When most people think of Washington, DC, they think of our Nation’s capital, politics, and, well, dysfunction. They do not think of the mighty Potomac River and fly fishing. The Potomac is one of the largest rivers on the East Coast and is a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. It was once so polluted that President Lyndon B. Johnson called it a “national disgrace.” The river’s health has greatly improved and been crowned “the best urban-fishery in the Nation,” according to Trout Unlimited’s President and CEO, Chris Wood. However, sedimentation threatens to block the region’s premier access point: Fletcher’s Cove.
Each spring, a remarkable amount of life makes its way to the shores of our Nation’s Capital: millions of shad, spawning striped bass, eagles, ospreys, and so much more. For the fishermen and woman in DC and its surrounding areas, there is no better place to get outside and enjoy spring than Fletcher’s Cove. Days marked by triple digit shad are not uncommon. Also, the stripers that come up-river to spawn always keep things interesting. When it’s good, the only time you will stop fishing (and catching) is when your fly line has burned a slit into your index finger. Even then, many anglers will persevere.
Rivers have a mind of their own and constantly remind us of their power. However, we as humans tend to test rivers and interrupt their natural state. In the case of Fletcher’s Cove, an infrastructure project back in the 1960s altered the natural flow of the Potomac River. This led to riverbed destabilization, which is now depositing heavy sediment loads in the Cove. What used to be a dependable access point for fishermen and women, paddlers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, now is being sedimented in.
Over the years, the cove has been dredged two times to restore the access. Sediment is now accumulating again and threatening access. In order to restore the Cove and maintain the Capital’s premier river access point, we need a large-scale riparian restoration project–ideally one that is a permanent solution.
Fortunately for Fletcher’s Cove, a strong coalition with partners ranging from Trout Unlimited, Fly Fishers International, to Washington, DC’s Department of Energy and Environment has formed and is lobbying multiple levels of government. Friends of Fletcher’s Cove is hoping to acquire funding for a restoration project in the near future. A project plan is in place, but now Friends of Fletcher’s Cove is working to secure more than $30 million necessary to complete the project. One avenue for securing these funds is through the maintenance backlog component of the Great American Outdoor Act (GAOA). Friends of Fletcher’s Cove hopes to see its restoration project included in an upcoming GAOA funding list.
One way local stakeholders are amassing support and awareness for Fletcher’s Cove is through The Tidal Potomac Slam, a fly and conventional fishing tournament. Anglers will compete for the top spot in divisions for both conventional and fly tackle. Categories include American Shad, Hickory Shad, Striped Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Carp, Sunfish and a Wildcard group (Snakehead, Gar, Walleye, etc). The Tidal Potomac Slam is an entirely catch, photo, and release tournament. As you can see, this fishery affords DC area anglers with great opportunity. However, it all tied to the great public access at Fletcher’s Cove.
“The Tidal Potomac Slam launched in 2018 to raise awareness of the situation at Fletcher’s Cove and help our partners at Friends of Fletchers Cove increase their reach with the recreational fishing community in the DC area,” said the National Capital Chapter of TU’s President and Tidal Potomac Fly Rodders’ Conservation Chair, Andrew Reichardt. “It’s been incredible to see our numbers grow each year, with the industry support from folks like District Angling, Patagonia, Orvis as well as the buy-in from every single grassroots club or chapter in the region. The Slam isn’t going to #SavetheCove on its own, but we’re proud to be involved in this historic effort to once and for all rectify the problems facing the greatest urban-fishery in America.”
If you live close to the Nation’s capital, be sure to check out and enjoy the greatest urban-fishery at Fletcher’s Cove this spring!
Photos courtesy of Alex Binsted.