Tidal Potomac River Regional Focus Report

by Steve Chaconas

   January water temperatures on the tidal Potomac River got down to an icy 40 degrees but things cleared up just fine for February, as days get longer and the food chain starts to activate. 

  Fish are where we want them now, on drops and edges, grouped up and making for some great winter fishing. Water temperatures hover around 40 and occasionally up to 45. It’s important to pay attention to warm spots…two degrees can make a HUGE difference. 

  Fishing during the warmest part of the day will be more productive with moving lures. When determining depth and speed…i.e., lure and presentation selection, remember outgoing tides bring warmer water below Blue Plains and incoming tides can lower water temperatures by five degrees.

   Areas that stay warm include Quantico Creek, Blue Plains and Four Mile Run.  Out of the current areas are The Spoils, Smoots, Belle Haven, Mount Vernon, Oxen Cove, Washington Channel, and Pohick Bay and the Pentagon Lagoon have deep water.

  In Four Mile Run, the point in front of the restaurant is a great place to use Silver Buddy lures and dropshots. The deeper water around the marina is also good.  

  Just up the creek, water temperature can rise to near 60. Riprap and bridge pilings are great places to toss stickworms on Gamma fluorocarbon. 

  I prefer to toss suspending jerkbaits in Baby Bass and other “natural” patterns. Shallow crankbaits are good, too. 

  At Blue Plains, work drop shot, split shot, Carolina rigs, with 5-inch creature baitgs soaked in attractant very slowly. Don’t leave without using green/orange hair jigs on six-pound test Gamma Copoly.  When tides fall, the Blue Plains dock is great… fish beneath it on sunny days and around front on cloudy days. The Dominion Possum Point Power Plant pumps out warmed water into Quantico Creek. Fish the entire creek according to temperature. 

  Fox Ferry fish are grouped on drop-offs, 6-15 feet deep depending on water temperature. On warmer tides, use tight wiggle crankbaits in craw patterns, chartreuse/brown back on 10-pound test.  Crank parallel to the Ferry and pause when contacting cover. Same works on riprap around Oxen Cove.

   The Spoils has plenty of drops, concrete islands, a jetty, a few wreck remnants, and a ditch rimming outside. Below the bridge Smoot Bay has similar drops and two obvious points, one north and one south.  Other less obvious spots seldom fished: Fort Washington Lighthouse Point and Hogg Island. You’ll locate fish in deep water near flats with cover out of current.

   The 1/2-ounce size Silver Buddy is my favorite, but I use 1/4-oz. when the bite is tough. Cast them on 10-pound test Gamma EDGE on a casting reel to three-foot depths and work down drops with very short burps, noting where bites come. Good depths depend on water temperature and how long water has been at that temperature. Fish aren’t chasing baits, so when you get one; you’ve found the day’s winter depth.  

  For rods, I really like a medium action Quantum graphite. Replace worn Silver Buddy hooks…use Mustad Ultra Point split shank trebles, or cut the hook eye, twist open, attach, snap back to close.

 Hair jigs are awesome for cold water…compact and the hair breathes, prompting strikes when sitting!  Use 1/4-ounce hair jigs in two colors…black/blue, and olive/orange. Light line and either pork or plastic chunks with rattles worked very slowly. Attractants get fish to hold on longer! Hair jigs soak up attractants! “Gel” style attractants make the hair clog up!  Keep rod tips lower to set the hook.  Don’t use a huge hookset, just reel and lift.

   Use a 1/4-ounce round jig heads with Mustad hooks for grubs on spinning gear spooled with 10 pound test Gamma Torque braid with six-pound test Edge leader. Work these along the bottom slowly, stopping often. Rather than hopping, lift, glide and stop, shake occasionally. Shaky heads work well too!  Start with five-inch worms, cut until you get the right size. 

  In 45-degree water throw crankbaits and spinnerbaits! Not many throw spinnerbaits.Willow/Colorado gold blades keep baits down, bumping cover. Chartreuse with brown back flat crankbaits  are effective to about six feet and can provide a lot of vibration at very slow speeds. Using 10-pound or 8-pound test Edge fluorocarbon, make long casts, crank it down and slowly sweep rod, making long pauses. 

   Now is the time to call Capt. Mike with Apex Predators Guide Service or Capt. Travis Stauch of Ram Rod Guide Service if you want to target snakeheads on the river this season. Capt. Mike most often guides anglers that want to cast to these river monsters. Capt. Stauch is mostly a bowfishing guide.

  Mike is also taking reservations for his spring tidal Potomac crappie fishing trips that mostly take place in Aquia Creek.

  Locust Shade Park on Rt. 1 near Aquia is now receiving trout. The lake there is a pleasant place to fish for trout from the bank in February.

  Much of the gear mentioned here can be found in area tackle shops like Taylors Bait & Tackle or Costellos in Warrenton. These two tackle shops – one in a convenience store, the other in a hardware store offer outstanding selection. 

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