Fish history: The federal government used to farm fish near the Washington Monument

Fish Washington Monument

Who knew?!

“Starting around 1879, such species as carp, bass and shad were bred by the U.S. Fish Commission in large ponds just west of the Washington Monument….”

“In the summer of 1879, ponds started to be carved out in the area then known as the Potomac Flats. The ponds were the idea of Spencer F. Baird, a former Smithsonian curator — and future Smithsonian secretary — who had been tapped by President Ulysses S. Grant to head the U.S. Fisheries Commission. Baird noted the decrease in fish harvests across the country — due, he believed, to overfishing — and thought a breeding program could help replenish stocks. Such wild species as shad, bass and crappie would eventually be raised in the Washington Monument ponds, but the early attention was focused on a foreign fish: the carp.”

“Floods swamped the ponds in June 1889, sweeping no fewer than 4,000,000 baby fish into the raging waters of the Potomac….”

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-world-according-to-carp-answer-man-visits-the-fish-ponds-on-the-mall/2017/11/18/93965c98-caf0-11e7-aa96-54417592cf72_story.html?utm_term=.dcff9ce11f2e

Advertisements

Yes, big catfish come out in autumn in Washington, DC. I think.

IMG_20171104_081514539On October 1, I wondered aloud on this blog if big catfish come out in cool weather. Last year, I had my personal best on a sunny October day: a 37-pound catfish.

The answer is “yes,” although it is complicated by an additional variable. In the past 6 weeks, I have caught catfish weighing 40 pounds, 21 pounds, and I don’t know how many in the 10- to 15-pound range.

Case proven, right? Well, yes, but I also switched from fishing in the morning to fishing in the evening, usually between 8pm and 11am, although I did stay out until 1am one night. Catfish feed at all times of the day, but especially at night. And, it might also be the case that large catfish feed nocturnally more often. Regardless, for sure autumn is not a time to put away your catfishing rods.

All these big beasts were blue catfish, not channels, and they hit on both my stink chicken bait and on cuts of blue catfish meat.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. Perhaps the weather will permit me to slip out in the morning and head to the river to chase a side dish!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Does October Bring Big Catfish?


In late August and early September, I caught mostly smaller catfish. My hypothesis was that the fish of breeding age had gone off food to focus on baby-making, leaving the pipsqueaks to hit my baits. I’d put four or five rods out, get hits every 10 minutes, and bag a dozen fish in two or three hours. But only one or two of the catfish would be more than 20 inches or more than 1.5 pounds.

Come late September, the hits were less frequent, and when they came they were big, slow rod benders, bearing 3- to 5-pound fish. And on the first day of October, well, I hauled up a 21-pounder that was 38 inches long. The other five catfish featured a couple of two-pounders, a two three-pounders, and a pipsqueak that jumped on the corn bait I put out for  carp. (I did land a small carp in the shallows between the dock and the shore.)

Last October, I set my personal best at Fletcher Cove—a 37-pound blue catfish. I hauled him in maybe 20 minutes after I brought up a similarly sized beast that snapped my rig at the edge of the boat (ARG!) when I stupidly failed to deploy a net.

So, maybe after a few weeks of sweet loving and little eating, the big catfish emerge from their lairs hungry?

Thirty days remain in October, so we shall see if the days bring more big fish.

IMG_2900

Fishing Diamond Teague Park In Washington, DC

Kosar channel catfish 09-03-2017One word: catfish! Well, o.k., you can also snag bass, crappie, and bluegill at Diamond Teague Park. But I come for the catfishing.

Diamond Teague Park’s is located right behind the Washington Nationals’ stadium. It is open dawn until dusk.

Folks can rent kayaks and canoes there, and do. I inevitably fish from the dock, and not once have I been skunked in the 20 or so visits. Which is why I love the place. The view of the Anacostia and southern DC also is grand, and there are bars and eateries within walking distance.

Often the catfish are small: 12-16 inches, so do bring 4/0 circle hooks in case your 6/0 hooks are getting hits but not hook-ups. But bigger fish also can be had. Today, we had three cats 24-28″ in a 10-minute span. I used this Santee rig and this chicken stink bait. I twice have experimented here with fishing for catfish with a big slide bobber—it worked, although not as well as bottom-fishing with Santee rigs.

Catching Bluegill and Sunfish in the C&O Canal


I enjoy fishing for carp in the C&O Canal, but one needs to pass the time while waiting for the bell on the rod to ring. Sitting and staring at the carp rod for a half hour or more is a formula for madness.

So, why not cast for bluegill and sunfish, who can be taken on bobbered worms on little hooks (size 6)? These panfish are feisty little fighters, and they can be kept and used for catfish bait.

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.