub with an impressive variety of activities. These include boating, camping, waterskiing, scuba-diving, hiking, swimming, archery, birding, hunting, whitewater rafting, and record-breaking fishing.

Walleye is regularly stocked in Jennings Randolph. Patience is required though, as they are known for being large, but also wily and difficult to find in the lake. Smallmouth bass, trout, bluegill, and catfish abound.

The Howell Run Picnic Area is a picturesque picnic spot overlooking the lake. It offers several shelters for rent, many picnic tables, trails, bathrooms, fishing, and more.

A trail from the picnic area leads to a swimming spot known as Shaw Beach. This sandy beach is a great place to soak up the rays while the kids play in the water.

A 3D archery course is available if you are looking for more adventures. The course is for both beginners and advanced shooters, but you will need to bring your own bow.

During the spring (and occasionally during the summer), USACE releases enough water from the dam to make Class I, II, and III rapids in an area below the dam known as Barnum Whitewater Area. The release schedule for the year is posted online.

Whether you are looking for a day on the water, a day on the beach, or even bigger adventures, Jennings Randolph Lake has something for everyone.