Fletcher’s Cove, Washington, D.C., March 25, 2017
I didn’t have very high expectations for a great day of fishing. It was early in the season. The water was cold. It was not even April yet. The Hickories and Americans couldn’t possibly be here in any numbers. I was wrong.

It was the first weekend of boat rentals and the unofficial start of the 2017 shad season at Fletcher’s Cove. But the water temperature was 47 degrees--cold for shad fishing, which is usually best when it hits the mid 50s. But it was going to be a beautiful Spring day and I just wanted to get out and on the water. I tried to get a few shad in February, and
that outing was a disaster. So I was looking forward to spending some time on the water, work out the kinks in the tackle before the real shad fishing got hot later in April, and maybe hook a fish or two before leaving around noon to do some afternoon yard work at home.

I arrived at the cove around 5am and there was already a crowd lined up at the rental kiosk. I grabbed my gear, looked for a boat with a good rock, then after filling out the registration forms I was on my way out to fish the Potomac River.

There are only 18 rowboats for rent, the others are still being refurbished, and they were quickly spoken for. By dawn there was a line of boats spread out across the water. Some folks were fishing for Striped Bass, judging from their heavy tackle. Most were after Hickory or, maybe, if you’re lucky, American Shad.
There was also an incredible procession of power boats moving upriver to fish for Striped Bass up at Chain Bridge. All types of boats--pure fishing rigs, bass boats, converted cruisers, duck barges and even a strange low freeboard catamaran rig called a CraigCat, outfitted with rod holders and a big-ass engine.

I fished for awhile and got a couple bites but brought nothing to hand. Around 8:34am, I landed my first Hickory of the season. After a quick photo and release I received a phone blast from Paul “Bass Master” C, who had arrived at the cove parking lot with his red canoe. In about 10 minutes he was anchored near me and after sharing some fishing intel with him we were both hooking and landing shad.
The fishing ran hot, then cold, then hot again. When a school of shad were in our area we would get multiple bites, doubling up in some instances. Then it would go cold, with no action for up to 20 minutes. Then the bite would be on again. We kept this up for most of the day, but when the sun began to settle we decided we’d had enough and called it a day.

If the shad were biting like this, with cold water and low expectations, then I expect the coming run to be awesome.

DIRECTIONS: Fletcher's Boat House is located on the Potomac River in Washington, DC, two miles north of Key Bridge and one mile south of Chain Bridge, at the intersection of Reservoir Road and Canal Road. You will know you have reached the entrance to Fletcher's when you see the traffic lights and the Abner Cloud House, an old white stone building, which is next to the canal, and will appear on your left if you approach from Key Bridge, or it will be on your right approaching from Chain Bridge. The Fletcher’s boat rental office usually opens at 7am, but when the shad sare biting hot and heavy they open earlier to accommodate anglers. You can get a D.C. fishing license and a boat at the rental kiosk. They also sell basic fishing equipment, bait, lures, hot dogs, candy, chips, drinks and ice cream.

WARNING: The entrance to Fletcher’s Cove is a very narrow ramp that can accommodate only ONE car at a time. There is a stop light and a small pull-off area where a car can wait for the light to turn without blocking incoming access. Use it! It is also very easy to drive past the Abner Cloud House, so be alert. And it is REALLY difficult to negotiate this ramp if you approach Fletcher’s Cove via Chain Bridge because the entry ramp will be facing away from your direction of travel. There is NO RAMP facing Chain Bridge. Park in the upper lot on your left or go through the tiny tunnel (if you have anything on roof racks, I suggest checking the tunnel height BEFORE entering) to the lower parking lot and dock access.

WARNING ON WEEKDAYS: Both lanes of Canal Road become ONE WAY into and out of the District during morning and evening rush hour during the weekdays. If you're hitting Fletcher's in the morning and following the route above you have until 5:30am to get there. If you miss this window you must wait until 10:20am because all traffic on Canal Road is ONE WAY into the city. You must use Canal Road via Chain Bridge in the morning and trying to make the u-turn into Fletcher's during rush hour traffic can really get the blood pounding! Canal Road becomes one way going towards Chain Bridge from 2:30 to 7pm, so you have to hang a sharp U-turn, in rush hour traffic, when you leave if you’re heading towards Chain Bridge.