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Potomac Fishing Report – July 2, 2021

July 4 is a free fishing day in Maryland. Maryland’s tidal tributaries are closed to striped bass fishing from July 16 through July 31 to preserve the species during high temperature days. The tidal Potomac mainstem in Maryland will be closed for striped bass from July 7 through July 20.

In the Shenandoah basin, water levels are stable, with anglers reporting smallmouth bass in both the North and South forks. The mainstem around Front Royal is fishing well with a mix of smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish. Mountain streams are giving up some nice trout for fly fishers.

The South Branch Potomac has nice water levels and is running fairly clear and giving up some smallmouth bass and catfish. The North Branch Potomac action has slowed somewhat but continues to yield some nice rainbow and brown trout downstream of Jennings Randolph Reservoir. Trout management and put-and-take areas continue to produce some nice fish. The cicadas remain in this and other cooler areas but are declining.

The upper Potomac River still carries some stain in areas, with water temperatures in the low- to mid-80s. Lander and Brunswick are good access points for anglers looking for smallmouth bass and channel and flathead catfish. Anglers continue to find some nice musky near dams and in some creek entrances. The segment from Seneca to the mouth of the Monocacy river continues to fish well, but slowly. Smallmouth bass are found in rocky areas in the middle of the river with slowly fished soft plastic baits and small crankbaits. Responding to temperature, fish are biting much better in the evening hours. Anglers also are finding catfish and carp.

Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac is slow. The water carries some stain with temperatures in the mid-80s. Some bass are being taken in the Key bridge area. Fletcher’s Boathouse has some bass and catfish. Anglers are dropping lures at bridge pilings, and the Washington Channel seawall and patchy grass beds are giving up some bass. Anglers continue to find fish with slowly worked stick worms and chatterbaits. The bite is light, so patience is required.

Downstream, bass are in summer mode and seeking the shade of grass beds, docks and other structure. Grass beds increase downstream. Slowly worked stick worms are good in the grass beds and wood structure, and anglers are getting some bass with slowly worked swim baits. Pohick Bay shorelines are giving up bass and snakeheads, which are again spawning in some areas. Blue catfish are common along channel edges and deeper structure, especially along the channel off Fort Washington. There are concerns about how the blue catfish is becoming prevalent in areas of the tidal Potomac. The mouth of Piscataway Bay is giving up largemouth bass. Mattawoman Creek grass beds are giving up some fish, as are the tidal creeks on the Virginia side of the river.

Anglers are finding nice striped bass in the Colonial Beach area from the Route 301 Bridge to Swan Point. From Colonial Beach to the river’s mouth, water is becoming more stratified and a developing area of depleted oxygen on the bottom should keep lures above 15 feet. This region has chronic summertime areas of low bottom oxygen as surface water warms. Blue cats are common. Many dolphin pods are being seen in this area down to the river’s mouth.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are finding striped bass in the shallows in the morning and evening. Trolling, jigging, and live lining for striped bass is successful along the channel edges around St. Georges and Piney Point. White perch, spot, and speckled trout are part of the mix, along with blue catfish. Cobia, bluefish and Spanish mackerel are moving up the bay toward the Potomac and will be around as the summer progresses. Crabbing has been very slow, and people are experiencing some sticker shock when buying the crustaceans.

Have a great Fourth, and remember you will be sharing space with large numbers of fellow recreationists.

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 Commission, National Bass Guides, Shallow Water Fishing Adventures, Machadoc Creek Marina, and Eagle Aquatics.

Silhouette of a young boy fishing at sunset.

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Potomac Fishing Report – June 25, 2021

July 4 is a free fishing day in Maryland.

Maryland’s tidal tributaries are closed to striped bass fishing from July 16 through July 31 to preserve the species during high temperature days. The tidal Potomac mainstem in Maryland will be closed for striped bass from July 7 through July 20.

In the Shenandoah basin, water levels are good, and anglers are reporting nice catches of smallmouth bass in both the North and South forks. The mainstem around Front Royal is fishing well for smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish. Mountain streams are giving up some nice trout for fly fishers.

