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Potomac River Watch

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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.

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Potomac River Fishing Report – July 13, 2018

Rivers in the upper basin are in very good shape. The North Branch Potomac and Savage rivers are giving up nice trout in the management areas. Anglers are using streamers and some terrestrial flies. The mountain trout streams are in good shape as well.

The summer pattern is now in effect. The Shenandoah River is giving up some nice smallmouth bass and catfish. In the upper Potomac, bass are in the deeper holes and ledges. Anglers are catching bass from the shore in early morning on buzzbaits. Fish the deep, shady holes during the day. Lander and Brunswick are the source of some nice smallmouth bass reports.

In the metro area, anglers are reporting bass around Chain Bridge. In the District, bridge pilings and sunken structure are giving up largemouth bass and catfish. More bass are being taken off the Washington channel sea wall and grass beds. Lots of catfish are being found at the Wilson Bridge and Blue Plains.

The tidal river is productive at the main channel grass beds, where anglers are using jigs and hollow frog baits to great effect. The extensive beds of water milfoil in Piscataway Bay  and Broad Creek are good spots. The Mattawoman Creek grass beds are popular as well. Anglers are targeting large blue catfish in the channel around Fort Washington.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are targeting striped bass by chumming the channel off of St. George’s and St. Clements islands. Others are jigging for the fish, of which many are on the small size. Anglers also are targeting the rock piles north of Point lookout. Anglers wanting to cast in shallow water need to be there before the sun comes up. As the waters heat into the mid 80s, stripers will move to find cooler water with adequate oxygen. Anglers also are catching spot, croaker, white perch, and blue catfish. Crabbing continues to improve.

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, and White’s Ferry.

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About the Basin: Fairfax Stone State Park

Fairfax Stone State Park

A white, aged plaque that tells the story of Fairfax Stone.

Photo by West Virginia State Parks

Fairfax Stone State Park, near Davis, West Virginia, has no boating, no hiking, and no camping. It does not even have a restroom. In fact, it is a diminutive 4-acre park.  However, it has immense importance to the Potomac River and the history of the region.

A spring, marked by an organized pile of mossy rocks, is the beginning of the North Branch of the Potomac River. A mere 383 miles downriver, that trickle transforms into the 11-mile wide mouth of the Potomac River, spilling into the Chesapeake Bay.

Before the American Revolution, it was the tradition that English kings would reward loyal friends with large parcels of land in the territories. A plaque on a six-ton rock at the entrance of the park commemorates the western boundary of land granted to Lord Fairfax by King Charles II of England in 1746.

A large stone with a plaque that tells the story of Fairfax Stone.

Photo by West Virginia State Parks

His bounty was, “bounded by and within the heads of the Rivers Rappahannock and Patawomecke”. Known as Fairfax Stone, it is one of the oldest markers in the United States. This plot of land has been part of many boundary disputes.

There may not be many amenities in this charming park, but it is a good reminder that even the largest rivers start as a trickle.

Camping and other amenities can be found at the nearby Canaan Valley Resort State Park and Blackwater Falls State Park.

 

Photo of a map showing the Fairfax Stone state park in the west and Washington, D.C. in the east.

Photo from Google maps.

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About the Basin: Brunswick Family Campground

Brunswick Family Campground

Four kayakers are seen from behind as they paddle down the Potomac River near Brunswick, Md.

Kayakers paddle down the Potomac River from the Brunswick Family Campground boat ramp.

For many families, the Brunswick Family Campground in Brunswick, Maryland is a summertime tradition. Whether you are a hiker, biker, kayaker, history buff, or train enthusiast, there is something for everyone at this campground along the C&O Canal Park.

This campground is known for two things: access to the river and trains. Campers launch from the boat ramp for a paddle down the Potomac River. Organize boat rentals and transportation with camp staff. Some campers park their beach chair in the shallow waters along the edge to cool-off on a hot day.

