Tidal Potomac River

by Steve Chaconas

   The tidal Potomac River has been in the news recently with anglers and commercial fisherman at odds regarding the practice of haul net seining the backs of creeks where largemouth bass spawn. Tournament anglers do well when the netters don’t disturb bedding areas. Here’s what you can expect for a June visit to the nation’s river.

   The north end of the tidal Potomac is being ignored, as milfoil grass is not growing! Post spawn areas are over hard cover and docks. Moving baits prevail in these areas. Dock fishing is also good in this region.

a For the areas from Piscataway (very little grass), Pohick and south, bass will be returning to main river grass and are in summer pattern starting this month. Anglers should check out shallow main river and creek mouth grass located at Greenway Flats, Occoquan, Pohick, Mattawoman, Potomac and Aquia Creeks and hard cover like the Wilson Bridge pilings, the Pentagon Lagoon wall, and Washington Channel. 

  Remember, DC police don’t want you along Fort McNair. You need a DC fishing license and a Coast Guard approved safe boating course to fish or navigate in DC waters! Virginia boaters need a certification too!

   Shallow crankbaits and squarebills are excellent now for fishing shallow wood and grass.  A 7-foot medium action composite cranking rod allows long casts and is easy to rip from grass.  

    Under cloudy skies, early morning or with low water, try topwaters. Search for the clearest water and work top down. Post spawners fall for walking baits, keep them moving after misses, otherwise, you won’t get them to come back very often. 

  Warmer afternoons produce topwater action with poppers. Low water is best no matter water clarity. In clear calm low light use small light-colored poppers. With more chop and stained water, try darker and bigger baits.  Bigger baits create commotion in choppy water. When grass is matted, use swim toads and hollow frogs!  For toads I use 5/0 Mustad Ultra Point swimbait hooks with adjustable weight to cast farther and to go faster, depending on the thickness of the grass! Use 60-pound test GAMMA Torque braid!

Buzzbaits bring up bigger fish now. In open water add a 2/0 or 3/0 stinger hook. In general, if water is clear, speed up retrieve.  Slow down in stained water and go to a buzzbait with a clacker. Have a follow-up bait ready on a spinning reel to cast to misses like a soft plastic jerkbaits and stickbaits on 3/0 hooks.  

   You can target grass clumps and edges, pads, and docks with jigs and plastics this month. Try 1/2 and 3/8-ounce jigs with craw trailers. Green pumpkin copper and blue craw tubes Texas rigged on 3/0 hooks with a 3/16 BULLSHOT weight work in heavy cover.  

   In other cover, use insert tube heads. Swim the tubes over grass, around wood and through pads. Skip tubes under docks and over shallow cover…skipping is more natural.  

  Remember to fish slower in stained water.  On bright sunny days, fish hold tight to cover. On cloudy days, fish might not stray too far from cover, so work deeper docks and nearby grass edges.  Docks with grass are usually better at higher tides on sunny days. Texas rigged bulky, thumping craws are a big fish bait! 

    Swimming black/brown ½ ounce jigs around docks and over grass is also working. Be sure and trim weed guards and use three-inch craws with vibrating claws. The MES Swim Jig is a good option.    

  You can also start punching through grass mats with 60-pound braid on a 5/0 hook. Use a ¾ or 1-ounce tungsten weight. Look for mats with a mix of hydrilla and milfoil. Milfoil makes an archway exit/entrance to the mats.   

   In Spoils and Smoots Carolina rigs, split shot and drop shot rigs are great with drop shot worms on wide gap thin wire hooks. For split shot rigs use bullet-shaped BULLSHOT split shot from Water Gremlin. In stained water drop shot darker baits on a 6-12-inch leader keeping baits in the strike zone around drops and near grass edges as long as you need it. Pitch to the bottom and gently shake. If you feel cover with your weight, leave to aggravate fish into biting. The drop shot can be flipped or pitched with heavy line.   

   As water rises, stay in contact with grass: the outside edge, the inside edge, and the top edge.  Work the top and inside edge as clear water rises and cover a lot of water with bladed jigs like the MES Wobble Jig. Use old jerkbaits as a trailer. Try craw patterns as well as traditional black/blue and white combos. 

   Fish 4-10 feet deep with crankbaits on drops around he Spoils, Smoots, South Point, Fort Washington Lighthouse, and Hogg Island.  With 12-pound test GAMMA Copoly make longer casts to cover water. Try darker patterns, like firetiger and craw patterns. 

  Costello’s in Warrenton is where area anglers are shopping for tackle. This unique hardware AND fishing gear shop has a great selection of all the lures and terminal tackle you need to fish area waters.

  Capt. Mike with Apex Predators Aquia Creek Guide Service has been enjoying an excellent spring with clients looking to catch the abundance of northern snakeheads in the tidal Potomac. He says fishing will remain good for the next couple months. 

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