Striped Bass Closure
The striped bass fishery on the tidal Potomac mainstem is closed until August 21. All Maryland areas of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries, including on the Potomac, will be closed to any targeting of striped bass – including catch-and-release and charter boats–through July 31. This conservation measure was enacted because hot weather and low oxygen this time of year creates tough conditions for striped bass to survive catch and release – and this high mortality impacts the future of our fishery.
The Shenandoah system is fishing well and recent storms have provided a small boost to the summertime flows. A mix of smallmouth bass, sunfish and channel catfish are being caught. The water is clear and both the North and South forks are fishable. Water clarity is good, and temperatures are near 80 degrees. Early morning and sunset are produce some nice topwater bites. The mountain trout streams are warming with some hatches occurring.
Anglers on the South Branch Potomac are finding some nice smallmouth in the low, clear water. The sector around Petersburg is popular.
The North Branch Potomac and Savage rivers continue to produce rainbow and brown trout in the management areas. The ICPRB is working with Maryland and other stakeholders to assess water temperatures and looking at how management can be improved to provide better conditions for the cold water fishery.
The upper Potomac River is running low and fairly clear with some stain. Water temperatures are near 80 degrees. The river continues to fish very well this season, and good catches can be had from the mouth of the Monocacy River to Point of Rocks. The downstream edge of the water stargrass at point of Rocks is worth a try, and the river down to Brunswick is productive in areas with rock gardens, fallen trees, and other structure that hold fish. Small plastics fished slowly in the rocks will find fish, often more than one from a given target. Long casts and finesse with the hook set go a long way toward landing a nice smallmouth bass. Channel catfish and large flathead catfish can be taken with lures or cut bait. There is always a chance for an elusive musky. An angler recently reported catching a northern snakehead downstream of Dam 4, and may be a sign of a growing population in the river. Snakeheads have been living in the watered parts of the C&O canal for some time.
In the metro area, temperatures are in the mid-80s with fairly clear water. Largemouth bass are being taken upstream of Key Bridge. In the District, anglers drawn to sparse grass beds. The Pentagon lagoon and Washington Channel are holding bass. Bridge pilings and docks are being targeted with crank baits and soft plastics near the pilings. The lower Anacostia is giving up some bass and snakeheads. The spoils area and docks at National Harbor are worth a try.
The tidal Potomac is seeing clear water and temperatures in the mid-80s. The Mount Vernon, Dogue Creek, and Little Hunting creek are less crowded than the downstream areas with established grass beds. Docks and underwater structure are holding largemouth bass, The heads of tidal creeks with grass are giving up nice snakeheads. The extensive grass beds in Mattawoman. Chickamuxen, and Aquia creeks are good but busy areas. Anglers are using chatterbaits, soft plastics, and other jigs on moving tides. Floating frog lures can bring exciting bites when dragged over the grass beds. Blue catfish will take cut bait most anywhere, but especially the channel edges off Fort Washington.
Fishing activity around the Colonial Beach area has slowed with the closure of the striped bass fishery. Water temperatures are in the mid-80s with fairly clear water. Anglers are finding small croaker, spot, and white perch. Spanish mackerel are coming into the area. Blue catfish are not hard to find.. The slowly increasing salinity from dryer weather is bringing in some sea nettles, and there are a lot of dolphins to watch.
Near the river’s mouth, anglers are finding nice white perch. Croaker and spot are becoming more plentiful. Some speckled trout and red drum are being taken. Anglers are finding some, nice cobia off Smith Point. Some are using cut bait to get cobia, but that also invites bites from cownose rays. Spanish mackerel are being taken by trolling. And when the bite is poor for some species, the ubiquitous blue catfish will usually cooperate. Crabbing has improved with the heat and dry weather.
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, Shallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Machodoc Creek Marina, Inc.