Saturday, March 23, 2013

2013 Potomac Rockfish Season

Here are the dates for the 2013 Potomac River Rockfishing Season Within the 2013 Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) regulations, you will find the Rockfish seasons and regs, as indicated below:

Spring Season
Season Open: April 20 through May 15
Open Area: Below Harry W. Nice Bridge (Rt. 301)
Minimum Size Limit: 28”
Possession Limit: 1 per person
Bait Restrictions: No live eel. No more than 2 hooks

Summer/Fall Season
Season Open: May 16 through December 31
Open Area: Below Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-95)
Minimum Size Limit: 18” with only 1 over 28”
Possession Limit: 2 per person
Bait Restrictions: None

 Reference: 2013 Potomac River Fisheries Commission Blue Sheet

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Potomac Rockfish Tools of the Trade - Trolling

Trolling for Potomac Rockfish (Striped Bass) takes a bit of skill, planning and patience as well as the right type of tackle.  This article will concentrate on the tools that are needed to put you on a path to catching Rockfish on the Potomac River.  If you already have everything you need, and want to figure out the proper techniques to use when trolling for Rockfish on the Potomac River, then read "How to Troll for Potomac Rockfish"

Rods and Reels for Potomac Rockfish (Striped Bass)

Potomac Rockfish recommends:

The most important Potomac Rockfish hardware is the Rod and Reel setup that you choose.  If you skimp here and buy cheap or undersized rods and reels, it will severely limit your ability to setup up your trolling spread and make it work.  The rod needs to be capable of 30-50 pound loads so that it can troll an umbrella rig or a MoJo without too much effort.  Some of these trolling rigs can weigh in excess of 2 pounds!  The reel should be able to fit 300 yards of 30lb monofilament line.

Fishing line for Potomac Rockfish (Striped Bass)

Choosing between monofilament line and braid is a give and take decision.  The three major considerations are
Stretch (Braid wins) - Monofilament line stretches, but braided line does not.  When you get a strike, the braid will provide immediate feedback as well as a tighter hook set, whereas the mono line will stretch and delay the set of the hook.  Therefore, Braid gets the nod when considering stretch characteristics.
Abrasion Resistance (Monofilament wins) - This is a setback for braided lines, because the stranded nature of braids means that anytime the line catches on something, it has a tendency to fray, and individual strands break.  As braided line gets used throughout the season, small nicks on the line due to general use cause the line to weaken.
Diameter vs line weight (Braid wins) - Braid line is much stronger and lighter-weight due to the nature of the stranded material that's used to manufacture it.  If you took braid and monofilament of the same diameter, the braid would be much stronger.  Braid in the 65lb test is about .016 inch in diameter.  The same diameter monofilament is only 16lb test!  Putting that into fishing terms means that you can troll a higher strength braided line and get more depth due to less resistance in the water due to the smaller diameter of the line.

Lures for Potomac Rockfish (Striped Bass)

There are several types of lures that work well for Potomac Rockfish. The lures and jigs listed below are ones that have specifically worked for me, and I think that anyone you talk to who fishes for Potomac Rockfish will tell you to use the same tackle. Most people use Tandem rigs, Umbrella rigs and Parachutes. Not as many use Stretch 25's, but I had great luck with them last Fall.

Sassy Shad and Bass Assassins

These are used on umbrella rigs to simulate a school of baitfish. Different sizes - you must attempt to match the size of your shads to the size of the bait that the fish are currently hunting. In the Fall, the bait is usually smaller than in the Spring.

6-inch Bass Assassin Saltwater Sea Shad-4 Per Bag
4-inch Bass Assassin Saltwater Sea Shad-10 Per Bag

Umbrella Rigs

Sea Striker 4-Arm Umbrella Rig
This is how an umbrella looks
when rigged with Sassy Shads and a Parachute

Planer Boards for Potomac Rockfish (Striped Bass)

- Home-made (best) - I'll be creating a separate post to show how to build a good set of Potomac Rockfish Planer Boards that will work for years. Stay tuned!
- Store-bought - (don't bother!)

Planer Board Line for Potomac Rockfish (Striped Bass)

There are two types of line that you can use for your Potomac Rockfish Planer Boards. The Planer board line is a little more expensive than weed whacker line. If you buy weed whacker (trimmer line) line, be sure to get the stuff that's .095-inch diameter or larger, and do *not* get the serrated type.
You'll want approximately 100 feet on each side of the boat when you're first starting out. You may want to extend them a bit after you get used to running them.

