Fletcher’s Cove, Washington, DC, December 12, 2014
I don’t know when I started doing it, but I know it began one year during shad season on the Potomac River at Fletcher’s Cove in Washington.

Maybe I overheard other anglers talking about it as I was quickly throwing fly fishing gear, a battery and electric trolling motor into a rowboat on a cold April morning. Or it could have been when I was standing in line with others, talking about the great, or not so great, fishing--hands stuck deep in our jacket pockets as we tried to keep warm while waiting for the Fletcher’s bait shack to open. But I know I started checking the tide first before selecting a boat. If the tide was high, no problem. Any boat would be ok. But if it was low or heading down, I only took boats that were moored on the far end of the line. In the deep water. Or just deep enough to make it out of the cove without getting stuck on the muddy bottom. And getting back in was also a chore--at low tide there was only a narrow channel open, barely deep enough for a boat to make it back into the cove.

According to a story about this problem by the National Capitol Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the siltation problem is a man-made problem that has been brewing for decades. There are many factors that contributed to this situation, like traditional agricultural practices and overdevelopment upstream, but the problem at the cove “worsened after the construction of Metro and the
(Potomac) Interceptor sewer project in the 1960s.”

The NCTU report explains that the excavated soil from this massive project “was dumped at the river’s edge just north of Fletcher’s Cove, with the intention of creating a more sheltered area for Fletcher’s Cove.” But seasonal flooding washed away this soil and soon “the cove began to fill in at an alarming rate.”

The NCTU report states that a “narrow channel was dug in the early 1980s to improve (water) flow “but it hit bedrock and it often clogged with debris, making it ineffective. Dredging projects only temporarily addressed the problem.
The cove continues to fill in.”