Updated: Jul 30, 2019
We have it good in the DC area.
I love that I can find several viable prospects for fishing within 20 to 30 minutes of my home. The possibilities include small panfish in small water to stripers and large mouth bass in big water. The most epic of these is the Spring shad migration up the Potomac river, which can last from four to upwards of eight weeks between March and June.
The best way to learn about the Potomac shad migration is to subscribe to the National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited shad report or visit with the attendants at Fletcher’s Boathouse on Canal Road. Angler interest in this event can be overwhelming (both conventional spinning and fly rodders) with extended wait times for boat rentals from Fletchers to crowding on the river banks as far north as the Chain Bridge. On days when the shad run is strong, a few hours on the water can produce dozens of hook ups. A DC fishing license is required and all fish must be returned to the water as these species are protected on the Potomac River.
Even smaller water inside the beltway can produce enjoyable fishing experiences. The Virginia Department of Game and Fisheries stocks several local waters with trout in the Spring and Fall, including Accotink Creek and Holmes Run and occasionally Four Mile Run. A Virginia fishing license with trout permit is required and catch and release is generally obligatory. These same waters contain pan fish and smallmouth bass as well and a few hours of fly fishing with a dry fly or popper can be full of action and really fun.
Even the Chesapeake & Ohio canal provides a great opportunity for fishing, not just for pan fish and bass, but also monster carp. While the latter may not sound attractive, one of the most interesting fly rod excursions I have undertaken was for carp in the canal just inside the beltway between locks 8 & 10. Hook into a carp with a five-weight fly rod and expect to go for a ride!
When water gauge levels are reasonable, there are also great fishing prospects on the Potomac at the Gravelly Point Boat Ramp or on the other side of the GW Parkway on Roaches Run, as well as at Turkey Run Park. Another option is wading Four Mile Run near the Four Mile Run Park or at the discharge from the water pollution control plant, preferably on either side of the slack tide.