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.

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)

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.

Catfishing on the Potomac River Near the Watergate, January 29, 2017

catfishing-near-the-watergate-01-29-2017Metropolitan Angler, who posts videos on YouTube, fishes here. He brought in at least two blue catfish that were 24 inches or more on January 20, 2017. (The temperature that day was about 45 degrees.)

So I decided to give it a try on January 29, 2017. I am very glad I went.

It was 45 degrees and overcast, and the tide was very low. One can park at Thompson’s boathouse (there are meters) or on Virginia Ave NW. One walks on the sidewalk through the intersection of Rock Creek Parkway and Virginia Ave NW toward the Watergate and Kennedy Center—the spot is only a couple hundred feet past the intersection.

My expectations were low, but I had a good hour of fishing. I rigged four rods: 2 steel helicopter rigs that each had two 4/0 circle hooks baited with thawed cut sunfish and a 3-ounce pyramid sinker. The other two rods had my standard catfish rig with an 8/0 circle hook rig baited with Surgitube bag jammed with chicken liver and a 3-ounce flat sinker.

In short, both rigs and baits proved attractive to catfish. We were there only one hour but caught an approximately 12-pound blue catfish (on the sunfish) and had bites (on the sunfish and the chicken livers twice).

Be careful—there is no rail and the drop to the water is at least 10 feet if not more (when the tide is out). This is no place for toddlers or young kids.

And forget bringing a net, unless it has an unbelievably long handle. The water is way beneath your feet, so best to use very heavy line (25-pound or more) because hauling a thrashing catfish up through the air puts huge strain on your line.