Rappahanock River Overview
The Rappahannock River flows almost 200 miles from its origin in Fauquier
County to the Chesapeake Bay.  It is really two fisheries.  The clear water and rocky
structure of the Upper Rappahannock above Fredericksburg features smallmouth
bass, sunfish, and (with the removal of Embry Dam) seasonal populations of
migratory fish, such as herring, shad, and striped bass (rockfish).  Below the fall
line near Route 1, the Rapp is a wide, sandy tidal river of murky water with
largemouth bass, striped bass, yellow perch, channel catfish, and blue catfish.  In
the summer months, saltwater species such as croaker and spot can reach all the
way to Tappahannock - especially in years of drought when the river's salinity is

Compared to the heavily populated areas that line the James and Potomac Rivers,
the Rapp offers a great chance for a quiet outing with sightings of bald eagles and
other wildlife always a possibility.  For those unfamiliar with the river, several
outfitters facilitate float trips on the upper river and professional fishing guide
services are available on the lower river.  
July 25, 2012:  Avid angler and author Steve Moore provided the following fishing
report for the Rappahannock River.  Visit Steve at
www.switchfisher.com for more
information and to order his books on wade fishing the Rapidan and
Rappahannock Rivers.  

Ken Penrod warns that at the current low river levels, the Upper Potomac is
becoming unsanitary. His recommendation is that anglers take precautions when
coming in contact with the water. The primary precaution, other than cleaning up
when you get home, is to not wade if you have any open sores or cuts. If you
decide to wade, wear long pants rather than shorts to provide a thin layer of
protection against rough rocks or anything else that could open a cut. In terms of
the fishing, the low water and tall grass are making fishing difficult. For fly anglers,
the White Miller hatch has begun in the evening. Use small top water plugs with
spin gear or grab a fly rod to participate in the fun! The Rappahannock and
Rapidan are fishing okay, nothing spectacular with the best times being, as
expected, early or late. The mountain trout streams are in bad shape as result of
the lack of rain. Without a surge of water, the temperatures will rise and catching
the trout will add unnecessary stress to their challenging lives. I recommend you
pursue smallies until the weather cools down or the water levels improve.
Virginia Outdoors - A Resource for Virginia Anglers and Hunters
Virginia Outdoors - Rappahannock River
Fishing the Rappahannock River
Rappahannock River Fishing Guides
Smallmouth Bass:  Historically, the Rappahannock smallmouth fishery may have
been overshadowed in VA by the James, Shenandoah, and New Rivers.  However,
the Rapp has thus far avoided the fish kills that have plagued the James and,
especially, the Shenandoah.  An experiment stocking by VDGIF and an influx of the
VDGIF site for more information on access points and float trips.  Smallmouth feed
on minnows, crayfish, mad toms, and insects.  Some nice-sized fish can be
caught in early spring, but the numbers of fish will be much better starting in May.  
Small (4") soft-plastic jerkbaits in natural colors, crayfish-imitating jigs, and small
crankbaits are all excellent choices.  Primarily interested in catching numbers of
fish?  Go with the venerable Beetle Spin and catch a mix of sunfish and
smallmouth.  Good fishing, depending on river conditions, can last through

Largemouth Bass:  In the lower Rapp, woody cover and aquatic vegetation are
abundant.  Target the main river from Fredericksburg  to Leedstown and tributaries
from Leedstown to Totuskey Creek.  Electrofishing rates are highest between
Hicks Landing and Port Royal.  As with fishing the tidal James, in general,
downsize your bait selections - 4" plastics, 1/4 oz. compact spinnerbaits, and
small jigs work best.  Plastic lures in dark colors like black, tequila sunrise, and
red shad are good choices.  Fishing remains good throughout the summer.  A
buzzbait worked near cover will produce in low light conditions during the summer
months.  Much of the best summertime fishing is in the creek mouths or within
feeder creeks, such as Massaponax, Piscataway, and in the Green Bay area.  
Although fallen timber is prevalent, don't ignore spatterdock, reeds, and pads or
the man-made cover such as docks, barges, and bridges.  When fishing in the
river, it is essential to understand the tide and its effect on the bass.  During the
outgoing tide, fish the outer edges of weed lines, creeks, and docks.  During the
incoming tide, probe the cover more deeply.  The most natural presentation is
made by moving the lure with the tide.  

Striped Bass, Shad, and Herring:  These migratory species inundate the river each
spring and, with the removal of Embry Dam, their range has extended far upriver.  
For more  information on shad and herring fishing, visit our
Lower James page.

Catfish:  The Rapp received a stocking of blue catfish as the same time as the
James; however, the James is clearly the king of the big blue cats.  The Rapp
features good numbers of blue cats up to 30" and the fishing is good much of the
year.  The area from Hicks Landing to Leedstown is prime.  The larger blue catfish
(which means up to 50 lbs in the Rapp) reside in the deeper channel cuts and river
bends.  Use live or cut shad for these fish.  Plentiful, smaller fish are available on
flats adjacent to the channel, creek mouths, and inside creeks.  Fishing is good
during the day and at night.  Drifting baits on float rigs in shallow water (less than
10 feet) will work as well as the traditional bottom fishing from an anchored boat.
Rappahannock River  Fishing Report
Guide Service
Web Site
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Ruckersville, VA
Other Useful Info and Links
Clore Brothers: (540) 786-7749
Rappahannock Outdoor Education Center: (540) 371-5085
Rappahannock River Campground: (800) 784-7235