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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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Water Supply Outlook for July

The Water Supply Outlook for July 2018 has been posted to the website. The water supply outlook is published by ICPRB’s  Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations (CO-OP) staff on a monthly basis between April and October of each year. It provides an update on the possibility of water supply releases from the area’s reservoirs based on long-term precipitation data, flows, and other information for the Potomac basin.

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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 – July 6, 2018

Good reports of smallmouth bass and catfish are coming from the Shenandoah River system. Trout management areas in the western basin are fishing well, with white miller hatches occurring in the evening. Anglers also are finding trout in the North Branch Potomac and Savage rivers.

Water temperatures in the upper Potomac river are in the mid to high 70s, and the fishing is very good. Smallmouth bass in the 10”-14” range are being taken with small topwater lures in low light, and from deep, shady ledges and other structure during the day. An angler working White’s Ferry noted lots of jumping smallmouth in the morning, with some very large smallmouth striking. Some anglers were hooking flathead catfish near Dam 4.

In the District, water temperatures are in the mid to high 80s, reaching the 90-degree mark in some areas. Lots of catfish are being taken at Fletcher’s Boat house, along with a few small striped bass. Anglers are finding largemouth bass and catfish at bridge pilings as the tide turns. The Washington channel docks and grass beds are giving up some bass. Grass beds in the main channel and at the mouths of tidal creeks are good targets as the tide moves. At high tide with full sun, bass move toward docks and other structure as well as dense grass beds. Milfoil bedsw in Piscataway and Broad creeks are giving up some nice bass. Snakeheads are spawning in grass beds and striking the same baits used for bass.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are chumming at the rockpiles north above Point Lookout, and chumming and trolling the channel off St. George’s Island. Anglers also are finding blue catfish, croaker, spot, and white perch. The low salinity seems to be delaying the arrival of cobia, bluefish, and Spanish mackeral.  Crabbing is improving, and best of all, no sea nettles!

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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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