On My Mind This Month

April 2015

Tom Mann, Vice President NCC-TU

May 13, 2015:

The speaker for our May meeting is President of Potomac Riverkeeper, Inc. and Shenandoah Riverkeeper.  NCC-TU is happy to welcome back Jeff Kelble to report on the "Status of Smallmouth Bass in Regional Watersheds."  Visit the Riverkeeper's new website at 

There can be great fishing for smallmouths in our local rivers, and this is a highlight of summer angling in the area.  But there are issues concerning the health of this fishery, and Jeff will update us on the situation so we can be ready to catch 'em in 2015.

The National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited (NCC-TU) is a non-profit organization
established to protect, enhance, and restore coldwater fishing resources of North America,
particularly those in the Mid-Atlantic region.


The shad are finally beginning to come up the river, and the rites of spring will start now. Each Spring, the Chapter publishes email reports on the status of the shad run in the area, particular as it develops on the Potomac River at Fletcher's Cove in DC.  These reports are emailed only to those requesting them. If you wish to receive these reports and did NOT receive them last year, send an email from the address you want us to use to contact@ncc-tu.org with "SHAD" in the subject line.

No need to re-subscribe if you received these reports in 2014; you are already subscribed. Two reports were emailed to subscribers this year, the latest, 2015 Shad Report Number 2, dated March 29, 2015.    


Updated 16 April 2015 by TOM 

The speakers at our February Shad Night focused on one of the area’s great fisheries.  This and every spring, when the dogwoods are in bloom, Washington area anglers have the chance to fish for white shad and hickory shad as the silvery spawners arrive on their annual run up the Potomac. The fish generally begin to arrive in early April when the water temperature reaches 55°. The shad stay until the water warms to over 60°, and they may remain here as long as six weeks. 

The banks of the Potomac from Fletcher’s Boat House to the Chain Bridge may be crowded with fisherman during weekends when the weather is pleasant, most of whom are trying to catch white perch and herring.  People use every method imaginable, including nets and snagging hooks. It isn’t an outing on a pristine trout stream, but there is a nice egalitarian feeling of community down there.

For spinning tackle, I use shad darts  in a tandem rig on a light to medium action outfit with 6-pound test line, and whenever possible, I use a fly rod for this fishing.  Both methods produce good results.
Shad fishing is done with weighted flies, tiny spoons or darts—brightly colored jigs that weigh from a 32nd to an 8th of an ounce. The techniques used are the same as in any other fishing with sinking lines and weighted flies in fast water.  You cast upstream about 45 degrees, keep a tight line as the fly swings downstream, and strip. I would follow the advice given to me when I first tried this kind of “chuck ‘n duck” casting: always wear glasses, a jacket and a hat, and of course, a personal flotation device. Depending on conditions, fly tackle could range from a 8-weight rod with a sinking line, to a 5-weight rod with lighter flies.  The fish are not leader shy.  I prefer an 8-weight outfit for the Potomac’s swift current.  I have had equal success fishing from a boat and fishing from shore. Fishing from the wooded shoreline often requires the spinning outfit.  

(continued in next column…)

Fletcher’s Cove Access Update:

The repair work on the Fletcher's Cove dock is now completed, and ready for the spring fishing season. 

Shad darts and flies are sold in local tackle shops.  Dan, Alex and others at Fletcher’s can sell you the hot colors of the moment.  There are many classic shad fly patterns described in the literature. I also recommend the shad flies available from The Urban Angler in Alexandria, in colors similar to the darts, e.g., red and white, green and white.  You can also tie your own shad flies--there is nothing like catching fish on flies you have made yourself.  The best local place to fish is in the Potomac from Fletcher’s Boat House to the Chain Bridge.  The fishing is said to be better on a moving tide and in dimmer light, but I have sometimes had good luck on slack tides with bright sun.  Anyone reading this knows that fishing is never an exact science. 

The District of Columbia has a zero bag limit for shad; the entire river at Fletcher's is in DC--the  border is on the Virginia shoreline.  Please carefully release all of your shad so they can spawn. Shad fishing is also reported to be good in the Rappahannock at the dam in Fredericksburg, and in other rivers along the East Coast, such as the James, Susquehanna, Delaware, Hudson and the Connecticut.  Give it a try.

Tight Lines,


Saturday Shad Outing and BBQ Postponed:

Because water in the Potomac is high, muddy, and rising with more rain predicted, the outing on Saturday, April 18 is being moved back one week to Saturday, April 25.  Watch this space for updates.