Field & Stream Online Editors

POTOMAC RIVER: From Trout to Tidewater
The Potomac River’s once troubled waters are troubled no more. From its headwaters high in the Allegheny Mountains to its tidewater estuary near the nation’s capital, the formerly polluted Potomac has become one of the East’s most dynamic mixed-bag fisheries.

Its headwaters, once tainted by acid mine drainage, now harbor trout-browns, rainbows, and cutthroats better measured in pounds than in inches.

From the historic Fairfax Stone downstream to the Potomac’s junction with the Savage River, anglers can choose either of two stellar trout fisheries. The first flows roughly 4 miles along the southern boundary of Potomac State Forest, and the second extends 6 miles from Jennings Randolph Dam downstream to Luke, Maryland. The stretch below the dam has produced six state-record fish in the last five years.

Now that pollution from a giant paper mill has been cleaned up, the river between Luke and Cumberland is yielding white-hot fishing for 14- to 18-inch smallmouth bass.

Mixed-bag angling dominates the river between Cumberland and Washington, D.C. The river doubles in size below its junction with the fertile South Branch, and the rich waters teem with smallmouths, channel catfish, and record-class tiger muskies.

An unusual walleye fishery has sprung up near the river’s Great Falls. Early-spring anglers use stout rods rigged with live minnows to haul 5-pounders from the raging currents.

Just downstream, the tidewater Potomac boasts one of the nation’s finest largemouth bass fisheries. Anglers cast for deep-bellied bigmouths within sight of the White House and other landmarks. For more information, contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (410-260-8320;