A True River Monster

by Aaron Ball

Earlier this summer I was talking with my buddy Kevin about some things we wanted to check off our bucket lists, and he advised that he had never caught a northern snakehead. He had caught a few fishing in Florida but those are a different subspecies. I told him that I felt confident we could check that off his list with a visit to the Rappahannock River. 

We hit the river a little after daylight this summer and we still had a few hours of incoming tide.  An incoming tide is not my preferred phase for fishing the Rappahannock, but it would allow us to get further back into some of the smaller creeks before the tide switched.  

We started pushing our way into one of the creeks close to the ramp, and Kevin connected quickly with a small largemouth bass using a frog bait. First fish on less-than-ideal tide; “We’ll take it .”I said to Kevin. 

We continued further into the back of the creek, and I picked up another bass on a buzzbait. We had made our way back about as far as I could get in my aluminum Triton, so we made our back to the main stem of the river and headed down river. 

With still a little bit more of incoming tide, we ventured into another creek before the tide switched and the water started pouring out of the creeks. The Rappahannock tide has a significant amount of current opposed to some of the other tidal rivers found in Virginia. Therefore, the bite windows are heavily impacted depending on what stage of tide you have. I personally use the Navionics App to monitor the tides and plan my fishing trips, but there are several other apps that will let you check the tides before or during your fishing trips. 

As we worked our way into the back of this creek, I finally had our first shot at a snakehead. I was working my buzzbait along a weed line when a sizeable import came up and took a swipe at my bait only to miss the bait completely. A snakehead strike on top water is on a short list of the most exciting things you can experience while fishing, and now we knew we were on the right track. We continued working our way back into the creek with little else to show for our efforts. By the time we reached the back the tide had turned, and it was time to make a move further down river.

Kevin and I started our way back into another creek when he had his first snakehead encounter in spectacular fashion! Kevin was working his frog dirt shallow when a snakehead exploded on his frog but once again failed to connect.  We were both excited to at least be getting opportunities at our targeted species, but we weren’t done yet.  Shortly after that, he connected on a solid four-pound bass on the frog, and I followed that up with another nice bass on the buzzbait.

We worked our way back out of the creek, and as we got close to where he missed the fish on the way in, it happened.  I fired my buzzbait out to the bank, and the water erupted as only a snakehead in dirt shallow water can do. The fight was on and it was intense battle before Kevin was able to slide the net under this river monster. I knew just from looking at the fish in the net that I topped by personnel best, but a quick measurement on the scaled confirmed what I already knew. A little bit under 12 pounds! We were stoked, but there was still work to do.

We headed back to the creek I had missed the snakehead earlier, and it is amazing what a difference in tide can make. Kevin quickly hooked up on his first snakehead on his frog and my job was done! It’s such a good feeling helping your friends cross things off their bucket list and to me, that is what fishing is all about: getting out in the outdoors and making memories with your friends. We picked up several more bass working through the creek, and Kevin managed another snakehead flipping hard cover on the main river before we called it. 

Kevin has a great Youtube channel where you can catch a recap of the day if you wish @GunnfishTv on Youtube. As always, you can find me or reach me @Psuaaron on IG. What fish is on your bucket list, I’d love to hear it!

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