Woodstock 200-Pounds Planer Board Line

Clips and Rigs for Potomac Rockfish (Striped Bass)

SCOTTY Mini Power Grip Plus Release Planer Board (4 per pack)
Instead of using Scotty clips, you can go the cheaper route and use shower curtain clips and rubber bands. Just loop the rubber band over your line, make sure it's tight, then hook the open end of the rubber band over the shower curtain hook.
PlumbShop PS2546 Shower Curtain Hooks, Chrome, 12-Pack
Weldon Rubber Bands for Planer Releases Tension: Light

I think that covers most of the tackle that I carry with me on a Potomac Rockfish expedition. I hope that you have found this blog post to be useful, and I hope that you catch many Potomac Rockfish with this information!
Please visit my forum at Go Fishing Forum to share news of your latest catch!

Tight Lines!
- Rick

PRFC, VMRC, VDGIF and Potomac Jurisdiction

There are three major government agencies within Virginia who have control of licensing, boating, fishing, hunting and other aspects of the laws and regulations around the Potomac River basin.  These agencies are:

PRFC - Potomac River Fisheries Commission
  -   Potomac Rockfish regulations and limits (PRFC "Blue Sheet")

VMRC - Virginia Marine Resources Commission
  -  Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP)
  -  Coastal and Chesapeake Bay Rockfish regulations and limits

VDGIF - Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
  -  Fishing Licenses - Saltwater and Fresh Water
  -  Boat Registration and Titling

We'll talk briefly about each one of them and the limits of their jurisdiction pertaining to Rockfish and the Potomac River.

PRFC - Potomac River Fisheries Commission

The Potomac River Fisheries Commission (Commission) is the Maryland-Virginia bi-state regulatory authority for fishery matters in the mainstem tidal Potomac River from Washington, DC to the Chesapeake Bay. The Commission is comprised of eight members, four appointed by the governor of Maryland and four appointed by the governor of Virginia.

The Commission is responsible for adopting the rules, regulations and licenses for the recreational and commercial taking, catching or attempting to take or catch fish, crabs, oysters and clams from the Potomac River. The Commission regulations carry the full force and effect of law and are jointly enforced by the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) Marine Police. Both the Maryland District Courts and Virginia General District Courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate violations of the Commission’s regulations.

The Commission meets four to six times each year and most meetings are held in the Commissioner’s Hearing Room at its office in Colonial Beach, VA. All Commission meetings are open and the public is invited and encouraged to attend. The Commission also has three citizen advisory committees, one for finfish matters, one for crab issues, and one for oyster and clam concerns. These committee meetings are, likewise, open public meetings and are held in Colonial Beach, VA.

VMRC - Virginia Marine Resources Commission

Established in 1875 as the Virginia Fish Commission, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) is one of the oldest agencies in Virginia State Government. Until the last decade, shellfish regulation has dominated much of the agency's activities because of the economic and cultural importance of the oyster industry. Private leasing of State bottom for the planting and propagation of oysters appears to have begun before 1875, but it was not until 1884 that the Commonwealth set up the Board of the Chesapeake to handle the regulations of the oyster industry. Public oyster grounds were mapped (the so-called Baylor Survey) during 1892-1895.

The Fish Commission, which at that time dealt with both fresh and saltwater fisheries issues, was consolidated with the Board of the Chesapeake in 1898 to form the Board of Fisheries, later the Commission of Fisheries, which was given the task of managing all shellfish and finfish issues statewide.

The Habitat Management Division of the Commission traces its origin to 1962 when the responsibility for permit encroachments in or over State-owned submerged lands was transferred from the Office of the Attorney General to the Commission of Fisheries. This made marine management in Virginia unique in that living resources, and the habitat on which they depend, came under the jurisdiction of the same agency.

A legislative study commission in 1967 recommended a broadened mission resulting in the agency being renamed the Virginia Marine Resources Commission in 1968 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. The Virginia Wetlands Act was passed in 1972 and placed under the management of VMRC, as was the 1980 Coastal Primary Sand Dune Protection Act. In 1982, the General Assembly broadened the 1972 Wetlands Act to include non-vegetated wetlands. In 1984, a distinct Fisheries Management Division was created and its authority over fisheries issues was strengthened.

The VMRC handles the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP).  This program was put into place to ensure that anyone over the age of 16 who fishes in Virginia Marine waters is identified for the purposes of determining how many anglers are out there.  One instance where this comes into play is when someone goes fishing on my boat.  I have a boat license from the VDGIF.  My boat license allows anyone to fish from my boat.  So, if I have 6 people fishing from my boat on a daily basis, there is no record of any of them since they didn't have to purchase their own fishing license.  So, the Fisherman Identification Program was created to help alleviate that issue.  It's free to register - just call their phone number (1-800-723-2728) or register online.  This is a requirement if you fish, but aren't required to purchase a license.

