Potomac River Fishing: The Complete Guide

Studying Time: 10 minutes

Boasting over 400 miles of fishable waters and all kinds of species, the Potomac River offers an opportunity to flee the town and reconnect with nature. Fishing on the Potomac River serves as a ceremony of passage for a lot of native DC, Maryland, and Virginia anglers. Guests from all around the East Coast additionally journey to the Potomac so as to try one of the crucial underrated fisheries within the US. 

The Potomac River has lengthy been an important a part of the DMV space’s financial system, recreation, and lifestyle. Additionally known as the “Nation’s River,” this tributary represents the cultural and historic seam of the nation’s capital. It additionally serves as the primary life supply for one of the crucial necessary estuaries on the East Coast, the Chesapeake Bay. 

There are many the reason why it’s best to prioritize a go to. This text will cowl all the pieces you must learn about fishing on the Potomac, so you can begin planning your journey and hit the water for an epic day.

Prime Catches within the Potomac River

What makes the Potomac River so particular? For one, its biodiversity. The Nation’s River is dwelling to all kinds of fish, making it a superb place for anglers to check out a couple of totally different methods and goal a number of species all in in the future.

Striped Bass

Maybe essentially the most iconic of all of them is Striped Bass, domestically known as Rockfish. Over the past half-century, they’ve turn into a symbolic fish of the Potomac and one of many top-targeted species within the area. They’re a favourite attributable to their power, versatility, and final however not least, their scrumptious style!

In recent times, anglers on the Potomac have recorded catches within the 30–40 lb vary, regardless of going through dwindling populations. Maryland and Virginia have ramped up efforts to fight overfishing and assist restore this historic fishery. 

You may nonetheless catch huge Stripers within the decrease parts of the river, down by the Chesapeake Bay. They migrate upstream to spawn in brisker waters and have a tendency to wander even additional up the river throughout summer time. Up north previous DC, you’ll most certainly encounter smaller faculties of Rockfish – excellent for rookies beginning out on spin sort out. 

Numerous methods are used to catch Striper. Anglers sometimes troll or drift from a ship and forged stay baits or lures from the banks. Its versatility makes it an awesome goal species for all sorts of anglers, irrespective of your stage of expertise.


Snakehead is an invasive species that was initially launched to the area within the early 2000s. Since then, their inhabitants has multiplied they usually’ve expanded their territory all through the complete Potomac and its surrounding tributaries. 

Snakehead is a superb sport fish, recognized for his or her elusiveness and aggressive hanging energy. In different phrases, this isn’t a straightforward fish to tackle. Seasoned anglers will often use mild sort out, nonetheless, don’t be ashamed if you need to swap to barely heavier gear. 

Among the go-to methods when concentrating on Snakehead embrace fly fishing, throwing floor lures, and even bowfishing. General, a optimistic angle, endurance, and additional elbow grease are key for a profitable battle towards this river monster!

On account of their quickly growing numbers, there’s little regulation on the Potomac for Snakehead. Since they’re an invasive species, anglers are inspired to take their fish dwelling. You may fish them everytime you need and they are often caught all through the complete river and connecting creeks, comparable to Mattawoman and Pomonkey.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass

You may’t speak about fishing on the Potomac with out mentioning Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. They inhabit huge parts of the river and have thrived right here for over a century.

Largemouth and Smallmouth occupy totally different areas of the river – DC serving because the boundary that separates the 2 areas. Largemouth Bass will be caught all through the river’s tidal and southern areas whereas Smallmouth Bass are sometimes discovered within the Higher Potomac.

There are many methods to fish for Bass within the Potomac. Wade within the shallows, forged from the banks, or fish from a canoe. Spin, drift, fly fish – all of it works. Floor lures work very nicely in shallower waters for concentrating on Smallmouth. Largemouth is much less picky and also will go after small stay baits, comparable to minnows, evening crawlers, and crawfish.

Bass fishing on the Potomac River is deeply rooted within the area’s sportfishing historical past. The river can also be one of the crucial widespread Bass fishing event locations within the US. Massive title sponsors comparable to Bassmaster and Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) host annual competitions right here, attracting lots of of Bass fishermen from all around the nation.


Catfishing on the Potomac is widespread in deeper elements of the river or in areas with backside buildings. Blue, Channel, and Flathead Catfish will be caught all through the complete river, however the largest ones are discovered from DC all the way down to Indian Head. 

