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.