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ICPRB’s Fishing Report – July 1, 2022

The Shenandoah system is fishing well. The water is clear and both the North and South forks are fishable. Water clarity will call for some stealth, and the low light of early morning and evening will increase the odds of a nice trout or smallmouth bass. Good reports of smallmouth bass are coming from the Bentonville-Front Royal area of the South Fork. Sunfish, catfish and largemouth bass round out the opportunities. The mountain trout streams are warming with some hatches occurring.

Anglers on the South Branch Potomac are finding some nice smallmouth bass in the deeper pockets as fish concentrate in these areas.Young boy stands with a fishing pole on a rock next to the Shenandoah River.

The North Branch Potomac and Savage rivers continue to produce rainbow and brown trout. Water temperatures are rising, and ICPRB biologists are tracking some North Branch trout to observe their response to warming water. The study can help inform management decisions on coldwater releases from Jennings Randolph and Savage reservoirs.  Most of the action is upstream of Pinto.

The upper Potomac River is in summer mode, with decreasing water levels and some stain. Water temperatures are about 80 degrees. Visibility is about two feet in most areas. Early morning is a good time to try some topwater poppers and buzzbaits. The section from Edwards Ferry to Dickerson is fishing well. Lander, Point of Rocks with its stargrass beds, and Brunswick are good access spots. Rock gardens and structure are great locations and the fish are spread out. Soft plastic ploppers and tubes are good baits to explore rocky bottoms. The Monocacy River is fishing well from the mouth to the Route 28 crossing. Smallmouth bass sunfish, and channel and flathead catfish are all biting.

In the tidal Potomac, the lack of grass beds has anglers hitting docks and wood structure on moving tides with a variety of soft plastic and crankbaits. The 80-degree water is carrying some stain. The visibility of about two feet improves near any grass beds. The National Harbor area is producing some largemouth bass. Anglers are finding bass in the cuts and channels around Belle Haven. Piscataway is producing some nice fish. The deep channel that runs past Fort Washington is heaven for those seeking monster blue catfish, whose population continues to grow at a concerning rate.

The fish may be somewhat wary in the area after last weekends bass tournament. Run out of Mattawoman Creek, 149 anglers competed and many caught good numbers of fish. The grassbeds downstream were heavy targets for the pros. That said, the pads and other vegetation in the creek is a good place to look for bass and snakeheads. Downstream, Pohick Bay, Aquia Creek, and Dogue Creek have nice beds of grass worth targeting, as well as some of the mats of broken grasses that create floating islands that hold fish underneath. Snakehead fishing is very active at the heads of tidal creeks with grassbeds in shallow water. Floating a frog lure over the beds on a moving tide can produce some great topwater strikes, that require some finesse and braided line to get them out of the thicket.

Anglers in the Colonial Beach area are enjoying very good striped bass fishing this year, and it may be related to the huge numbers of menhaden (bunker) and other baitfish frequenting the area. Anglers are trolling, jigging and live-lining for the fish. A small number of them have been caught with sores but overall the fish seem to be active and healthy. Anglers also are catching some white perch, and croaker. The water continues to carry a green tint, but no algae blooms have been reported.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers continue to report very good catches of stripers at the mouth and up in the St. Mary’s  River. The channel from St. Georges to Piney Point is a hot spot. Some nice fish have been taken around Cobb Island. Anglers are trolling channel edges, jigging, and live-lining spot, which are readily available along with other baitfish. The warming water will begin to stress striped bass, and anglers are encouraged to handle fish carefully so that returnees can live to fight another day and contribute to future stocks. Some cobia, croaker , and red drum are being taken and some anglers are finding some small flounder. Some dolphins are beginning to show up at the river’s mouth. Crabbing remains a slow process.

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.

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About the Basin: Seven Bends State Park

Seven Bends State Park

July 1, 2022

Woodstock, Va.

Young boy with a fishing pole sitting on a rock in the Shenandoah River. The Seven Bends State Park is named for the twists and turns of the North Fork Shenandoah River as it meanders along the base of the Powell Mountain in northwestern Virginia. It is those same twists and turns that makes one feel they are the sole occupant of this small slice of undisturbed nature.

