C & O Canal National Historic Park


Fishing is one of the most popular activities along the C & O Canal and the Potomac River. There are a number of species, both native and introduced game fish. The introduced fish are the smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish, blue catfish, and rock bass, bluegill sunfish, blue catfish, and rock bass. Brown and rainbow trout are stocked in some of the mountain tributaries. The native fish include black and white crappies, chain pickerel, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, white cat, channel cat, and American eel. Brook trout are native to a few headwater streams.

On the Potomac, fishing changes from one stretch of the river to another. Deep-water bass fishing can be had near Shepherdstown, mile post 70. Near Harpers Ferry the river below Dam 3 is good for catfish, and bass, near mile post 60. On the river near lock 34 a deep channel offers good crappie fishing in the spring and fall, at mile post 61. Whites Ferry offers good crappie fishing, too, sometimes even in winter because effluent from the power plant at Dickerson warms the river water (mile post 35). Carp and catfish fishing is good near the Point of Rocks Bridge, at mile post 48, and at the mouth of the Monocacy, mile post 42. At Chain Bridge, below Little Falls, hickory shad and herring swarm by the thousands in spring, and other species can be caught through the summer and fall, (mile post 4). Ask at Fletcher's Boathouse for information about fishing the river nearby. April weekends find anglers lined on the river near Chain Bridge to catch, often by the buckets full, herring and shad fighting their way upriver in the annual spring spawning run. Alewife, blueback herring, hickory shad, and American shad spawn in freshwater at the head of tidal sections of many East Coast rivers. So do white perch and striped bass. Little Falls, mile post 6, constitutes an obstacle that concentrates them in a narrow channel convenient for fishing.

Anglers go after smallmouth bass as the premier game fish. September and October are the best months for smallmouth, although they can be caught throughout the warmer months. Bass haunt riffles and rapids, feeding on aquatic insects. Bass fishing is at its finest on the Potomac between the Monocacy River and Hancock, mile posts 42-125. Most popular is the stretch between Brunswick and Knoxville, mile posts 55-57. However, President Herbert H. Hoover preferred to do his bass fishing below Little Orleans, mile post 140. President Grover Cleveland liked to fish near Edwards Ferry, mile post 30.

When fishing the Canal, slow the pace. It's a great place to think and enjoy the scenery. Blue and channel catfish, carp, several sunfish species, and pickerel predominate with occasional bass. Watered sections of the canal are from Georgetown to Seneca mile posts 0-23; at Big Pool and Little Pool, mile posts 113-120; and a short stretch from Town Creek to Oldtown, mile posts 163-167. Widewater, just below Great Falls on the canal, provides good fishing for several species, including bass, at mile post 14. Big and Little Pools, mile posts 113 and 120 respectively, offer the most variety, including white and yellow perch and crappie along with the more commonly widespread species.

Seasoned anglers in the Washington DC area offer a number of tips for good fishing. The Washington Channel is good almost year-round, but spring is best. Use lures or brown rubber worms, cut meat, liver, earthworms, crawfish, or live minnows. Bass is a popular catch at this spot. To catch carp, use dough balls made from bread or flour paste. Some anglers add cornmeal and fruit jam to the dough balls. Earthworms and blood worms also work well. Regulations for fishing along the canal conform to the license requirements of the laws of Maryland. Any person 16 years of age or older must have a valid license to fish at the state's no-tidal waters or rewatered sections of the canal.

You can obtain a copy of the latest Maryland Sport Fishing Guide by contacting: Information Division, Dept. of Natural Resources, Tawes State Office Building Annapolis, MD 21401. The U.S. Weather Bureau provides a taped message on river conditions in the lower Potomac Valley. Call 703-260-0305. Maps are available for pickup at the Earth Science Information Center, Room 2650, Department of the Interior, E Street between 18th and 19th streets in Washington, DC. The Parks and History Association sells maps and books about the C & O Canal at some information centers and by mail. For a free list, call 202-472-3083.

BOAT RAMPS: 22.8 Seneca, 30.8 Edwards Ferry, 35.5 Whites Ferry, 42.2 Monocacy River, 44.6 Nolands Ferry, 48.2 Point of Rocks, 55.0 Brunswick, 64.9 Dargan Bend, 76.6 Snyders Landing, 80.9 Taylors Landing, 85.5 Big Slackwater, 99.8 Williamsport, 109.0 Four Locks, 110.4 McCoys Ferry, 112.4 Ft. Frederick, 124.5 Little Tonoloway, 140.9 Fifteen Mile Creek (Little Orleans), 156.0 Paw Paw Tunnel (canoes only), 173.3 Spring Gap, 175.5 North Branch (canoes only).

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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