"[Fish were] lying so thicke with their heads above water, (that) for want of nets, we attempted to catch them with a frying pan"
-Captain John Smith, 1608
The Potomac River has long been a fine place to "go fishin'," particularly in the spring when large schools of shad, herring and sturgeon swim upriver to spawn. Before colonial settlement, local Indian tribes fished with nets, fishing poles, harpoons, woven traps, and arrows attached to a line — sometimes using fires to attract fish after dark.
In the 1700s, Potomac fisheries were the most productive in the country. While at Mount Vernon, George Washington owned three fisheries and made great profits shipping salted fish to the West Indies and elsewhere. After the Revolution, he brokered a deal allowing Virginians to continue using the Potomac for fishing and trade, while acknowledging Maryland's ownership of the river under King Charles II's charter of 1632. In the 1800s there were two successful fisheries on the Maryland shore—Lyle's and Beasley's—just south of here.
Can I eat the fish I catch in the Potomac?
That depends on where you are and what types of fish you catch. Largemouth bass and striped bass are targeted by anglers, along with catfish, sunfish, perch and carp. Several areas
of the basin are under fish consumption advisories, so it's wise to check with local authorities.