Report from Fletcher’s Cove, June
It’s been a wild ride for anglers at Fletcher’s Cove this year. “Spring” fishing took off in mid winter like a Derby filly out of the gate. Large striped bass and schools of hickory and American shad swarmed in the chilly water well before our rental boats were even ready to accommodate anxious anglers. By late March we welcomed lots of happy customers to a binary shad run that had both species dancing a duo and keeping rods bent all over the cove. Then came May and chilly rains and a high river flow that spoiled the fun (and revenue) for almost the entire month. Lesson learned… don’t take great fishing for granted; get it while it’s hot.
For those true believers who didn’t give up on a shad run that seemed doomed, rewards have come to the faithful in the last two weeks. A “June bonus” shad appearance has given the never-give-uppers reason to smile. Double digit catches of American shad have come to a few seasoned anglers who positioned their boats above the time tested chutes and eddies. The blast furnace heat we are now experiencing will probably spell the real end of the run in a week or two, but folks it was quite a roller coaster ride!
Other than during periods of high, muddy water, many striped bass of all sizes have been pulled up from the deep since the earliest days of March. It is now legal season for keeping a couple of these prized fish. Two fish per angler are allowed per day, over twenty inches, one may be over 28 inches. As long as the water temperature doesn’t go off the chart and a few herring are in the river, stripers will be around and upstream of the cove. Boathouse G.M. Alex Binsted and his fishing partner Mike “The Animal” Bailey have caught more stripers than President Trump has tweets! Their reels are on Medicare. They are the Hans and Franz of rock fishing, but instead of pumping up, they are pulling up (rockfish).
Even during the hot weeks to come large blue catfish will be feeding on just about anything you might throw at them. Fletcher’s sells four to six types of bait including frozen alewives, which are particularly good for the swimming cats. A one-hundred pound blue cat in Washington is just a matter of time.
While it is true that I am an ordained minister, and I have actually performed a wedding on Fletcher’s dock, I don’t usually get religiously involved with worms. There is one long time customer for whom I make an exception. Catfish Mona once (jokingly) asked me to bless the worms I was selling her. Well, on that trip she and her partner Minnow Master happened to have a banner day of fishing and well, you can guess the rest. I am now kindly asked to bless Mona’s worms before a trip to the secret farm pond that she and the Master frequent. On their most recent trip to the pond, the results from blessed worms now require a change of titles; Catfish Mona is henceforth to be known as “Bass Master Mona.” The collection plate will be passed on their next visit to the tackle shack.
Of all the great fishermen I have known Mike Alper is top gun. He is up there in years and lives far away, so he has to choose fishing days carefully. Last Friday he traveled to Fletcher’s to get in on the surprisingly good June shad opportunity. I fully expected him to catch at least a few shad, possibly the last of the season. When that didn’t happen, he switched gears as all good anglers can do and tried to coax a striper onto his lure. Within minutes Mike “dredged up” (as he likes to say) a beautiful 24 inch walleye. This kind of happenstance is what makes fishing at Fletcher’s so unpredictable and interesting. You never really know what you might get.
The first and last known shad caught at Fletcher’s has become a hotly contested item in recent years. As of Saturday, the 10th that honor was in the hands of Ally Sanderson. Ally caught it at a spot the old timers call “the forked tree” and it was the FIRST shad she had ever caught! Congratulations to Ally for her first American shad. However, the last “known” shad honor now rests with Mark Whitley who withstood the searing heat of Sunday, June 11th to boat an American late in the day. Who knows if another shad will be caught this strange season of 2017.
A final note before I end. As mentioned numerous times in the past, the area around Fletcher’s Cove is an awesome place to be a bird watcher. I’m not sure if it’s because of the odd weather pattern this year, but 2017 so far is a banner year to view the winged critters along the Potomac. Ospreys, eagles and cormorants have been feasting on herring, several types of herons are a daily sight, red winged black birds are clinging to the cat tails and Baltimore orioles are singing in the sycamores. If you like to see all sorts of birds pay a visit to Fletcher’s and you likely will be rewarded.
That’s all for now, thanks for reading.