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.