Search for areas with bridge pilings, boulders, and underwater bushes that break up the present. You’ll need to use stay bait, comparable to herring or mullet, when going after this beast. Among the fundamental methods within the space embrace spinning and drift fishing. 

The best way to Fish the Potomac River

There are many other ways to discover the Potomac. That’s the fantastic thing about fishing such an unlimited river with a great deal of entry factors on each side. Whether or not you propose on becoming a member of a information, renting a kayak, or exploring on foot, you’ll have a variety of choices to select from.

By Boat

For those who’re seeking to cowl extra floor and fish a number of areas in in the future, your greatest guess could be to fish by boat. Since planning a visit can appear a bit overwhelming, becoming a member of an area information might be your best choice. Bait, sort out, and gasoline are often included within the value, making it even simpler to plan your journey and give attention to the enjoyable stuff.

Each Maryland and Virginia present guided providers for all talent ranges and varieties of anglers. Whether or not you’re seeking to go fly fishing, bow looking, or spend a number of enjoyable hours on the water, you’ll be capable to discover the information that’s best for you.

Most fishing guides are situated within the Decrease Potomac, in locations comparable to Fort Washington, MD and Alexandria, VA. The cities of Potomac, MD and Leesburg, VA are additionally nice choices in case you plan on launching from the Higher Potomac.

On Foot

The Potomac is legendary for its straightforward accessibility on foot. With over 100 creeks stemming from the river, you’ll be capable to discover a good quiet spot and revel in a soothing day by yourself. 

Many cities in Loudoun County, VA present glorious spots for on-foot fishing. Areas comparable to Goose Creek in Leesburg and Sugarland Run in Sterling are prime places for wading and fishing from the banks.

You can too get some nice “on-foot motion” smack dab in the course of the town. The Tidal Basin is a good spot to expertise some good city financial institution fishing. That is additionally arguably essentially the most picturesque a part of DC. The MLK, FDR, and TJ memorials make an awesome background shot for Instagram as you reel in a prize-winning fish! 

Kayak Fishing

Kayak fishing on the Potomac has gained a lot of traction over current years. You’ve most likely seen increasingly more ‘yakkers’ on the river through the spring and summer time. With new companies popping up within the metropolis and suburbs, you may choose a rental near you and plan a weekend journey with you and your fishing buddies.

Kayaks are particularly advantageous for fishing in shallow waters. You’ll be capable to sneak into slender spots and be nearer to the water, making it a lot simpler to identify your goal. You’re additionally a lot much less more likely to spook the fish since there’s no loud motor connected. Speak about stealth!

The place to Fish on the Potomac River

Irrespective of which a part of the Potomac you propose on visiting, you’ll discover loads of spots the place you may put up up and revel in a productive day of fishing. You’ll come throughout honey holes, channels, creeks, and bridge pilings scattered alongside the complete river – from the Higher Potomac all the best way all the way down to the Chesapeake Bay. 

Washington, DC

There’s much more to the nation’s Capital than simply forms and politics. The DC fishing scene is commonly neglected by non-locals and it’s a darn disgrace. DC affords among the greatest city fishing within the nation and it’s undoubtedly value testing! 

This phase of the river is full of tons of backside feeders. Blue, Flathead, and Channel Catfish inhabit the river, particularly round channels and deep holes, in addition to boulders, bridges, and bushes submerged in water. Blue Catfish, the most important of the three, sometimes common between 20–40 kilos, with some monsters even weighing in at 50 kilos!  

You can too catch Longnose Gar, Snakehead, Shad, Walleye, Carp, and Chain Pickerel. Areas comparable to Fletcher’s Cove, Rock Creek, and Anacostia Park are glorious for day journeys, particularly in case you’re in search of a great spot to take your youngsters. All in all, this can be a nice approach to expertise the nation’s capital whereas having fun with a enjoyable day of fishing with the household. 

Prince George’s County, MD

Lower than 20 miles south of the Capital, you’ll discover superb fishing alternatives close to the cities of Fort Washington and Indian Head. This portion of the river holds an enormous number of fish. 

You shouldn’t depart PG County with out testing Mattawoman Creek. This tributary is thought for its glorious Perch, Bass, and Snakehead fishing. In 2018, the Maryland file for Snakehead was damaged right here – a 35-incher weighing in at 19.9 kilos!

Only a brief boat journey away, you may also hit the Occoquan Bay – a Nationwide Wildlife Refuge situated on the intersection of the Potomac and Occoquan River. Right here, you may count on to reel in a lot of Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, Northern Pike, and White Perch.