As part of the Massanutten mountain range, the area is on the ancestral land of the Indigenous nations of Manahoac, Massawomeck, and the Shawandasse Tula.

The Park is one of Virginia’s youngest state parks. It quietly opened in 2020, but the official dedication took place in June 2022 to great fanfare as it joined the state’s 40 other state parks.

There are two access points to the park. The Hollingsworth access at 2111 S. Hollingsworth Rd. will bring you to a large open field with plenty of parking and a kayak/canoe access point. It is tough to reach the river here, so if that is your destination, choose the Lupton access point at 1191 Lupton Rd. This provides a smaller parking lot, but easy access to trails and plenty of fishing spots along the 3-miles of riverfront. Alternatively, you can put your canoe, kayak, or tube in at Hollingsworth access and float the 3 miles (and roughly 1-2 hours) down to the Lupton access.Map of Seven Bends State Park.

Smallmouth bass are the most popular fish for anglers; however, you may also spot sunfish, fallfish, largemouth bass, and muskellunge (please follow all fishing license requirements).

Picnic tables provide a nice gathering place for before or after your trek on any one of the 8 miles of trails. Interesting sites await if you brave the steep trails, including the remnants of two centuries old water reservoirs. One is in ruins but the other still provides an abundant ecosystem (and good fishing).

The area is open every day from 6 a.m. until dusk. There are no overnight accommodations (yet, anyways). The park’s Master Plan calls for campground and visitors center focused on environmental education.

Photo Credits: ICPRB and Google Maps

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About the Basin: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

June 17, 2022

Photo Credit: David Brossard, Do You Know the Way to Harpers Ferry (Flickr)

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and its dramatic history, have been explored and extolled by many and for good reason. The town is steeped in history, and it is evident as you walk through the historic village with its living history storefronts and gaze upon the imposing cliffs across the river.

Harpers Ferry sits at the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers in West Virginia. It also “sits at the confluence of history and nature” (National Park Service). It is said that history repeats itself, and that is no different for this small town perched at the meeting spot of two large rivers. Few people have made the area home in the past few hundred years, but the transportation possibilities and natural resources meant,  “The region was used as a highway, a hunting ground, and a place for raiding and trade,” according to a 2017 NPS Report. The Tuscarora and Shawnee tribes built temporary villages in the area, and it was where Catawba and Delaware tribes would clash.

After a series of treaties, broken promises, and finally, the French and Indian War, the indigenous population moved West and European settlers eventually moved into the area in the early eighteenth century.  It continued to be a place of transition as it was repeatedly razed by floods, fires, and war. The people were resilient and continued to populate the area, build up the town, and then rebuild after disaster strikes.

The area is best known for the raid by the abolitionist John Brown, which was considered a pivotal step towards civil war. The town was torn apart by the Civil War. It changed hands, from Confederate to the Union forces, eight times during the war.  A beacon of hope that came from the ashes of war was the development of Storer College, a post-war institute of higher education for formally enslaved people. Supported by the Freewill Baptists, Storer College used many of the wartime buildings to grow their campus. Beyond education, the college provided a sense of community. The college closed its doors in 1955 but you can still explore the former campus.

In addition to history, the Park provides access to the Appalachian Trail/C&O Canal Tow Path by way of an adventurous pedestrian bridge next paralleling a busy railway over the Potomac River. Take a detour off the tow path and hike up to Maryland Heights for a stunning view of the town and the rivers.

Each Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer, you can join National Park Service staff as they tell “The Story Behind the Scenery.”

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ICPRB’s Fishing Report – June 24, 2022

Maryland is considering some changes to fishing regulations. Public comment is invited. A little boy is holding up a fishing pole with a fish on the hook.

The Shenandoah system is fishing well. On the South Fork, anglers are finding some nice smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish between Luray and Front Royal. Some musky and carp are in the mix. The mountain trout streams are running well and clear with some hatches occurring.

The South Branch Potomac is pleasing anglers with good flows and quality smallmouth bass and sunfish particularly around Petersburg, W.Va. The North Branch Potomac and Savage rivers continue to produce rainbow and brown trout. Water temperatures are in the mid-50s. Stocked areas still have a few fish.  Most of the action is upstream of Pinto.

