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The Journal’s Potomac River Festival, May 2013

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Colonial Beach –The water awaits and so does the fishing! Mark Fike

Colonial Beach residents sure have a tough time going to work with the river so close by and the fishing opportunities the Potomac offers. The Potomac River at Colonial Beach can be a vast place to try to fish. While one boat may go out into the briny waters and do well, another may not. In short, the more time you spend fishing on the water, the more effective you will become. The Potomac at Colonial Beach is no different. There are plenty of fish to be caught at or near Colonial Beach. In season there are croaker and striped bass or rockfish; sometimes you can pull in a flounder during dry summers. Catfish are abundant year-round. White perch are in the area from April through November. Puppy drum or the juvenile red drum made an incredible showing last summer in the area. Spot can be caught and are quite delicious during the summer months. Bluefish, although usually smaller than ones caught in the Chesapeake Bay, are also summer visitors to the river. During really dry summers, anglers with a boat can get into the river and troll for and catch Spanish mackerel downstream of Colonial Beach. Skate, or cow-nosed rays are also very common during the summer months in the river. I cannot forget the crabs either. After years of decline, the crabs appear to be coming back in population numbers. Where do I fish on the river? Some anglers are shore-bound. This does limit things a bit. However, the Town of Colonial Beach has a municipal pier that offers a place for anglers to get out into deeper water to fish. The pier is located at the upstream or northwestern edge of town. During the summer, particularly during lower-light periods, nice fish are taken from the pier. Croaker, spot, catfish and puppy drum can be caught using bottom rigs with squid, shrimp, bloodworms or Fishbites. Cast as far out as you can, and fish a moving tide if possible. Fishing from the shore is possible but not quite as good. Westmoreland State Park, just downstream, offers the same sort of fishing from a pier. If you want to jump in the car and get to a place with shoreline access near deeper water, run up to Aqua Land at the Harry Nice Bridge (Rt. 301) on the Maryland side of the river. Crabbing from docks or the pier can be decent later in the summer. Some anglers that reside at the Beach use small boats, kayaks or canoes to crab or fish. Doing so opens up a whole new world of fishing. Often the fish are just barely out of casting range of the shore. There are several ramps at Monroe Bay with various fees associated for parking or launching. Fishing in Monroe Bay can be fun for smaller fish. If you can venture out into the river with a larger boat there are many more opportunities to catch your next meal. The key to finding fish in the main river stem is to find structure. Structure is what makes the river bottom appealing to fish. Oyster beds are hotspots for many species of fish. Gravel bars or rocky areas also are great locations to fish. A simple bump or lump in the bottom is another good place to fish. Sudden drop-offs offer predators a place to herd baitfish from the deep water to shallow waters. GMCO makes a great map of the river listing all the bars and shoals and lumps with the appropriate depths. A fish-finder also helps in this regard. Carter’s Lumps, straight out from Colonial Beach and slightly upstream, is a hotspot at times. However, St. Clements Island, downstream of the Beach on the Maryland side, is a traditional fall rockfish hotspot, too. Various points and so on, offer fish places to feed. Find a difference in a seemingly vast and boring bottom of the river, and you will find fish. When you find a drop-off or structure, be sure to consider the flow of water. You have to be upstream of the flow to get your bait or lure to the correct spot to get a bite. If fishing “The Lumps”, motor upstream far enough to anchor and still

Left: Gary Sanders and daughter Ashley caught a nice one not far from shore. Above: Croakers are out there waiting for you

Fishing Species Availability in the Potomac River January-March-Catch and release rockfish, catfish April-Rockfish season starts (see regulations first), some perch, catfish May-June-Croaker start showing up, rockfish, perch, catfish July-September-Croaker, spot, rockfish, flounder, skate, perch, red drum, bluefish October-December-Rockfish and catfish, with a few perch around be above the lee side of the lump, so your bait is put right in the face of the fish. If you are off even ten feet, it can mean the difference of fish, or no fish! A fish-finder is valuable in this regard. When you find a great spot mark it on your fish-finder so you can find it easier next time. Watch the fish-finder to see what bait looks like, vs. game fish. Watch where other boats are fishing, and when they move, try to determine what was attractive to that location for them. Be sure NOT to crowd other anglers. That is not only unethical, it is rude. Find your own spots to fish without ruining someone else’s. Don’t overlook Mattox Creek or any other small tributary to the river. Explore the river and enjoy it. Cap your day off with a fresh meal of your catch. Nothing beats fresh fish or crabs after a day on the water! Current fishing regulations can be found at http://www. prfc.state.va.us/sports/fishing_potomac.html Be sure to have the appropriate fishing licenses. If using a boat, consider a PRFC boat license to cover everyone in the boat. Chandler’s Mill Pond near Montross There are some local freshwater ponds and streams where bass, bream, jackfish or pickerel, and of course, catfish can be hauled in for supper. These ponds, except for Chandler’s Mill Pond near Montross, are private, and permission is necessary in order to fish them. At Chandler’s Mill Pond, the fishing is best in the spring and fall for bass, bream and pickerel, with the occasional crappie stringer being filled. Fish the shorelines with plastic worms or crawfish on a jig for bass. Bream will take insects and worms free-lined or hanging under a float in the same areas. A few nice channel catfish are caught in Chandler’s by mistake while crappie or bream fishing. Crappie love minnows and have been found near the bridge and treetops.

During the summer months the pond is best fished very early or very late. The water temperature gets pretty high, and the dissolved oxygen level gets low during the hot summer hours. Watch out for the barbed- wire fence-remains in the pond. And remember that only electric motors can be used in the pond. Colonial Beach is a great place to wet a line and enjoy time on the water. Get your rod rigged and ready, and the boat in the river. Don’t forget the camera. — Mark Fike is an Outdoor Writer for The Journal.

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