Train enthusiasts can enjoy the trains that come rumbling down the tracks along the campground throughout the day. Don’t forget your earplugs for the nighttime rumbles! Learn more about the town’s rich transportation history at the Brunswick Heritage Museum.

Plan to spend a few days exploring the area. The historical powerhouses, Harpers Ferry National Park, Antietam National Park, and Monocacy National Battlefield are all an easy drive from the campground.

One of the perks of staying at a campground managed by River & Trail Outfitters is that many of their boating trips launch directly from the boat ramp at the campground. They offer a variety of adventures along the Potomac River, including an upcoming Sunset Float and Moonrise Paddle Tour on July 21. We would like to thank River & Trail Outfitters for their help as “river watchers” for ICPRB’s weekly newsletter, River Watch.

Going out on the Potomac River this weekend? Show us how much you love the Potomac by using #PotomacLove in your social media posts!

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Fishing Report – June 29, 2018

In the western basin, small trout streams are running well with good fly fishing. Trout management areas on the North Branch Potomac and Savage rivers are producing some nice trout. The Shenandoah mainstem is producing some nice smallmouth bass and catfish, according to reports.

The upper Potomac is producing some nice bass, and anglers are doing well in the Harper’s Ferry-Brunswick stretch. The water at White’s Ferry is clearing, and the ferry itself will hopefully cross the river unimpeded for the rest of the summer. Anglers are reporting some good top water action during the day. As water temperatures warm, the fish will seek shaded areas that should be targeted.

In the District, anglers are reporting good catches of largemouth bass and catfish using crankbaits around bridge pilings. The grass beds at the Washington Channel wall are giving up largemouth bass as well. Anglers are having some success off Blue Plains and Fox Ferry Point as well.

Downstream, main channel grass beds will be productive, although the past period of rains and little sun have decreased the beds in some areas. If the weather holds in its current pattern, the beds should come back strongly. The cloudy weather has slowed the usual hydrilla growth somewhat. Anglers are reporting very good largemouth bass fishing as well as catfish, which seem to be in spawning mode. Anglers are reporting good fishing for bass and blue catfish off Fort Washington, and at the grass beds at the mouths of tidal creeks. Spawning cats can also be found patrolling shallow areas. Low tides are in the early morning, a good time to throw crank baits and stick worms to the edges of grass beds. As the tide rises, target wood structure and dock pilings. Anglers have reported some catches of nice largemouth bass and snakeheads in Mallows Bay.

Near the river’s mouth, Anglers are chumming for striped bass on the channel edge around Piney Point, St. Clement’s Island, and St. George’s. White perch and some croaker are being caught. Crabbing is slowly improving.

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, and White’s Ferry.

July 4 is a Maryland Free Fishing Day!

You can now check out fishing tackle at libraries in some Maryland Counties

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About the Basin, Peculiar Potomac Edition: Foamhenge

Foamhenge

Several large blocks of foam backlit by the sun. They are arranged to look like Stonehenge.

Foamhenge at Cox Farms

In celebration of the beginning of summer, this week’s About the Basin covers an internationally known pile of rocks that honors the summer solstice.  No, not Stonehenge, but the lesser known -henge this side of the pond: Foamhenge.

At Foamhenge, the life-size blocks of foam are chiseled, painted, and arranged to be an exact replica of the slightly-more-famous prehistoric wonder of the world, Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England. However, this one is closer to home.

Located at Cox Farms, Foamhenge is less than an hour’s drive from the D.C. Metro Area. This homage to Stonehenge is open to the public on Saturdays (12:00-2:00pm) during the summer and spring seasons. Admission to this quintessential American roadside attraction is free but only accessible via a shuttle provided by the farm. Part of the weekly event called “Smokin’ Saturdays”, farm activities also include food, feeding farm animals, produce, and live music. Over-sized games of Yahtzee, Jenga, Connect 4, and Checkers are also available for entertaining the whole family.  This weekend, check out Foamhenge for a European-style staycation and marvel at the wonders that the Potomac basin have to offer right here at home.