Report from Fletcher’s Cove
Like a roller-coaster ride, April angling at Fletcher’s Cove was a series of dramatic highs and sudden, plunging drops of stomach churning speed. Several times during the month the Potomac was seafood buffet one day and closed for business the next. For experienced river watchers this is no big surprise. The only predictable thing about the river is its unpredictability. There was an April in the not too distant past when the river was so roiled during the entire month that no boat rentals at all were made. This is why I always tell aspiring anglers to fish when the urge hits you, the opportunity arises and the conditions allow. In this information overload era, people ask what’s the best tide, the best time of day, the perfect water clarity or is it the “peak of the run”. These are the fishers who usually miss out on a really rewarding day.
Mid month we battled high water to protect the boats and dock from being damaged due to strong currents and tree trunk sized projectiles. The boats were corralled in a safe spot like a herd of cattle and the dock battened down with extra heavy flood ropes. The back breaking work paid off as the water level dropped with an old dude and several young bucks able to re-set the dock in its proper placement for use. Next came one of the “joys” of a Fletcher flood… cleaning up the gooey mud the river leaves as a reminder of its visit. This high water was a minor event. The memory of ’72, ’85 and ’96 is always in the back of my mind.
High water always brings surprises to our little slice of river bank. As I repositioned boats one morning a loud, large slap on the water sent spray flying. At first I thought a big carp was disturbed by my presence. But another slap proved otherwise. It was a beautiful beaver demonstrating irritation that the river and I had messed with its peaceful domain. Later in that week of high water a black rat snake, likely disturbed from its usual accommodations took up residence under our bait refrigerator. With a little care and caution, it was politely escorted off the premises.
While herring, white perch, stripers and shad all come in waves during the first four months of Spring, it is the American shad that is the star of the moment. In recent decades, hickory shad have vastly outnumbered the American or “white” shad. This is not the case in 2018. During this past week anglers have reported catching Americans by the dozens, sometimes to the near exclusion of any hickories. Now that’s exciting. Catching a hickory is a fun and respectable angling moment. Fighting a fat American shad fresh from the ocean, it plunging for the depths, your drag screaming, is an altogether different experience. I call it a “knee-shaker.” In my angling days of yore, catching a couple of big roe white shad would make half a day of fishing entirely satisfying. 2018 appears to be the coming out party for the shad restocking efforts made during the past twenty-plus years on the Potomac. We have Jim Cummins, the Louis Harley Family and countless volunteer hours of effort to thank for this encouraging renewal.
With seasonable weather and decent river conditions shad fishing opportunities should continue well into June. Last year, May was a month of much high water and bad weather. Most shad anglers gave up on the season. However conditions improved and there were numerous days in early June with excellent catches for those willing to roll the dice. If you only have any satisfaction angling when you catch lots of fish, please head for the seafood counter at your local market. It’s very reliable there if using greenbacks for bait!
The first week of May has seen much improved catches of white perch after a very erratic and disappointing early run. These tasty little fish are one of the species that can be kept in large numbers for your culinary enjoyment. Perch fishing used to be a big deal at Fletcher’s with many of our boats out hunting the depths for schools of these aggressive silver minnow and bloodworm lovers. A bucket of “jumbos” was an angling accomplishment that brought back-slapping congratulations and looks of envy. A good day of perch fishing was always the angling experience that most connected me to the river itself.
The striped bass season in D.C. will begin later this month when anglers will be able to keep a fish or two for the dinner table. For particulars on fishing regulations contact the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment. Pre-season catch and release striper fishing has been erratic at best with some large fish taken on big buck tail jigs and deep diving crank baits. Fishing with cut herring is illegal in the entire Chesapeake Bay region. Fletcher’s sells frozen alewife bait if you need a substitute for the herring.
As summer comes to our beautiful mid-Atlantic landscape, fishing at The Cove will become a more relaxed affair. The resident species of freshwater bass, catfish, carp, bluegill and crappie will become the main attractions for anglers in the annual cycle of life along the banks of the Potomac. I’m expecting a 90 pound plus blue catfish this year and hoping for the return of water to the previously very fishable C&O Canal.
I’m looking forward to welcoming you to Fletcher’s soon. Journey to us on the canal towpath, Capital Crescent Trail or transit through the dank, dark tunnel and you will be greeted with a smile and a step back in time. Thanks for reading.