Potomac River Fishing Report – September 3, 2021

Boy fishing at sunset. Large river in the background.The Shenandoah and South Branch Potomac basins are full and are running at or near record levels for this time of year. Please check local water conditions before venturing out, and don’t go if there is any doubt. The muddy water will be difficult to fish, but larger, dark-colored baits will likely work best. Fishing should be much improved after levels recede and water clears. The high flows may scour algae blooms from the area, and reduced water temperatures will not be conducive to their regrowth. Mountain streams in the Shenandoah will clear quickly and the lower temperatures should get the trout engaged.

Trout management areas on the North Branch Potomac should fish well after water levels decrease. Fly fishermen will enjoy the cooler temperatures and elevated water levels. The ICPRB continues to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with creel surveys and data collection that will help in future management decisions.

The upper Potomac River will be very high and muddy for the next several days, making fishing difficult. The feeder creeks and streams will clear first and so may be better areas to fish. Before the storms, the river from Seneca to the Mouth of the Monocacy was fishing well, particularly rock formations in the middle of the river. Panfish and some crappies tributary creeks were being caught on beetle spins and spinner baits. Topwater baits and chattering lures may be a good bet in the muddy water.

Fishing will be difficult in the metropolitan Potomac, with increasing sediment and debris making its way from upstream. The water is quite high at Fletcher’s Boathouse. Before the storm, anglers were successfully targeting wood structure, docks, and bridge pilings with plastic tube baits on light jig heads in the District. Some largemouth bass were taken in the coves around Wilson Bridge.

Downstream in the tidal Potomac, anglers are finding some largemouth bass and snakeheads off Piscataway and in Mattowoman Creek. The tidal creeks will clear before the river, and snakeheads and largemouth bass should be biting after the storm in the significantly cooler water. Blue catfish are taking cut bait off the bottom in the main channel around Fort Washington and downstream. To the river’s mouth. Anglers are finding some fish off National Harbor and near Belle Haven Marina. Grass beds downstream should be productive, but as the water cools for the fall the beds will begin to die off and anglers will be looking to hard structure to find fish.

Water in the Colonial Beach area currently is running clearer, and anglers are finding a lot of striped bass, including some fairly large fish. Spanish mackerel are being caught in large numbers, although they will eventually head south as the water cools. Blue catfish are a common catch in the area. White perch and spot are plentiful. Water temperatures in this area have dropped to the low 80s. Conditions may decline in coming days as the mud and debris comes from upstream.

Those conditions continue down to the river’s mouth, where anglers are trolling and jigging for striped bass along the shipping channels. Spanish mackerel are being taken in good numbers. Some large red drum are found around Point Lookout, Anglers continue to find some nice cobia although they are thinning out. Sea nettles are thick in the river from the mouth up to Colonial Beach. Crabbing remains slow. The area of low dissolved oxygen on the river bottom should keep anglers fishing above 25 feet to avoid the dead zone.

This is the final edition of the Fishing Report for the year. It has been our privilege to bring you these recreation reports that also highlight some basin and ICPRB issues. None of this would be possible without the help of our river watchers who keep us informed. We welcome your comments and suggestions on how we can make this product more useful in the future. The fall season in the basin offers wonderful fishing, boating, and touring opportunities, and judging by the full parks, residents are taking advantage of those opportunities. Please use our natural resources wisely, and help others you meet to become better stewards of our precious natural resources. 

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 CommissionNational Bass GuidesShallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Machodoc Creek Marina.

See you on the river!