Potomac River, Washington, D.C., April 10, 2018
After a few days of high water on the Potomac River shut down the rowboat rentals at Fletcher’s Boathouse, it was once again safe to continue fishing the annual Shad Run.

I took advantage of a cool, clear afternoon, and with permission from The Boss, I was soon heading down Canal Road to the cove. When I exited the tunnel I saw that there were a lot of boats still tied up to the dock, unlike several afternoons in 2017 when I found myself sitting on shore waiting for a boat to return.

I quickly checked out a boat with a good rock, loaded my gear and parked the car. I was in a big rush to get out on the water to do some fishing.

Familiarity breeds carelessness. And I was in a rush. I stepped off the dock onto the gunnel of the freshly-painted rowboat. In a second, I was standing waist deep in Fletcher’s Cove. Boy, that water was cold. I hauled myself over the side of the boat along with my muck-filled sneakers and about a gallon of Potomac River. I quickly looked around. It was wonderful. Nobody saw me flop into the cove. I quickly cranked up the electric motor and headed out.

I dropped the rock just outside a good seam that I fish often. I rinsed off my shoes and used a small bailing bucket and a towel to clean up myself and the boat before settling in to fish.

The water was still very dirty from storm runoff and it was moving fast. There was a lot of garbage floating downstream and I had to be especially careful to keep my hooking to Shad and not submerged logs.
The fishing was decent, but slow. I would get a flurry of strikes—sometimes on every cast—then it would be nothing for the next 15 to 20 minutes. However, after spending the weekend ashore with no boat rentals, I gladly took whatever the Shad run decided to serve up. Even an unexpected swim at Fletcher’s Cove.

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 are 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. 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, so you will probably have to drive backwards down the ramp. Park in the upper lot on your left or continue through the low tunnel (if you have a large SUV or van with roof racks, I suggest checking the tunnel height BEFORE entering) to the lower parking lot and dock access. Watch out for cars exiting the tunnel!

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 to get on Canal Road BEFORE 6am. 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. Canal Road goes the other way, towards Chain Bridge, from 2:45 to 7:15pm.