The South Branch Potomac is fishing well, for smallmouth, with clear water and cooler temperatures. The North Branch Potomac is giving up some nice rainbow and brown trout downstream downstream of Jennings Randolph Reservoir. Trout management and put-and-take areas continue to produce some nice fish.

The upper Potomac River still carries some stain in areas, with water temperatures in the low- to mid-70s and rising. The cicadas are still feeding a lot of fish, but numbers of the singing bugs are decreasing and will soon be gone. Healthy stands of aquatic grasses are establishing in the Point of Rocks area.

Anglers are catching nice smallmouth bass mid-river from the mouth of the Monocacy River downstream to Seneca Breaks. Ledges and rock gardens are good targets, especially in overcast or shade. Early morning and evening hours are best. Fish are responding to soft plastics and stick worms, and fish will be more cautious with the bite as the weather warms. Overcast conditions should help. Lander and White’s Ferry are good access points. Catches of musky, channel catfish, and carp have been reported.

Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac has slowed. The water carries some stain with temperatures in the mid-70s. Some bass are being taken in the Key bridge area. Fletcher’s Boathouse has some bass and catfish. Anglers are dropping lures at bridge pilings, and the Washington Channel seawall and patchy grass beds are giving up some bass.

Downstream, bass are in their summer mode. Docks and other structure are targets in the absence of grass in this area. Anglers are finding some bass in the Belle Haven area and the mouth of Piscataway Creek. The channel off Fort Washington is a prime target for large blue catfish, which respond to cut bait fished near the bottom. Beds of hydrilla and water milfoil provide a haven for bass and some snakeheads further downstream. Anglers are casting spinners and frogs over the beds at high tides and along the edges when the water gets low. The Mattawoman Creek area could be a good spot to fish for some of the lunkers that were released after the tournament last weekend. These fish will slowly disperse to other areas after release. The spatterdock and other beds near the creek’ mouth are fishing well. The Virginia embayments are giving up some bass, and the upper portions of the bays are holding snakeheads, although some observers feel like there are fewer than in previous years. As water temperatures rise above the mid-70s, the bite will be lighter and favor the lower light of morning and evening. The warming weather and increasing number of tournaments also means an increase of boat traffic, so remember to be careful and courteous out there.

Anglers are finding some striped bass in the Colonial Beach area, although the water from there to the river’s mouth is becoming more stratified and an area of depleted oxygen on the bottom means that anglers will be wise to avoid fishing at depths below 20 feet. This region has chronic summertime areas of low oxygen as surface water warms.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are finding striped bass in the shallows in the morning and evening. Trolling, jigging, and live lining for striped bass is successful along the channel edges around St. Georges and Piney Point. Spot and white perch are caught for live lining striped bass using circle hooks. Red drum, speckled trout, and croaker are being caught as well. Cobia are making their way up the bay toward the Potomac. Crabbing continues to slowly improve.

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 Commission, National Bass Guides, Shallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Eagle Aquatics.

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

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Commission passes resolution to review water supply agreements

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2021

CONTACT:
Curtis Dalpra, Communications Manager
Office: (301) 274-8107

Commission to Review Interstate Agreements to Assure Reliable Drinking Water for the National Capital Region

ROCKVILLE, Md. – On June 15, 2021, an interstate body resolved to re-examine the agreements that for 40 years have provided reliable and clean drinking water to the National Capital Region with the goal of guaranteeing a reliable supply in the future.

In 1963, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed construction of 16 large reservoirs in the Potomac River basin to meet the future demand for drinking water and other water resource needs. Although the plan met significant public resistance, the drought of 1966 showed that something needed to be done.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) led negotiations to establish what was at the time a revolutionary cooperative arrangement enshrined in the Low Flow Allocation Agreement (LFAA), the Water Supply Cooperation Agreement (WSCA), and related accords. Created by Congress as an independent inter-jurisdictional organization, ICPRB is particularly well suited to engage in multi-state coordinated cooperative functions. Time has demonstrated that the coordinated operation of the resources has allowed the water suppliers to meet demands because of synergistic gains in total yield realized under the cooperative management strategies.

