Fletcher’s Cove, Potomac River, Washington, D.C., April 10, 2021
After dropping the rock outside Fletcher’s Cove on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., I looked up at the sky and figured Jin and I might be in for some pretty good shad fishing today. The temperature was in the 60s, we had an overcast sky, and much clearer water flowing at a lower volume. The tide was so-so, but I figured as long as the water was moving, so would the shad.

It started off great. On the first cast for both of us, we each hooked and released a Hickory shad. The action would be on, we thought. We thought wrong. We spent the next 45 minutes to an hour practicing our cast. We would have a short strike or tug now and then, but nobody was willing to commit to a strong bite. Other boats weren’t having that much luck either.

We continued to fish and picked off a few now and then. I hooked and landed one of the biggest Hickory shad I had ever caught. At first Jin and I thought it was an American shad, based on the size of the fish when we first saw silver. When I got it alongside the rowboat, I could not get my hand around it to lift for a picture and with a flick of its tail it threw the barbless hook and was gone. Jin claimed that because there is no picture, I really did not catch a monster shad and it was really a herring.

Later in the day the sun burned through the overcast but the fishing did not improve. We pulled the rock and moved around to try different locations and although we would get a fish now and then, it was pretty slow.

Bass Master showed up in his canoe close to noon and anchored about 20 feet away from us. After 10 to 15 minutes he told us to move our boat close to his location. He found a school and they bite was on.

The three of us hammered the Hickories. Bass Master, with a double fly rig, was pulling them in two at a time. Jin and I had several dual hookups as we took full advantage of the situation.

The tide went slack around 1:30pm and the action just died. We decided to call it a day and return the boat. However Bass Master kept on fishing for the rest of the day and landed 80, five of which were large Americans.

EQUIPMENT: We used 8 weight rods, density-compensated full sink line, and flies in size 2 to 8 in various colors.

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 a traffic signal and the Abner Cloud House, a white stone building, which is next to the canal and will appear on your left if you approach the area from Key Bridge/Georgetown, or on your right from Chain Bridge.

WARNING: The entrance to Fletcher’s Cove is a very narrow entry/exit ramp that can accommodate only ONE car at a time so be very careful. It is VERY difficult to negotiate this ramp if you approach Fletcher’s Cove via Chain Bridge because it faces Key Bridge so you have to negotiate a difficult U-turn to enter. Park in the upper lot on your left or go through the tiny tunnel (clearance is 7 feet) to the lower parking lot and dock access.
During shad season the tackle shack opens at 6am. Rowboat rental is by reservation only via the
Boating In DC website, however there might be a few available for walkup rental. Rental fees are $28 for ONE HOUR, $56 for TWO HOURS, and $112 for FOUR HOURS. A late return fee is $25 and you might be placed on a “do not rent” list. Prices are subject to change.
You also need a D.C. fishing license which is $10 for D.C. residents and $13 for non-residents.

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. Canal Road becomes one way going towards Chain Bridge from 2:30 to 7pm.