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.

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.

kosar-channel-catfish-02-06-2017

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.

Scoring Bluegill, Pumpkin Seeds, Small-mouth Bass, and Channel Catfish Near DuPont Circle

kevin-kosar-dupont-circle-fishing-10-2016Talk about urban fishing!

One can fish Rock Creek under the Lauzun’s Legion Bridge. There’s a slab where one can drop a line into the water about eight feet below. Pumpkinseed are plentiful, and bluegill also can be found. (Both can be used as bait for catfish.) They hit worms very hard, and can be landed with bread or dough balls too. A bobber can scare them away, so consider just dangling your bait in there and watching them come and strike.

Go here when the weather is above 50 degrees, otherwise you may not find fish here—the water is only a few feet deep. (Come winter fish move to deeper water that is less brisk.)

I have frequently seen small-mouth bass and small catfish (maybe 15 inches) in the water, but they have proven very leary to respond to the various lures and baits I have tossed their way.

Fishing Nanjemoy Creek at Friendship Farm Park on November 2, 2016

friendship-farm-park-nanjemoy-creek-11-2016The Nanjemoy Creek in Maryland is known to outsiders for its bass and catfish. Twice previously I’ve fished a different part of the creek, and the catfish were many and included a 12-pounder. I also twice had 30-pound leaders snapped by BIG catfish. (Lesson learned: loosen the drag so the fish can pull line out.)

This was the first time I fished Nanjemoy from Friendship Farm Park (4715 Friendship Landing Road, Nanjemoy, MD 20662). There is a nice pier to fish from, which is next to a boat launch. You do not need a fishing license to fish here. (The farm was private property transferred to the state’s custody, and Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources manages it.) There is ample parking, and when I visited on a weekday there was only one other angler, who was casting from the shore and catching perch and catfish with night crawlers.

The day I visited the temperature was about 60 degrees and rose to the low 70s. I was there from 9:30 to 12 during slack tide and then with the tide coming in.

I enjoyed my visit, but I was a little surprised that the only catfish biting chicken liver were small catfish. Real small—like a foot or so long. The other angler there caught a 24-inch blue catfish and an 18-incher around 8am. after that, she reeled in only pipsqueak catfish and white perch, which also hit the worms she was bottom-fishing.

For 2.5 hours, I had hit after hit—but they were tiny ones as you can see from this video. The rods dipped just a little and sporadically. (What you want to see is the rod bend forward and stay down, indicating the fish has taken the bait, run, and the hook has popped through its cheek.) The little catfish picked at the bait but were hard to hook on the big 8/0 circle hooks I was using.

Will I return to Friendship Farm Park again? Certainly. But I will come equipped with smaller hooks to use on at least one of the rods. These Mustad Size 4 treble hooks would do very well with chicken liver tied to them with Miracle Fishing Thread.

How to Tie a Simple Catfish Rig

Kosar Simple Catfish Rig 10-31-2016.jpgThere are various ways to tie catfish rigs. I used to use helicopter rigs because they are absurdly easy to tie and require only two things—a sinker and a hook. I first learned how to do one from this video.

But, the more I fished the Potomac River and Tidal Basin, the more I grew annoyed with helicopter rigs because they tend to get twisted—the hook portion of the line gets wrapped around the sinker line due to the water current. Don’t get me simple wrong—helicopter rigs are a fine way to start, and they can be used if you are short on gear (like if you’re in a boat and lose a nice rig and have insufficient materials to re-rig.). And helicopter rigs can work great if you buy some additional materials that keep the lines from twisting around each other. (See this photo. And, yes, some folks put the weight above the hook and others below it.)

This is sometimes called a “zero rig“—but I refer to it as a simple catfish rig because is shows  simple, clean profile—a single line with the hook at the end and a single sinker. here’s a 4-minute video I made showing how to make this rig. Below the video you will see links that will enable you to buy the various components (circle hook, flat sinkers, Lindy plastic beads, and 30- or 40-pound monofilament line).

I advise tying 3 or more of these rigs before you go to fish. Then clip them on to a swivel clip that’s attached to your reel line. This enables you to bait up quickly, and to replace a rig if one gets lost (due to a snag) or damaged. Enjoy!

How to Catch Catfish at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC

kosar-channel-catfish-tidal-basinPreviously, I wrote about fishing the Tidal Basin. The more I fish there, the more I am impressed.

There are so many fish. One can catch four types of catfish (blue, channel, flathead, and black bull), along with needlenose gar, bass (small-mouth and large-mouth), bluegill, crappie, golden redhorse, shad, perch, and stripers.

kosar-tidal-basin-fishing

Catfish Tips (including recommended bait and gear):

  1. The bite waned during the scorching temperatures in August. All I can guess is that the catfish fell into a heat-induced stupor. Conversely, the bite improved on the mornings when the temperature had suddenly dropped 10 degrees or more relative to the previous morning. (E.g., On Monday September 12, 2016 it was in the mid 60s whereas the morning before it was 75.)
  2. Once autumn’s chill hit, the catfish bit less often. Were they chilling far out in the center and deeper parts of the Basin? Beats me. Days when it was gray, breezy, and in the 50s the catfish were few. But, the catfish awoke on days when the thermometer rose above the mid-60s. Windy weather has been tough for fishing—the water flows faster, which disperses the scent of your bait and making it difficult for catfish to detect.
  3. In terms of bait, chicken livers have proven consistently successful. (Yes, cut bluegill also gets hits—but not as consistently in my Basin experience.) To keep the livers on a circle hook (size 8/0), wrap it with Atlas Mike’s Miracle Fishing Thread. Or, slip liver into Surgitube gauze before popping it on a hook. (Instructions on how to use Surgitube are in this short video.)
  4. A simple catfish rig uses 30-pound monofilament line, an 8/0 circle hook, a 3-ounce sinker, two plastic beads, and is topped with a double surgeon’s knot/loop. Here is my video showing how to make that kind of rig.
  5. The best spots I’ve found for catfishing the Basin are marked on this map with X’s.kosar-tidal-basin-catfishing-spots
  6. Parking: You can easily find free spots on Ohio Drive SW early in the morning—both before the little bridge at the southern end of the basin and past the bridge (just under the first big bridge across the Potomac).
  7. Cast a medium distance (50 feet). if you get no hits within 10 minutes, reel in and cast farther out. After 30 minutes, if you’ve not had any solid hits, then move to another spot and put out fresh bait.
  8. After you cast out and let the put your fishing pole in a hole and/or use a prop rod.
  9. Clip a bell on the end of the rod, and wait and watch. When a hit comes, the bell will jingle. Don’t touch the rod until it is bent over for a few seconds—this signals that the circle hook has penetrated the fish’s cheek.
  10. Use a long-handled net to help lift the fish out—catfish can snap your line by thrashing as you lift them out of the water. Having a net around the fish reduces the strain on your fishing line and ensures the fish does not escape even if it does break your line. (Short-handled nets, by the way, are better to use when catfishing in a boat)

As a closer, here’s a video by a great catfisherman that shows you Tidal Basin catfishing.