Fish I Have Caught in the C&O Canal in Washington, DC

It is the simplest of rigs: monofilament line tied to a modest swivel, then attach a trim bobber 6 inches above it and put an Eagle Claw snelled hook (size 6) on. Put a worm on (put the hook through both ends and the middle), and cast and watch.

I have had the following fish strike this rig and bait: bluegill, sunfish, large-mouth bass, channel catfish, and a carp.

The map above shows where I have had success—but don’t feel obliged to try only there. Fish run through the canal, which runs from Pennsylvania to Washington, DC. Wherever one finds a bridge or a fallen tree or brush in the water—those are good places to cast your bait.

One question I sometimes get is, “How can fish be in the canal?” Simple: the canal connects to Rock Creek and the Potomac River—so the fish in the latter two end up in the canal.

Bike/walking/running trails (former towpaths) run along the canal—so if you fish one spot and find it wanting, move along!

Kosar large-mouth bass 04-2017

Photo credit: Craig Furuta.

Shad Fishing at Fletcher’s Cove in Washington, DC on April 13, 2017

What. A. Day. I arrived at 7:30am, just 30 minutes after the tackle shop at Fletcher’s opened. every boat was rented. I was down, and considered going home.

But the sun was shining and the mercury was at maybe 55 degrees and it was a lovely morning. So I walked north past the boat dock to see if I might have some luck from the shore.

My first spot, a rocky outcropping right at the edge of the cove was a disaster. First cast I snagged and lost my two-dart rig. I seriously pondered packing it in. But with so many boats on the Potomac River and shad leaping and splashing, I had to try.

I am very glad I did. VERY.

I caught around two dozen shad from a muddy spot just south of what I call the catfishing peninsula. I had four of them in the first 25 minutes. And the fish were big. The smallest ones were 8″, but I consistently got fish 12 to 16 inches long. Below is a video of one of the whoppers. All the shad fought hard, and my line was busted three times. (I am inclined to switch super light braided line—maybe green—which will not break so easily and is much easier to tie, especially when it is sunny or windy. Or 10-pound clear monofilament will work.)

You can see from the video above that my rig was a small tri-swivel tied to my line (4-pound monofilament) and two darts (one chartreuse and one yellow), with one dart on about 22 inches of line and the other on about 16 inches.

As the video shows, you cast, then begin reeling once the darts hit. Frequently you’ll get hit in 5 seconds or less. You also might find yourself with shad on both darts, which makes reeling all the more an adventure.

Kosar Two Shad at once 04-13-2017

I wear a size 12 shoe, which shows how big these shad were. Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar.

Oh memo to the novice: shad leap from the water and thrash alot, so keep the line tight and rod bent as you reel them in, otherwise they can pop themselves off the hook. And bring a net to scoop them in—lifting them straight from the water may get you a broken line or allow the fish to leap free.

Update: Additional experiments revealed that casting single darts (chartreuse, yellow, and orange) worked just fine. Switching to orange after working chartreuse heavily got positive results. Also, in slack tide, you cast and start revealing a second or three after the cast. As current builds, you may need to count to 10 or more before you slow reel so as to to let the dart sink down.

Fly Fishing for Trout in Hot Springs, Virginia, March 24, 2017

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My first rainbow trout. Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar

I tried fly fishing for the first time yesterday. Boy is it different from chucking for bass or going deep for catfish.

To give me half a chance of succeeding, I hired an Orvis-trained guide from Allegheny Activities in the Homestead, a grand old hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia.

I was outfitted with chest-high waders and an Orvis 8’6″ 5-wt Clearwater rod.

We fished the Cascades Stream in five different spots. I scored a young, wild rainbow trout, and got hits a half-dozen other times. I had a big trout on my hook for 45 seconds or so, but lost him because I had the line too tight. (He swam upward and popped the hook out.)

The pointers I picked up up from Chris, my unbelievably knowledgeable guide, include:

  1. Trout eat year round and can be fished year round.
  2. Trout love bugs, especially the bugs that are alive and active at the time of year when you are fishing. (Different bugs, different stages of life—hence oodles of flies in the fly fisherman’s arsenal.)
  3. Fishing on cloudy days is preferable — trout have very good eyes, and if they see you they won’t bite.
  4. The thinner the line at the end, the less visible it is to the trout. So a fly rod will have three different lines: the thick very visible fly line, the much thinner leader and the still thinner tippet (to which the fly is tied).
  5. Trout like heavily oxygenated water—which can be found right after a rapids area. They almost inevitably face upstream, waiting for the current to bring them something tasty.
  6. Throw your fly upstream and the trout will charge forward for it or watch it go by and double downstream to chase it.
  7. After you cast upstream, flip the line to create a pocket of line that will float the fly downstream. When the fly has drifted by, slowly lift it from the water and keep an eye out for pursuit strikes.
  8. Try dry flies if the trout look like they are biting at the surface; try nymphs to see if they want to hit beneath the water. (Again, pay attention to the bugs—are they hovering over the water? And turn over some rocks in the stream to see what nymphs are under them, and choose a nymph fly that looks like them. If a bee or yellow jacket nest hangs above the water, don;t be surprised if you see trout hanging out beneath it waiting for a stinging bug to bumble into the water. Try a fake bee or yellow jacket fly.)
  9. Streamers are used when you want to elicit an underwater bite through busy action. (Here is a good primer.) To create movement and rises and falls in the streamer, one strips (pull in) line with the left hand (use your right index finger or pinky to keep the slack line you’re bringing in from fouling the reel.
  10. Dry flies can get soaked with water and start sinking. So, false-cast the fly quickly through the air, whipping it back and forth.
  11. When fishing nymphs or streamers, you the newbie should use a strike detector—a small float place a good ways up the line. Seeing an underwater fly is very tough—hence the strike detector, which will dive or jerk sharply when there is a hit.
  12. Speaking of a hit, when it happens quickly pop your wrist upright to set the hook, and maintain some tension as you wear the trout down as it runs. The fly line at the end is very lightweight and can snap if you yank it.
  13. If the stream is running quickly, it may be hard to get the nymphs or streamers down low to where the trout are. So, tiny split shot lead sinkers may be added up the line.
  14. I imagined that fly fishing for trout inevitably meant casting into shallow waters. This was not entirely right. My guide Chris had me work one spot that was 18-foot deep. We used a hefty streamer and splits shots and we let the fly drift then sink 6 to 10 feet down. I got bites during the initial drop, and also deep down. That’s where I got hold of a big trout that I kept on hook for 45 seconds or so.
  15. Wet your hands before handling a trout—it has oil on its body that can be damaged by dry hands. Lift the fish with your palms up. Return it to the water promptly with its face upstream, and hold it above the tail until it is strong enough to take off.

