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Winter is Here!

No question, it's the winter fishing season. There will be exceptions to the season when fishing warm water discharge areas. Otherwise, downsize line and slow down.

Water temperature is around 40. There might be a few degree warm-up with sun, hard surfaces, and with either an incoming or outgoing tide. Usually outgoing tides near D.C. being warmer water. Start the week in the mid 40s, then mid 30s, and into the mid 20s by midweek. A slight warming trend into the weekend. But overnight lows below freezing!

If you venture out, wear a PFD! Dress appropriately! And leave a float plan with someone who cares about you. Fishing will be decent, but fishing must be slow and deliberate. However, in warm water discharge areas, Blue Plains, Four Mile Run, and Possum Point, suspending Lucky Craft Pointer 78 jerkbaits on 10 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line will work. Make long casts and work natural colored baits. Topwaters aren't out of the question if fished slowly.

For the rest of the river, use Silver Buddy blade baits. The 1/2-ounce silver when sunny and the gold when cloudy will work down drops. Choose out of the current areas, close to deep water. Make casts to 3-foot depths and allow the bait to hit bottom. Slight raises of the tip to burp the bait and then allow to drop on semi slack 10-pound test Edge line. Quantum's new Vapor baitcast reel is fast enough and has a smooth drag. Pair it with a medium action Quantum KVD cranking rod. Work the bait down the drop and take note of what depth bites occur. Focus on these depths.

Mix in Mizmo tubes with an insert head and Mann's Stingray grubs on 1/4-ounce ball head jigs.

Capt. Steve Chaconas is a guide on the Potomac River


Open the tacklebox and go fishing! You’ll be able to use spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits and even possibly some topwater (primarily during the warmest part and lower tide of the day!). Bridges in DC are good for smallmouth, largemouth and stripers using pilings as current breaks and in the dead zone waiting for prey. Depth and how bass are using cover are more important now as water drops to 45 degrees and below. Slow down and keep baits into these zones.  The Spoils, Smoot Bay (National Harbor), Fox Ferry, Hogg Island, Belle Haven, Oxen Cove, Blue Plains, are the typical Potomac River hangouts. Also check out the warm water discharge at Possum Point. Colder water, fish slower and generally deeper.  Some fish are shallow and easier to catch just about every day especially in stable weather. Several techniques produce under most conditions. Most are slow presentations!

Start with main river points and work your way north ambushing them at creek points of shallow creeks like Piscataway and Broad.  Into the deeper creeks, follow them in the ditches and channels.  In the Wilson Bridge area, follow the excavation ditches rimming the Spoils and Smoots (National Harbor).  Fish closer to drops near water 10 feet deep when temperatures get down to 45, and near 4-6 foot drops when water is 50 or above. Look for deep water close by and sharp drops in those areas to find wintering bass.  In Blue Plains, expect more active fish.  When water gets below 45, cast and work 1/2-ounce Silver Buddy’s down drops on the bottom with short “burps” on 12-pound test Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon on a medium action Quantum casting rod with a Quantum Vapor reel. I prefer casting gear, as they are easier to cast while wearing HANZ Extremity Wear waterproof gloves.

For plastics fishing, downsize to 8 or even 6-pound test Edge to feel more bites when water gets colder and fish aren’t aggressive.  They’ll feel the drag of “bigger lines” and let go, before you feel them.  Also, you’re fishing deeper and further from the boat than in summer.  Thinner lines get to the bottom and stay in wind and current.  You’ll feel bites better and have less drag in the water for hooksets.  Using a faster Quantum Smoke spinning reel is best for these lines and to take up line on long casts. Downsized baits like Mann’s 3-inch avocado Stingray grub on 1/4 ounce round jig heads made with Mustad hooks worked slowly down drops will produce. A dab of PRO’s Soft Bait Glue keeps the Stingray on. A good soaking in garlic Jack’s Juice spray attractant keeps fish holding on longer with all soft plastics! TIP: keep the bag in your pocket to keep the Stingrays warm…they go on the hook easier!

Drag 4-inch tubes with MIZMO tube heads, gliding down drops. Green pumpkin Mizmo tubes are the best place to start. Other colors: Blue Craw, Green Pumpkin Copper. Try MIZMO 4 inch grubs with the tail rigged UP on a 1/4-ounce round jig head.

Use drop shot once fish are found.  A 3/16-ounce Water Gremlin Bullshot weight is perfect in current on 8-pound test GAMMA Copoly line. A 2/0 Mustad wide gap Mega Bite worm hook works with Mann’s 4-inch Super Finesse worms.  Feel pressure, set the hook.  Remember, you’re using lighter line; you don’t need a giant hookset. This is a great way to catch them at Blue Plains. Probe flats near drops and points in Spoils and Smoots with split shot rigs with 3/16 ounce Water Gremlin Bullshot weights and Carolina rigs.  Use a 2/0 Mustad Ultra Point Mega Bite hook with Mann’s 4-inch Super Finesse worms.

This month use Punisher Jigs in black/blue, green/orange and green-pumpkin/orange with plastic matching chunks. Insert a Punisher metal rattle, the loudest attachable rattle you can find and it will not come off! Pitch to cover, drops and flats near drops and let it sit, occasionally shaking.  Really good at Blue Plains, just let current move the bait.  Most bites are light pickups, watch line!

When water is a bit warmer to around 50, target shallower fish with a tight wiggle crankbait.  Mann’s Loudmouth III dives about 4 feet deep with 10-pound test line. The Loudmouth has rattles, better in slightly stained water. You can also go deeper with Mann’s 15+ on 12-pound test.

Also Lucky Craft Pointer 78s are very effective in clear water around 50. Fish around hard cover that is warmer with the sun on it. Pointers are easy to cast in the wind.  Baby Bass, Mat Pumpkin, Black Gold are my favorites.  Use 10-pound Gamma fluorocarbon and a jerk, jerk, jerk, pause retrieve.  Let it sit a while; vary cadence and length of pause.  Works at Blue Plains, Four Mile Run, around Spoils and Fox Ferry.  Not a lot of guys throw jerkbaits, so you’ll have an edge.

When water warms above 45 degrees don’t put away spinnerbaits especially on windy days!  Go to the bank the wind is blowing on and toss a 3/8-ounce Mann’s Classic with a white skirt, and a gold willow/Colorado tandem. Slowly retrieve, bumping bottom.  You’ll catch the biggest fish of the season this way.  To slow down, use a slower ratio reel with 12-pound test Gamma Fluorocarbon. A medium 7’ Quantum graphite rod has give for the subtle winter bite and enough backbone to set the hook! Dress in layers; protect your eyes with Maui Jim Polarized gray lenses.

Capt. Steve Chaconas, Potomac bass fishing guide, BoatUS contributor. For Potomac River reports: Book trips/purchase gift certificates:

"Take me fishing!" .·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸.·´¯`·...¸> >

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