In the Shenandoah basin, water levels are low but may rise with any storms. Anglers are reporting smallmouth bass in both the North and South forks. Around Front Royal the mainstem is fishing well with smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish. Mountain streams are low and clear, with stealthy anglers getting some nice trout.
The South Branch Potomac has stable flows and is giving up some smallmouth bass and channel catfish. The North Branch Potomac action has slowed somewhat but continues to produce 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 Maryland Department of Natural Resources recently monitored fish populations in the North Branch showing an increasing population of both rainbow and brown trout.
The upper Potomac River is running somewhat low and clear, with water temperatures in the low 80s. Lander and Brunswick are busy and giving up smallmouth bass and channel and flathead catfish. The segment from Seneca to the mouth of the Monocacy river continues to fish well, especially in the morning hours. Anglers are fishing mid-river rocks and structure with stick worms and swim baits fished slowly. Anglers also are finding channel and flathead catfish and carp. Some nice bluegill round out the menu.
Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac remains slow. Anglers are targeting bridge pilings, docks, and other structure with stick worms, soft plastics, and crankbaits. The Washington Channel remains a good spot, with a mix of largemouth bass and catfish along the channel dropoff. Hydrilla is emerging in some areas, and the edges of those patches are good bets. All baits should be fished slowly in the warm water, which is in the mid 80s.
Downstream, bass are in summer mode and seeking the shade of grass beds, docks and other structure. Morning high tides allow the use of slowly fished stick worms and chatterbaits over the beds, and the edges as water lowers. Tidal currents will be strong with the new moon. Grass beds become more prevalent downstream of Piscataway. Swim baits work well around hard structure.
Mattawoman Creek grass and plant beds are giving up some largemouth bass, as are the tidal creeks on the Virginia side of the river. Pohick Bay coves and shorelines hold bass and snakeheads. Blue catfish are most everywhere. Anglers are reporting some nice snakeheads in the grass at the head of tidal creeks.
Maryland’s tidal tributaries are closed to striped bass fishing from July 16 through July 31 to preserve the species during high temperature days. Virginia tributaries of the Potomac are closed until October 4. The tidal Potomac mainstem is closed for striped bass through August 20.
From Colonial Beach to the river’s mouth, water is becoming more stratified and a developing area of depleted oxygen on the bottom means lures should be fished above 15 feet. This region has chronic summertime areas of low bottom oxygen as surface water warms. Many dolphin pods are being seen in this area down to the river’s mouth.
Near the river’s mouth, anglers are finding a lot of Spanish mackerel. White perch, spot, and speckled trout are part of the mix, along with blue catfish. Some Cobia and bluefish are moving up the bay toward the Potomac and will be around as the summer progresses. Crabbing remains spotty.
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 Machodoc Creek Marina.