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Potomac River Watch

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Potomac River Fishing Report – July 23, 2021

The Shenandoah basin water levels are low and clear and some areas have some algae. Anglers are catching smallmouth bass and catfish in both the North and South forks. The mainstem is fishing fair for smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish. Mountain streams are very low and clear, so anglers will need some stealth to avoid spooking the fish. River temperatures are in the low- to mid-80s

The South Branch Potomac is running very low and clear, with water temperatures in the mid-80s. In areas with enough water, smallmouth bass and catfish are taking slowly fished lures. The North Branch Potomac is somewhat cooler. Trout management areas continue to produce some rainbow and brown trout in the mornings. The ICPRB continues to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with creel surveys that will help in future management decisions.

The upper Potomac River remains low, slow, and clear, with water temperatures in the low- to mid-80s. Lander, Brunswick, and Whites Ferry provide access to some productive water. The best fishing by far is in the very early morning that provides some great topwater fishing with poppers and other small topwater baits. Target faster moving water. As morning continues, some smallmouth bass can be taken by fishing stick worms or small plastic baits fished very slowly. The bite is very light, making it easy to miss a gentle strike. Some nice smallmouth were taken from upstream of Whites Ferry and around Dickerson. The mouth of the Monocacy is green from algae, which is found in spots along the Potomac.

The MD DNR is planning for a supplemental stocking in some areas of the river. For more information, visit the smallmouth bass stocking webpage.

Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac remains slow. Anglers are targeting bridge pilings, docks, and other structure with stick worms, soft plastics, and crankbaits. The Washington Channel is holding some blue catfish.  Hydrilla is growing in some areas, and fishing the bed edges where found can be productive. All baits should be fished slowly in the warm water, which is in the mid-80s.

Downstream, bass are seeking cooler water and shade. Morning high tides allow anglers to target grass beds in moving water in incoming and outgoing tides. Fort Washington Channel holds huge blue catfish, and the mouth of Piscataway Bay has some largemouth bass. Grass beds become more established downstream. Mattawoman Creek vegetation holds some bass and snakeheads. Pohick Bay has some nice bass and snakeheads. The early morning hours are the most productive. The very light and slow bite is easier to pick up with lures fished very slowly.

Cooler daybreak water temperatures allow for topwater fishing both around grass beds and other structure. Later in the day fish shady spots under docks or floating debris mats. The tidal creeks on both sides of the river are holding some nice bass. Fish stick worms and chatterbaits over the grass beds, and the edges as water lowers. Swim baits work well around hard structure.

Pohick Bay coves and shorelines hold bass and snakeheads. Blue catfish are common, with 40-50 pound fish a common catch for those targeting them. Snakehead catches are increasing with spawning over for now.

The Potomac River is closed to striped bass fishing through August 20.

Fishing is slow in the Colonial Beach area, with water clear with a green tint and temperatures in the low- to mid-80s. Anglers are taking some bluefish, croaker, spot, and some nice white perch, along with blue catfish. Puppy drum have moved into the area. Sea nettles are showing up in greater numbers. Avoid bottom fishing in the main channel where the summertime depleted oxygen zone is forming.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers continue to see nice bites of Spanish mackerel and speckled trout. Cobia are being taken in chum slicks. Bluefish are around to strip the baits of those fishing for other species. Crabbing remains tough.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Potomac River Fisheries CommissionNational Bass GuidesShallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Machodoc Creek Marina.

Little boy sitting on a bench reaching for bait. A lake is in the background.

 

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Potomac River Fishing Report – July 16, 2021

Striped Bass

The Potomac River and its tidal tributaries are now closed to striped bass fishing. Maryland’s tidal tributaries are closed to striped bass fishing from July 16 through July 31 to preserve the species during high temperature days. Virginia tributaries of the Potomac are closed until October 4. The tidal Potomac mainstem is closed for striped bass through August 20.

Fishing the Potomac

In the Shenandoah basin, water levels are low and clear and some areas have some algae. Anglers are finding smallmouth bass in both the North and South forks. The mainstem is fishing well with smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish. Mountain streams remain low and clear, so anglers will need to sneak up on these fish.

The South Branch Potomac is running low and clear, with water temperatures in the mid-80s. Smallmouth bass and catfish are taking slowly fished lures. The North Branch Potomac ‘s cooler waters (near 60) continues to produce some nice rainbow and brown trout downstream of Jennings Randolph Reservoir. Trout management and put-and-take areas continue to produce. The ICPRB continues to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with creel surveys that will help in future management decisions.

The upper Potomac River is low, slow, and clear, with water temperatures in the low- 80s. Lander and Brunswick are popular access points that produce smallmouth bass and channel and flathead catfish. The segment from Seneca to the mouth of the Monocacy river continues to fish well, with the cooler water temperatures at dawn being best. Anglers on the water early enough will find great topwater fishing in the shallow water over rock gardens mid channel. Later in the morning, slowly fished stick worms, soft plastics, and swim baits will bring some fish. The Edwards Ferry area is fishing well. The DNR is planning for a supplemental stocking in some areas of the river. For more information, visit the smallmouth bass stocking webpage.

Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac remains slow. Anglers are having success at bridge pilings, docks, and other structure with stick worms, soft plastics, and crankbaits. The Washington Channel remains a good spot, with a mix of largemouth bass and catfish along the channel dropoff.  Hydrilla is emerging in some areas, and the edges of those patches are good bets. All baits should be fished slowly in the warm water, which is in the mid-80s.

Downstream, bass are seeking cooler water and hiding from the sun. Aquatic grasses are doing better than in previous years, with the larger be

ds downstream of Piscataway Bay. The river is likely to be crowded this weekend, as major tournaments will be fishing out of both National Harbor and Smallwood State Park. More than 300 boats will be involved, and area boat ramps may be crowded early in the morning on Saturday.

Cooler daybreak water temperatures allow for topwater fishing both around grass beds and other structure. Later in the day fish shady spots under docks or floating debris mats. The tidal creeks on both sides of the river are holding some nice bass. Fish stick worms and chatterbaits over the grass beds, and the edges as water lowers. Swim baits work well around hard structure.

Pohick Bay coves and shorelines hold bass and snakeheads. Blue catfish are common, with 40-50 pound fish a common catch for those targeting them. Snakehead catches are increasing with spawning over for now.

Fishing has slowed somewhat in the Colonial Beach area, with water clear and temperatures in the low- to mid-80s. Anglers are reporting catches of bluefish, croaker, spot, and white perch, along with the ever-present blue catfish. People also are catching brown shrimp in the area. The eating-size shrimp become more prevalent closer to the bay. Sightings of dolphin pods in the area are becoming more common. Sea nettles are starting to show their tentacles. Avoid bottom fishing in the area as the summertime depleted oxygen zone is forming.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers continue to see nice bites of Spanish mackerel and speckled trout. Cobia are becoming more common, with anglers fishing live eels in chum slicks. Bluefish are around to strip the baits of those fishing for other species. Crabbing remains tough.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Potomac River Fisheries CommissionNational Bass GuidesShallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Machodoc Creek Marina.

 

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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 lily 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.