Recently, the ICPRB’s Work Group on Water Supply suggested a Resolution to establish a process for reviewing these agreements. In presenting the Resolution to the Commission, Chairman Willem Brakel reviewed the history of these landmark agreements but acknowledged the need for updates. “That framework served us admirably for over four decades, but increasingly we have started to realize that these original agreements are becoming outdated, outmoded and less than fully capable of meeting the region’s needs and challenges as conditions change over the coming years and decades,” he stated.

The review will be staffed by ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (CO-OP), which conducts annual drought exercises that help guarantee a reliable supply of drinking water for the DC metropolitan area.

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Potomac Fishing Report – June 18, 2021

Catching up with blue catfish

The Southern Maryland Recreational Fishing Organization hosted a webinar featuring Mary Groves who is currently serving as the Southern Region Manager of Freshwater Fisheries Program at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) who highlighted regional efforts to study and manage invasive blue catfish populations. Groves began by noting the very strong growth of the species since its introduction through stocking in Virginia in the 1970s. The species was found in the Potomac in the late 1990s, growing slowly at first. The fish are now in the tidal Potomac in force, and have spread into the nontidal Potomac, which they share with the invasive flathead catfish and the native channel cat and bullhead.

Groves noted that these fish are a problem in that they get very large (60-pound fish are not unusual in the tidal river), are prolific breeders, and will feed off a wide variety of fish and shellfish. The blue catfish has become very popular with a segment of anglers, which likely also is a reason that they are being found in new areas. There aren’t strong estimates of their numbers, but they are increasing rapidly, with fisheries managers encouraging anglers to eat them or at least not return them to the water. Managers also have encouraged their use as a commercial species, and in 2020 commercial landings reported to the Potomac River Fisheries Commission totalled more than 2.2 million pounds. This fishery is not really making a dent in the population.

Groves discussed ongoing research involving the states and federal agencies to learn more about the species’ feeding, mobility, and spawning habits, and how it may reveal some management options, which are few. For example, knowledge about where and when the catfish spawn could help in targeted efforts to reduce the population by targeting culling of adult and juvenile fish. But limited options mean the fish are likely to continue to grow in numbers. She noted the hard work done by managers to reduce regulations that interfere with successful marketing of the fish as table fare.

Along the River

In the Shenandoah basin, improved water levels and decreased temperatures have improved the smallmouth bass bite. Anglers also are finding channel catfish and sunfish. Mountain streams are giving up some nice trout for fly fishers.

The South Branch Potomac is fishing better from the higher water levels, where anglers are spinning and fly fishing for smallmouth bass. The North Branch Potomac is giving up some nice rainbow and brown trout for the segment downstream of Jennings Randolph Reservoir. Trout management and put-and-take areas remain productive.

The upper Potomac is still stained but is fishing well. Early morning and evening finds smallmouth along shorelines. Rock gardens and ledges mid stream and in shade are targets during the day. The earlier rains and cooler temperatures have spread the fish out a bit. have reported some nice smallmouth around Paw Paw. Lander, Point of Rocks, and White’s Ferry are productive access points. Fish are still slurping on cicadas, and baits colored in black and orange can be very productive, along with baiting a hook with cicadas. Anglers are using tube baits, long with spinners and chatterbaits, whose noise helps attract fish in the low-visibility waters. Channel catfish, flatheads, carp and sunfish are active. Some anglers are taking large musky upstream of dams.

In the metropolitan Potomac, the Key Bridge and Roosevelt Island areas are giving u smallmouth and largemouth bass. Fletchers Boathouse is a good access point for some striped bass and catfish. Downstream, anglers are targeting bridge pilings for bass and catfish. The grass beds and seawall in Washington Channel are always worth the effort. Smoots Bay and the Spoils area are holding some nice largemouth bass despite being fished by tournament anglers.

Downstream, the tidal Potomac is fishing well with temperatures in the mid 70s and fair visibility. Bass are in their summertime behavior. Grass beds are a primary target where available. Docks and wood structure are holding some nice fish. Bass are near to shorelines early and late, and hiding under cover in the sun. Floating mats of dead grass and debris are good hiding places for fish. Snakeheads are post spawn and guarding their fry in nearshore grass beds in the tidal creeks. Lures placed into these areas will yield defensive strikes. Grass beds become more prominent downstream of Piscataway.

