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Shenandoah basin water levels are extremely low and clear and some areas holding algae blooms. Smallmouth bass and catfish can be found in both the North and South forks with the best times being early morning and evening as fish respond to even a couple of degrees lower temperature. Fish will concentrate in shady areas and deeper pools. Mountain streams are still producing some trout for anglers who can sneak up on them in the clear water.
The South Branch Potomac is running very low and clear, with water temperatures in the mid-80s. The bite has slowed with the rising temperatures. Wading may be the best way to fish this area. In areas with enough water, smallmouth bass and catfish are taking slowly fished lures. The North Branch Potomac ‘s somewhat cooler trout management areas continue to produce some rainbow and brown trout in the mornings. The ICPRB continues to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with creel surveys that will help in future management decisions.
The upper Potomac River is getting lower and slower, with some stained water primarily on the Maryland side. Water temperatures in the mid-80s. Seneca, Brunswick, and Whites Ferry provide access to some productive water, although boats may have a rough time navigating through some stretches of low water. Wading from these sites can be a good option, as well as the use of kayaks or canoes. Monfilament line with its low visibility may be a better choice than braided line. The early morning bite has dropped off, but anglers are still finding smallmouth bass and catfish in deeper shaded areas with structure. Small plastics dropped to a shady bottom in current and fished very slow can produce some nice bass.
The DNR is planning for a supplemental stocking in some areas of the river. For more information, visit the smallmouth bass stocking webpage.
Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac remains slow. Anglers are targeting bridge pilings, docks, and other structure with stick worms, soft plastics, and crankbaits. Fletchers Boat House is reporting some catfish and the occasional striped bass. The Washington Channel is holding some blue catfish and largemouth bass. The edges of spotty hydrilla beds can be targeted for bass on a moving tide. All baits should be fished slowly in the warm water, which is in the mid-80s.
Downstream, bass are seeking cooler water and shade. Docks and shaded areas will hold bass avoiding the sun and heat, and they will respond to slowly worked stick worms or whopper ploppers. Water temperatures are creeping toward 90 degrees in some spots but should moderate in the weekend’s cloudy weather. Anglers are having success using drop shot techniques to lure the fish from structure.
Some anglers had success at the structure near National Harbor, which hosted one of two large bass tournaments last weekend. Mattawoman Creek grass beds have produced some nice bass, and blue catfish seem to be most anywhere. Main river grass beds downstream hold some fish at the edges at low tide. Pohick Bay coves are home to some nice bass.
Snakeheads are available in shallow water grass beds in most of the coves and heads of tidal creeks. Fish stick worms and chatterbaits over the grass beds, and the edges as water lowers. Swim baits work well around hard structure.
The Potomac River mainstem in Maryland and its Virginia tidal tributaries are closed to striped bass fishing through August 20. Maryland tidal tributaries to the Potomac reopen to striper fishing on August 1.
The hot, dry weather has increased salinity in the Colonial Beach area, with water clear with a green tint and temperatures in the mid-80s and higher. Sea nettles are out in force, and in some cases are thick enough to foul fishing gear and crab pots. Anglers are taking some bluefish, a few croaker, large spot, and blue catfish. Avoid bottom fishing in the main channel where the summertime depleted oxygen zone is forming.
Near the river’s mouth, anglers continue to see nice bites of Spanish mackerel and speckled trout. Cobia are being taken in chum slicks, which can also attract cownose rays. Bluefish are around to strip the baits of those fishing for other species. Crabbing remains tough.
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.