Potomac River Overview
The Potomac River covers many miles of the mid-Atlantic region, traversing some
remote, isolated areas and some of the most heavily populated regions in the
country. Although some excellent smallmouth fishing is available in the upper
sections of the river, this page focuses on the world-class largemouth bass fishing
in the tidal Potomac River. In addition to the largemouth bass fishing, excellent
fishing for striped bass is available seasonally and respectable catfishing is
available (although it is not comparable to the James River in this regard). The
springtime run of hickory and American shad is also reportedly on the rise.
The river is managed by the state of Maryland, but a Virginia has a reciprocal
license agreement with MD. A Virginia freshwater license is honored throughout
the main river and even in the MD tributaries up to the demarcation lines. For more
details, see VDGIF.
July 25, 2012: Avid angler and author Steve Moore provided the following fishing
report for the Rappahannock & Potomac Rivers. 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 - Potomac River
Potomac River Fishing
Potomac River Fishing Guides
Many fish species reside in mighty Potomac River. but the Potomac tidal river
largemouth bass fishing is truly world-class. If you are visiting the area and like to
fish, target the largemouth in the urban stretches of the tidal river.
One of the many great features of the Potomac River largemouth bass fishery is
that the fishing is outstanding throughout the temperate months of the year. There
is a lull from mid-December through the first of April, but in mid-summer when
many reservoirs are overrun with pleasure boaters and the largemouth have
become lethargic, the Potomac's plentiful largemouth continue to feed and often
do so in accessible shallow-water locations.
Largemouth up to three lbs are very common. A five-pounder is a real trophy and
the fish typically max out at seven pounds. For basic information on tidal river
largemouth bass fishing patterns, click here to read our related article.
In the springtime, emerging aquatic vegetation should be targeted. Milfoil and
spatterdock are widely distributed in the tidal creeks, tributaries, and main river
coves. Anglers can choose their favorite shallow-water pattern from mid-April to
mid-June. Flipping and pitching soft plastic lures (creature baits, tubes, and even
frogs) can be very effective in the vegetation. Swim the lures above emerging
vegetation or, if you have the skill, pitch the lures softly into holes in the vegetation
and expect strikes on the drop. When the tide is moving swiftly, work the edges of
the vegetation with spinnerbaits and Rat-L-Traps, covering as much water as
possible. In either case, key your efforts on water that is less than five feet deep.
During the summertime, the vegetation can become so thick that flipping and
pitching are challenging except for the most skilled anglers. However, the
largemouth continue to feed shallow and can be caught with buzzbaits in low-light
conditions as well as crankbaits and spinnerbaits fished around woody cover or in
the creek channels up to eight feet deep.
In the fall, as the vegetation recedes, the springtime patterns can be revisited;
however, woody cover should remain in the game plan. Upsize lures in the fall
also - perhaps throwing a 1/2 ounce spinnerbait or lipless crankbait instead of the
1/4 ounce size that might be preferable during the late spring and summer. Larger
soft plastics and jigs up to one ounce can also be productive.
Natural colors, such as green pumpkin and watermelon seed, tend to work well.
The old reliable blue-and-black jig as well as jigs in crawfish-imitating brown and
orange patterns also produce.
In general, creek mouths and main river coves are key largemouth locations. Start
at historically productive locales, such as Mattawoman Creek, the mouth of
Piscataway Creek, Chicamuxen Creek, and the full length of Nanjemoy Creek.
Aquia Creek is worth a special mention. It certainly receives heavy fishing
pressure, but for good reason. It is a highly productive area. A day or two spent
entirely in Aquia Creek learning the creek channel and studying the tidal eddies
and current breaks will be a great investment.
The vast area of the Potomac River and its tributaries and the subtle tips and
techniques required to maximize your experience on the river often justify a trip with
a local guide who can help move you quickly up the learning curve.
Potomac River Fishing Report
|Copyright © 2009 Virginia Outdoors, LLC
Other Useful Info and Links
Many public boat launch facilities and private marinas are available throughout the
tidal Potomac River. Perhaps the best public facility in Virginia is at Gravelly Point
in Arlington. Visit VDGIF for more information.