Louse Point is a little spit of land in the Springs section of East Hampton. It is a fine place to fish for young bluefish (AKA snappers), porgy, and more. At times it can be a bit buggy, what with teeny buggers landing on one’s hands (which is annoying) or greenhead flies and deer flies. So consider wearing long pants and long sleeves, despite the heat. And bring bug spray, which helps. To get the gear you need to catch snappers and porgies, try the Tackle Shop in Amagansett.
The frequently rainy spring bedeviled shad fishermen. Heavy rains fall, then the shad are un-catchable for four or five days.
My previous trips inevitably brought shad, but it was hit or miss. This morn began the same way: three shad in the first 10 casts (7:45am) followed by 30 minutes of futility, one shad, then 20 minutes of futility. Come 10am, I had all of 10 shad in 2+ hours.
Then the tide really started to flow out, and the run was on. I bagged 40 or so fish in the next two hours, most of which were caught on the simplest rig: a silver or brass spoon at the end and a couple of big splitshot sinkers a couple feet up the line. Cast long, count to two as it falls, and reel back and medium speed. Neither the color nor the size of the spoon made a difference—the shad pounced. My rod hand actually got a blister from the friction as I hauled out one fighting shad after another. And my left hand is all scraped up from grabbing shad so that I could remove the hook. Beat-up paws and sore forearm muscles—these are signs of a very good day of shad fishing!
Spring has come, and the shad are running up the rivers and waterways of the east coast. Here in Washington, DC, shad come in from the ocean, through the Chesapeake Bay, and up the Potomac River. (Map here.) They make the journey from salty to fresh water to spawn.
Conveniently, the Potomac narrows in northwest DC, and angler flock to Fletcher’s Cove in mid-March and April to catch some of the bazillions of shad that stack up.
This spring has been rainy, which swells the river and makes it cloudy. It is tough to catch shad when they cannot see the darts and spoons, and a swollen river is a dangerous river. (See the rig below.)
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!
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.
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 reeling 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.
This is one of the blue catfish that I caught in Nanjemoy Creek. The catfish there sure love to hit on fresh chicken livers. (I did see one young lady score small catfish on big earth worms, but I have not tried them myself.)
This fish was 28 inches and close to 10 pounds. A nice one—but there are some beasts in the creek. Twice I have seen 30-pound test line snapped by sudden massive hits. (This is what happens if you do not leave you drag loose enough—or if the fish manages to jerk the line under a log or somesuch.)
The 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.