Yow will discover loads of guides that can take you right here or you may fish from the banks by yourself. Fort Washington can also be an awesome place to fish with a kayak or paddle boat that are often accessible for hire through the springtime. 

Fairfax County, VA

The Virginia aspect of the Potomac additionally has its justifiable share of fantastic fishing spots, accessible by foot in addition to boat. Locations like Riverbend Park in Nice Falls are nice for kids and rookies seeking to choose up on among the fundamentals. This windy, slender portion of the river offers one of the crucial stunning landscapes of the area, making you neglect you’re solely miles away from the town!

The principle goal species listed below are Smallmouth Bass, Sunfish, and Catfish. Planning a visit right here could be very handy with loads of locations the place you may hire gear and small boats for the day. That is additionally an awesome place to go mountain climbing, try the waterfalls, and expertise among the Potomac’s superb wildlife.

Different cities in Fairfax County the place you may fish the Potomac embrace Mount Vernon, Fort Hunt, and Pohick. From right here, you’ll be capable to goal a lot of the identical species as on the Maryland aspect. You can too entry a lot of the similar waters since VA and MD licenses are each legitimate for fishing both aspect of the Potomac.

When to Fish the Potomac River

You may fish the Potomac year-round, nonetheless, some months are higher than others when concentrating on particular varieties of species. Try our fishing calendar for a full run-down of the world’s fishing seasons.

Fishing Seasons

Spring is great for fishing on the Potomac River as a result of the climate is excellent. Summers are notorious for being scorching and muggy whereas winters can get fairly chilly. Nevertheless, it actually relies on the precedence of your journey. Additionally, keep in mind to test the native laws earlier than your journey as some species are topic to seasonality.

Summer season is a good time to go fishing due to the big variety of species you may goal. Fall is thought for its nice Rainbow Trout and Steelhead runs, particularly within the Higher Potomac, close to the North Department and South Department Rivers. Fall can also be a great time to focus on Striped Bass, particularly within the Decrease Potomac area. Catfishing is greatest within the winter.


For those who’re a aggressive angler seeking to win some money (and bragging rights), the Potomac ought to undoubtedly be in your radar. Annually in the direction of the tip of summer time and starting of fall, a number of organizations host tournaments with the possibility of getting your title positioned among the many greats.

Bassmaster and FLW maintain their annual tournaments close to Smallwood State Park in Charles County, MD. Every event has an entrance price and you’ll register on-line on every of the group’s web sites or by visiting Maryland Division of Pure Sources.

You’ll have an opportunity to place your abilities to the check and compete towards among the most elite Bass fishermen within the nation. Oh, and did we point out you may win upwards of tens of hundreds of {dollars}? Ka-ching!

Native Laws

So now that you’ve a way of what to anticipate from a Potomac River fishing expertise, it’s necessary to familiarize your self with the native legal guidelines and laws. The very last thing you need is to be slapped with a advantageous for not having a license or concentrating on one thing that isn’t in season.

All anglers over the age of 16 should buy both a legitimate MD, VA, DC, or Potomac River Sport Fishing License. VA, MD, and Potomac licenses are legitimate in parts of the river the place the 2 states share their border. Anyplace above the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, you’ll have to purchase a DC fishing license. You should purchase every of them on-line or at any permitted fishing license vendor. 

Remember, some species can solely be focused seasonally, like Striped Bass and Crab. Many fish are topic to dimension and bag limits as nicely. Simply ensure you keep updated as guidelines and laws can change annually. For those who’re undecided, you may at all times test with a licensing agent or a fishing information earlier than heading out.

The Potomac River: A Fishing Haven for All!

As we talked about earlier, the Potomac offers anglers the chance to attach with nature whereas staying near the town. This 400-mile river offers comfort, accessibility, and an unlimited variety of areas from which you’ll take pleasure in a productive day of fishing. 

It’s possible you’ll select to go fishing with a few of DC’s well-known monuments as your backdrop or head into the wilderness for a extra tranquil fishing expertise. Simply relies on what you like! Irrespective of which choice you select, on the finish of the day, you’ll expertise one of the crucial numerous and distinctive rivers on the East Coast.

Have you ever ever been fishing on the Potomac River? If that’s the case, we’d like to listen to about your experiences. What did you catch? The place is your favourite spot to go fishing? Depart a remark and let our readers know when you’ve got any recommendation or particular suggestions earlier than heading out!

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