Thousands of automobiles roll past it every day, their occupants — some could be fishermen from other locales - blissfully unaware that the large, rock-strewn cove known as the Spoils might very well be the most consistently productive cold-weather fishing spot on the upper tidal Potomac River. It’s but a stone’s throw from the I-295 exit lanes that take motorists from Maryland across the Wilson Bridge into Virginia.
Boaters approach the Spoils from the main stem of the river, but shoreline anglers can park alongside busy I-295, away from the No Parking signs, and hike a short distance through a small stand of woods to reach the water. Do not ignore the signs. You risk being towed if you do.
The Spoils’ relatively small acreage is home to largemouth bass, crappies, sunfish, yellow and white perch, carp and — of late — even Chinese snakeheads. Throughout the cold months the fish are willing because the water temperature in the cove is generally higher because of clean, warm-water releases upstream at the Blue Plains Waste Treatment Plant, plus the cove’s mixed depths hold good populations of minnows and other baitfish that serve as welcome food for all the species fishermen search for.
A few days ago, local bass fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski and I fished for crappies along the outside edges of the Spoils, in an area where the water depths fell from 3 feet to more than 10 feet. We cast chartreuse-colored curly-tailed grubs into the shallower water, then slowly dragged and hopped the fake food into the deeper layers. The grubs had been pushed onto one-eighth-ounce jig hooks and were dabbed with a fish attractant known as Smelly Jelly.
In less than an hour, the pro guide and I caught enough sassy crappies to feed two families. To be sure, there are days when the fish act as if they have lockjaw, especially if the tides stand still. But if the water moves from flood toward an ebb tide, chances are you’ll find some kind of action inside and outside the Spoils Cove.
What about the river bass?: Mann’s Sting Ray grubs, Berkley Gulp grubs and deep-running crankbaits have been fooling largemouth bass from the Belle Haven Marina coves in Alexandria down to the deeper drops in Gunston Cove, Pohick Bay, Occoquan River and Aquia Creek portions on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. Maryland’s Mattawoman Creek bass have been hanging around the edges of dropoffs next to up-creek marsh banks where the water falls from a few down to 9 and 10 feet.
Maryland Chesapeake Bay happenings: The rockfish parade continues. Reports of ocean-size stripers come from the Calvert Cliffs area of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as Hooper’s Island Light, Buoy 72A and the Middle Grounds, but also from the mouth of the Patuxent River and the lower ends of the Potomac. Some of the Potomac’s better rockfish hookups have occurred just south of St. George’s Island, and they’ve continued clear down to Point Lookout on the Maryland side, as well as Smith Point over in Virginia waters.
The fishing never stops: In south-central Virginia, the two large freshwater impoundments known as Lake Gaston and neighboring Kerr Reservoir continue to deliver fishing action. From Gaston, our friend Marty Magone reports, “Up-lake main channel edges are giving up good numbers of bass and stripers on crankbaits. Good catches are possible between Smith Creek and the Route 1 Bridge. At Kerr (aka Buggs Island Lake), large blue catfish, some well-fed stripers and a good mix of bass and fat crappies are keeping visitors busy and smiling. By the way, The tidal James River just south of Richmond is turning up whopping-size blue catfish.
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