- Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 15:17
- Published on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 15:16
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One thing the incredible summer of rainfall appears to be doing is allowing anglers and kayakers to enjoy the upper Rappahannock. I recently called Virginia Outdoor Center to inquire about the river levels as I finally found a few hours to go smallmouth fishing. I got their machine and it more or less said that the owners could not recall any other summer in their time that they were able to operate their business with the water levels as good as they were during the summer. That was great news for
me! Indeed, the Rappahannock River has been a pleasure for many canoe or kayak enthusiasts and anglers all summer. In fact, in an earlier conversation with Bill Micks of Virginia Outdoor Center, the big concern earlier in the summer for me was the high water level given that I wanted to float from Motts Run to Fredericksburg with kids who were not as experienced as I was with paddling. In fact, Micks said, “Some of the spots on the river are really ‘juicy,’” referring to the water levels at that particular time.
So, what does this mean for anglers? It is no secret that the rainfall amount we have had this year has impacted fishing in some way or form. Some flounder anglers are saying the influx of freshwater has negatively affected their quarry’s availability. For freshwater anglers my theory is that more water in the river will have a positive long term effect. Fishing in the upper river right now is both good and a bit tough. With plenty of water the fish are more spread out and not so easy to target. But, with more water, there is more bottom and territory for them to find food in. Also, more water means more dissolved oxygen, which equates to less stress and potentially less disease. I think the young of the year will fare better with the higher water flows.
Last week I finally was able to sneak off for the first time in years to the upper river to fish. We did not stay long but we did put the canoe and kayak in at Motts Landing and paddled downriver for a short ways to fish. There were holes where I could not see the bottom. Certainly that was NOT typical of August. The fact that I could paddle without dragging the canoe bottom at all was atypical too!
I am happy to report that we took four species of fish with a little bit of effort while out for a few hours. The first fish I landed was a very fat largemouth bass. The slabs on that fish were really thick. Several very nice sunfish were caught too. Then the channel catfish found my bait. I will be honest when I type that these channel catfish were the healthiest looking channel catfish I had seen in years. They were dark and clean looking with nice slabs of meat on them as well. I only caught one keeper smallmouth bass but even that fish was really thick. None of the fish appeared emaciated. Interestingly, we only caught fish on live bait. I tried artificial baits but I must not have been holding my mouth right. In years past a Beetle Spin, Rebel Crayfish, plastic bait on a jig or small crankbait would do the trick. I never got a hit on any of the above. I am looking forward to going back to the river soon.
Just for kicks I went downriver on Saturday to the landing at Hopyard to test a few products for articles and I also took along a few fishing poles. In June I was able to catch a nice mess of catfish. Typically August is when things can be slower. Perhaps the cooler weather changed things, perhaps it was the water level. We only were able to stay for a little over an hour but the catfish we caught were also very thick, larger than normal and very aggressive. I had been hearing reports of better than average catfishing over the past few weeks and it appears to be true.
Incidentally, fresh cut bait was the ticket. I even caught a few chunky largemouth while fishing for bait and was impressed with their health. One other thing that I noticed was the number of catfish anglers on the river Saturday and a few other times recently. The Rappahannock has always been a decent place to catfish. However, the trophy cat anglers seemed to move on some ten years ago. In the past month I have observed a noticeable increase in anglers dunking whole bream, eels or other large baits for the big ones. I hope they are catching them too!
While my observations are not scientific I feel that combined with the anecdotal reports I am getting, the river will fare well with this rainfall. Some off the record conversations with fisheries biologists seem to indicate the same thing. I guess time will tell.
Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the river with great water levels for the remainder of the season. The fishing is fine out there and the fish appear to be healthy!