There are innumerable other tips and such, but this is what I presently recall from yesterday’s trip. If I got anything wrong or if you want to share any tips, please post below.

Kosar wild torut caught 03-24-2017b.jpg

Catfishing Near Reagan National Airport, February 6, 2017


Near where Four Mile Run feeds into the Potomac and just south of the airport is a place to catch catfish, according to Elstan Perez and Luke of Catfish & Carp. Both these guys were fishing this spot in December 2016 and January 2017 when the weather appeared to be in the 40s. (Elstan tells me it was mid-50s when he was there.)

Elstan used cut yellow perch; Luke used a carp rig with panko-jello-corn pack bait and frozen cut shad on a 4/0 hook.

Where to park? Elstan writes: “parking cost me $17 Long term economy parking [at Reagan airport]. You can find parking across the bridge at the grocery store or somewhere nearby for free if you didn’t want to walk half a mile or more.” And he bought two perch for $2.50 at Fresh World market.

So I gave it a whirl, and you can get full details here. Yes, I got a catfish, and you can see the video of it here.

Two pieces of advice: consider parking at Potomac Yards Shopping Center for free. And do bring some sort of stakes to prop up your fishing pole, as the stream’s shore is a mix of long grass and rocks held under wiring.

Reeling in a Channel Catfish (2 min 32 seconds)

Bluegills, Bass, and Catfish at Four Mile Run, February 6, 2017


This is urban fishing, for sure. Upfront I should say that this is not an easy place to fish for anyone who is not in decent condition. To fish Four Mile Run stream (history here) requires keeping one’s balance on a slope made of rocks and covered with metal fence-like material. It is slippery, and there is plenty of brush and such.

But the hassles are worth it. Four Mile Run stream offers lights-out fishing. There are tons of bluegills (easily taken on a size 6 snell, bobber, and worm) and large-mouth bass (I scored mine of a pumpkin green Senko worm Texas-rigged. Cast, let it drop for a few seconds, and slow reel in.) The bass range from pipsqueaks (6 inches) to hogs (7 pounds). Guys fishing drop-shot rigs with Senko and Zoom worms tend to do very well here. One inevitable challenge around this bridge is snags—they happen a lot.

Bluegill and bass are plentiful near and under the Jefferson Davis Highway bridge (south side of the stream).

Kosar bluegill 02-0602017.jpg

Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar.

To chase catfish, walk eastward all the way to where the creek meets the Potomac River (map here). I put out four lines today with fresh cut bluegill. I had two serious bites in two hours, and one produced a 10-pound channel catfish. It was a sizable one, but there are much bigger ones in there—forty to fifty pounders have been recorded by guys on FishBrain. The water level rises and falls, but fishing seems to be good here whatever the tide.

You can park in the Potomac Yards parking lot, which puts you a few minute walk from entry to the stream edge next to Jack Taylor Alexandria Toyota. Yes, you could get towed from the shopping center lot, in theory, but I have staved off this threat thus far by buying drinks and snacks from Shoppers and leaving the receipt and shoppers plastic bag on my dashboard.

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Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar.

2/7/2017 Update

Turns out the same day I was here, the Metropolitan Angler was landing small bass with a Rapala hard bait. You can see him do it in this video, and you can watch me pull in this catfish.

Fishing for Striped Bass in Montauk, New York on August 17, 2016

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Ten-year old Robert Kosar with a 40-inch striped bass. Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar

Doh! I meant to post this entry long ago. Oh, well, better late than never.

What. A. Fishing. Trip.

We left Montauk on a charter boat at about 7am. I made the bad mistake of staying up late the night before, consuming bourbons aplenty, and then eating greasy bacon while on the pitching boat. I had never been seasick previously, or ever had any sort of motion sickness. Live and learn.

Nonetheless, the sun shined and the huge (16-inch?) fake eel lures we used scored one striper after another, along with a few bluefish, out past the famed Montauk Lighthouse. (See the video at the bottom of this post of one of our fish being brought in.)

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Note the red and yellow artificial eel lures. Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar.

The fishing style was simple: The mate would let out 100 foot or more line while the boat trolled. Then he handed it to you, who sits in one of the two seats (see photograph below). You do not allow more line to go out, and you sit with the rod across your lap and a firm grip. Keep your hands apart, with one over and one under—like you are holding a hockeystick. Then WHAM! the rod yanks and you then have to reel in the stainless steel line smoothly while distributing it across the whole of the reel (otherwise it can bird nest). My arms felt like jelly after our 3.5 hours out there.

Captain Richard Etzel and his mate were great. Charters can be scheduled by calling 631-668-2914. The website is http://www.breakawaysportfishing.com/. If I make it to Long Island this year, you can be sure I’ll get on this boat again.

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Captain Richard Etzel’s Breakaway. Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar.