NCC-TU Presents

The 2020

Shad Report

No. 3

A Trying Time

March 28, 2020

As most of you know by now, Fletcher’s Boathouse did not open today as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic. Concessioner GSI/Boating In reached the conclusion that a postponement was necessary to protect public health even before the District government shutdown nonessential businesses. The Fletcher’s rowboats, our best and most reliable means of public access to great springtime fishing on the Potomac, will be unavailable for the peak of the shad run. It’s a punch in the gut.


The C&O Canal National Historical Park remains open to the public for the time being but restroom facilities are closed, as is parking at Great Falls. Further restrictions are possible for Fletcher’s Cove if the great demand for outdoor recreation causes overcrowding during this critical period.

Many of us have enjoyed shad fishing on the Potomac as a social activity, a community celebration of spring. Things will be different this time around as we seek to put distance between ourselves and other people. The public is advised to find ways to reduce stress, exercise and take a break from the news and social media, all of which fishing offers. It’s a matter of finding the right balance.

Our Chapter President, Andrew Reichardt, counsels caution if you choose to head to the river this season. In a recent statement, he recommends that anglers “either fish alone or only with members of your immediate household. If it all possible, travel by your own car, bike, etc. If you see other anglers, keep a safe distance from one another...For those interested in shad fishing, we ask you to not congregate around the Fletcher’s area or Chain Bridge but to explore the entire Potomac River shoreline so as to avoid creating clusters of anglers. Ultimately though, we strongly encourage people to stay home and help ‘flatten the curve.’ Fishing will still be there when this storm passes.“ The Friends of Fletcher’s Cove group has also offered some sound outside advice in their recent blog​. We encourage you to share your own thoughts on the responsibilities of the fishing community by sending us an email.

Ever since native Americans reaped the bounty of the spring runs, boats have been crucial to exploiting our rugged section of the Potomac. This year, we will see a marked increase in private craft on the water utilizing all manner of propulsion. On Friday,  Jim Stables sent word that he had never seen so many power boats lined up north of the Cove. Anglers hauling canoes and kayaks, in every shape and color, are arriving in great numbers to the lower parking lot. Once on the water, these solo vessels offer a safe and quiet way to enjoy the river with plenty of space to yourself. However, groups of shore anglers have been gathering at the popular put-in and it should be noted that the Fletcher’s dock is closed and off limits. A good alternative is to carry boats out across the sediment pile next to the dock, where you will find a firm beach.


David Anderson was recently seen on the river trying out his newly restored dinghy (above), and it seemed to perform well. As is the case with most other options, Anderson says his boat is best suited for sitting. Adam Tarr had just landed a hickory shad when I photographed him in his trusty Old Town (below). Those of us who love the freedom of fishing anywhere on the river occasionally dream about the perfect lightweight fishing platform to own. It would be easy to transport and launch, and stable enough for standing, casting fly lines and moving around. But nothing tops the time-tested solution evolved over the centuries to its current form -- the Fletcher’s rowboat.


I don’t mean to diminish the joys of fishing from the bank. This week I had reason to reflect on my earliest encounter with the Potomac shoreline. When I was about 11 or 12 years old, my father took me and my brother fishing for the first time; as I remember it, the only time. It wasn’t just about learning to fish. We were to be introduced to the wonders of a place familiar to Dad from his own childhood, just down the hill. We carefully crossed the still active B&O trestle over the canal, to this day a cherished gateway for hikers and bikers. Beyond was a fascinating scene of riparian forests, rugged cliffs, huge boulders, deep holes and swirling currents. We caught a few white perch but I was most impressed by the frequent sightings of river herring, amazing in number, frolicking along the edge. Before long I learned about their more mysterious cousins out in the deep, much larger fish with the same purpose. You would need to catch those beautiful and powerful creatures to appreciate the full potential of the river. I have returned to pursue American shad every year since, on the Potomac and elsewhere, but never with Dad. He was not an angler and had done his part on that first trip to the river. I will be forever grateful.

Thomas Binsted, age 92, passed away peacefully this week at home in Palisades. Herring and shad were back in the river, just down the hill. His winter had been very difficult. It was a good time to go.

Mark Binsted


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