The upper Potomac River is running somewhat low and clear. Nice smallmouth bass are being caught in many areas. There is a good topwater bite in the early morning and evening. During the day, anglers are focusing on ledges and rock gardens in the middle of the river. Good access can be found in Brunswick, Point of Rocks, Whites Ferry, and Lander. Anglers are using soft plastic baits fished slowly down in the rocks and structure that creates eddies in the flow. Stick worms are a favorite with some anglers. A number of anglers have said that the smallmouth bite has been some of the best in recent memory. Flathead and channel catfish are biting, and few anglers have reported catching some large musky.

In the metro area, anglers are picking up some nice bass upstream of Key Bridge. Bridge pilings in the District are being targeted for a mix of largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass. Plastic baits dropped around the pilings are producing some nice fish. Docks and other structure also hold fish during the day, when they can hide form the bright sunlight. The Washington Channel is producing bass at the seawall and in the grass beds.

In the tidal Potomac, Anglers are finding bass along the docks at National Harbor with soft plastics, buzz baits, and crank baits. The tidal guts and channels around Belle Haven Marina are producing some nice bass and snakeheads. Blue catfish in the 40-pound range are common catches in the channel off Fort Washington, and just about everywhere else that anglers probe with cut bait. (Using blue cats as cut bait is a good way to help control the population of this huge fishery.) The spatterdock and other grass beds in Mattawoman Creek are popular. Grass beds become much more lush downstream of Pohick Bay, and become a focus for largemouth bass. Hollow frogs and other topwater baits dragged across the beds bring strikes. Crank baits, plastics, and ploppers can catch fish at the edges of the beds, particularly in moving water. Spawning snakeheads are thick in the heads of tidal creeks with good grass.

Anglers in the Colonial Beach area are seeing some of the best striped bass action in years. Anglers are casting jigs and trolling to catch fish, with anglers getting their quota in a couple of hours of effort. The stipers seem to be reacting the huge numbers of baitfish, primarily bunker (menhaden). Successful anglers will keep an eye on the sky and water to find schools of baitfish that the stripers are concentrated around. White perch and croaker are being caught as well. Visibility is good and the water carries a green stain in some areas.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are reporting good catches of striper at the mouth and up in the St. Mary’s  River. Much like in Colonial Beach, anglers are taking fish by jigging, trolling, and live-lining spot. Fishing the steep edges of the channel from St. Georges to Piney Point is a perennial favorite. Anglers finding schools of baitfish around Smith Point are taking some nice stripers. The catch incudes some red drum and speckled trout. Even at times when nothing else is biting, there always are blue catfish everywhere. Crabbing is slow.

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, and Shallow Water Fishing Adventures.

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About the Basin: Gunston Hall

Gunston Hall

June 3, 2022

Trees on either side of a path at Gunston Hall, Lorton, Va.

Photo credit: Craig Fildes, Flickr

If you like your hiking with a healthy serving of history, then George Mason’s Gunston Hall is the place for you. The Founding Father’s home is situated along Gunston Cove where Pohick and Accotink Creek meet the Potomac River along the Virginia shoreline. This area is the native land of both the Piscataway and Doeg tribes.

Gunston Hall may not have the grandeur of other Founding Father’s homes, but it also doesn’t have the crowds and traffic. It is a low-key experience that is rich in history and nature. Purchase a $5 pass to explore the grounds which portray the high stature of George Mason with graceful European-style landscaping. A $10 pass will get you access to both the museum and the grounds, which are open from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.

The website offers short snippets to read or listen to while you wonder the grounds. Up for exploration is the kitchen, the dairy, the laundry facilities, the quarters where enslaved people lived, the school house, and more. After traveling through history, enjoy a little nature by choosing one of the three short hiking trails. The Bluebird trail takes you on a tour of the bluebird boxes, while the Bluff Trail and River Trail are a bit more difficult but offer beautiful views of the Gunston cove and the Potomac River.

Summer Saturdays at the hall provide a themed event with a different theme each Saturday. These drop-in days hold archaeology, gardening, food, and other historical programs.

Looking for more activities in the area? Gunston Hall is near Mason Neck Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.