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While there are certainly plenty of saltwater fishing options nearby, the D.C. area also has thousands of miles of lake and river shorelines, offering first-time anglers the chance to reel in trout, bass, catfish and other freshwater species — almost in the shadow of the Washington Monument.
Thanks to mass-manufactured goods from China, big-box retailers offer aisles of affordable fishing equipment, including rods, reels, nets, lures, tackle boxes, mesh trucker hats and beer coolers. Fishing around the Beltway area also requires a license, which is available at many sporting goods stores or online through the District Department of the Environment, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Sports Authority in Alexandria, Va., which also issues fishing licenses, offers a large selection of freshwater fishing equipment. For higher-end gear, there are Orvis retailers in Arlington and Tysons Corner in Virginia and Bethesda, Md.
Fletcher’s Cove Boathouse on Canal Road Northwest also issues fishing licenses, sells tackle and rents boats for anglers. The shop rents rowboats for $12 per hour or $22 per day, as well as canoes for $12 per hour or $24 per day.
To fish in Washington, the best spots are most easily found by checking with a local. On the District side of the Potomac River, Fletcher’s is a good place to ask. The bait shop publishes online fishing reports that combine personal anecdotes with must-read nuggets like this:
“A bit of a lull has set in and catches are spotty at the moment. That’s normal, as nature hedges its bets and spreads the runs of fish over a long period of time to insure some prime spawning conditions for each species,” reads an April blog post from the tackle shop. “Perch will run until mid May and the shad run, while less consistently good from day to day, will continue until early June.”
In addition to the Potomac River, fishing is permitted south of Porter Street Northwest in Rock Creek Park. But beware: D.C. has pretty severe restrictions on fishing for types of shad, pickerel, gar, pike and bass in its waterways — as well as per-day limits on other species — so it’s best to consult the District’s wildlife website before casting.
In Maryland, wildlife officials list more than 40 public fishing spots at Maryland.gov. In early October, the state began stocking trout in 13 lakes and rivers, including nearby Centennial Lake, Middle Patuxent River and Little Patuxent River in Howard County.
State wildlife officials publish the online “Angler’s Log,” which details who’s catching what with what and allows anglers to upload photographs of their best catches. The state’s Department of Natural Resources website also hosts a hot spot map, a Google mash-up that shows where the fish are biting. For Virginia, autumn is the start of trout season. The commonwealth claims to have 2,800 miles of rivers and streams swimming with trout, and stocked waterways are open to anglers as of Oct. 1. Special licensing fees and daily limits apply, and details are available online at the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.
Bass, catfish and walleye are popular freshwater species in Virginia, and many popular spots are just a short drive from downtown D.C.