Belle Haven Marina provides good access to some nice fishing grounds, and the aquatic grass beds in the mouth of Mattawoman Creek are worth some time. Tidal creeks on the Virginia side are productive with some nice reports in the Pohick Bay area. Anglers are using stick worms, chatterbaits, and crankbaits to lure the fish. Blue catfish can be found along the channel edges at Fort Washington areas downstream.

Anglers are finding some nice striped bass in Nanjemoy and at Colonial Beach.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are finding some nice striped bass in the shallows in the morning and evening. Trolling, jigging, and live lining for striped bass is successful along the channel edges around St. Georges and Piney Point. Spot and white perch are available for live lining using circle hooks. Red drum, speckled trout, and croaker are being caught as well. Crabbing continues to slowly improve.

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 Commission, National Bass Guides, Shallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Eagle Aquatics.

Little Girl Fishing at Little Seneca Lake

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Potomac Fishing Report – June 11, 2021

Saturday is a Maryland Free fishing day.

Friday’s rain will bring additional mud, trash, and debris to waterways further reducing visibility. The rain will helpfully cool water temperatures, which have reached the low 80s, stressing some fish. After the water clears, the cooler temperatures should help the bite. The wet conditions won’t make for the best fishing conditions for the weekend.

On the North Brach Potomac, the bite has been slow, but cooler temperatures should help those seeking trout. Higher water levels may be problematic for this weekend, depending on how much rain falls. Anglers on the South Branch Potomac will welcome a boost to river flows, but the water likely will be stained by inflows. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has stocked the Savage Reservoir with 50,000 walleye fry. The Shenandoah system was fishing well for smallmouth bass and catfish, and the increased flow and cooler water temperatures should improve fishing once conditions settle.

Action on the upper Potomac River has slowed, but should eventually improve with the cooler water temperatures. Smallmouth bass fishing was good in many areas, and anglers are reporting that fishing is notably improved from the last couple of seasons. Aquatic grasses are returning after a multi-year absence, and a nice stand of water stargrass is growing at Point of Rocks. The aquatic grasses provide habitat for the fish and their prey, and help improve water clarity. The DNR recently stocked the upper Potomac with 40,000 walleye fry. From the mouth of the Monocacy River downstream to Little Seneca, smallmouth bass can be found mid river, and anglers are fishing stick worms and landing some nice-size fish after careful sets on light bites. Flathead catfish can be found near dams, and some large musky are being taken. The DNR is studying mortality levels of these large predators after warm water catches. Lots of sunfish are in the river, along with channel catfish and some large carp. Many of these species are feasting on the cicadas, a once-in-a-lifetime treat. Increased numbers of anglers are noticeable on the weekends. Some anglers are using cicada-colored lures to increase their odds, and some people are using the cicadas themselves as bait.

The metropolitan area Potomac also is a busy place with increased numbers of anglers and boaters. Upcoming tournaments on the upper tidal river add to the numbers. Anglers in the District are taking largemouth bass at bridge pilings and on the seawall at the Washington Channel, as well as a few striped bass. Crappies are biting around docks and channel edges. Downstream, some bass are being found around the mouth of Piscataway Bay. The channel edge off Fort Washington is home to very large blue catfish, which are becoming a dominant species on the tidal river. Behemoths of 50 pounds are frequently caught. Snakeheads are guarding balls of fry in weedy shallows, and will strike lures invading their nurseries. Aquatic grasses are continuing to emerge, mostly south of Piscataway, and those beds are prime targets. Anglers are using stick worms and weedless baits to penetrate the beds at low water. Bass can be lured out of the beds by fishing the edges of the beds during an outgoing tide. The bite has been light, and a gentle touch is needed to set the hook.

Some algae blooms have been reported from Leonardtown down to Point Lookout, and dissolved oxygen is decreasing in the river bottom. Still, some nice catches of striped bass can be had in the Colonial Beach area.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are finding some nice striped bass in the shallows in the morning and evening. Trolling, jigging, and live lining for striped bass is successful along the channel edges around St. Georges. Spot and white perch are available for live lining using circle hooks. Red drum, speckled trout, and croaker are being caught as well. Crabbing remains slow but is improving.

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 Commission, National Bass Guides, Shallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Eagle Aquatics.

A little boy is holding up a fishing pole with a fish on the hook.