VDGIF - Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' mission is:
  • to manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth;
  • to provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the rights of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia;
  • to promote safety for persons and property in connection with boating, hunting and fishing;
  • to provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appreciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities.
VDGIF is responsible for the management of inland fisheries, wildlife, and recreational boating for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Department has an operational budget of approximately $55 million.

Contact Information for all agencies


MARYLAND (Except for Potomac River)
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Tawes State Office building, B-2
580 Taylor Avenue
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
(800) 688 FINS

VIRGINIA (For Areas Below Rt. 301. Bridge)
Virginia Marine Resources Commission
2600 Washington Avenue
Newport News, Virginia 23607
(757) 247-2200

VIRGINIA (For Areas Above Rt. 301 Bridge)
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4010 West Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23230
((804) 367-1000

D.C. Fisheries and Wildlife Division
1200 First Street, N.E.,
Washington, DC 20002 (202)997-9607

Potomac River Fisheries Commission
P.O. Box 9
Colonial Beach, Virginia 22443
(804) 224-7148 or (800) 266-3904

Maryland: (410) 260-8888 or (800) 628-9944
Virginia: (757) 247-2265 or (800) 541-4646

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rockfish or Striped Bass?

Potomac Rockfish - these are the best size for eating - between 4-6 pounds

Rockfish and Striped Bass are one and the same species with the scientific name Morone saxatilis.  The official common name for the species is Striped Bass, though most people along the Atlantic seaboard from the Carolinas to New Jersey, and especially in the Chesapeake Bay area know them as "Rockfish".  Here in the Potomac River area, people will probably look at you funny if you call them Striped Bass or "Stripers".  From this point forward, and in every blog post on this site, we will refer to our favorite sleek bodied striped friend as Mr. Rockfish.

Potomac Rockfish caught near Buoy 7 in Fall 2012 - 42 inches and 28 pounds

Rockfish are anadromous fish, meaning that they live their adult lives in salt water, but migrate up-river into fresh water to spawn.  Once the spawn is complete, they migrate back to the ocean.  Although Rockfish migrate to fresh water to spawn, don't confuse them with their freshwater cousin, the White Bass.  

The largest Rockfish ever caught on hook and line was caught in Long Island Sound, near the Outer Southwest Reef, off the coast of Westbrook, Connecticut by Gregory Myerson on August 4th, 2011.  The record Rockfish weighed 81.88 pounds and was 54 inches long.  It was caught on a live eel.  By contrast, my largest fish to date is a 42-inch 28-pounder that was caught near Buoy 7 on the Potomac River.

Potomac River Tide Charts, Graphs and Tables

There are several tide stations up and down the Potomac River.  There are two types of tide stations, Reference (Ref), which are the primary stations; and Subs, which are secondary or alternate stations.  The two Potomac Reference Tide Stations are in bold below.  Click any of the following links for today's tide prediction in graphic and tabular form, along with a map of the location.

Alexandria, Potomac River, Virginia Sub 38.8050° N 77.0383° W
Aquia Creek, Potomac River, Virginia Sub 38.4183° N 77.3533° W
Colonial Beach, Potomac River, Virginia Ref 38.2517° N 76.9600° W
Colonial Beach, Potomac River, Virginia (sub) Sub 38.2517° N 76.9600° W
Dahlgren, Upper Machodoc Creek, Potomac River, Virginia Sub 38.3200° N 77.0367° W
Lewisetta, Potomac River, Virginia Ref 37.9967° N 76.4650° W
Lewisetta, Potomac River, Virginia (sub) Sub 37.9950° N 76.4650° W
Mathias Point, Potomac River, Virginia Sub 38.3983° N 77.0533° W
Mount Holly, Nomini Creek, Potomac River, Virginia Sub 38.0983° N 76.7350° W
Quantico, Potomac River, Virginia Sub 38.5200° N 77.2867° W
Ragged Point, Coles Neck, Potomac River, Virginia Sub 38.1417° N 76.6133° W
Travis Point, Coan River, Potomac River, Virginia Sub 37.9967° N 76.4667° W

Each of these stations is also available in a printable format - one day per sheet.  This is very handy to print out and take with you to identify when the tide is incoming or outgoing, since this seems to have quite an effect on fishing at times.

Printable Potomac River Tide Stations:

Printable Tide Graph for Alexandria  

Printable Tide Graph for Aquia Creek  

Printable Tide Graph for Colonial Beach (Ref) 

Printable Tide Graph for Colonial Beach (Sub)  

Printable Tide Graph for Upper Machodoc Creek  

Printable Tide Graph for Lewisetta (Ref)  

Printable Tide Graph for Lewisetta (Sub)  

Printable Tide Graph for Mathias Point  

Printable Tide Graph for Mount Holly, Nomini Creek 

Printable Tide Graph for Quantico  

Printable Tide Graph for Ragged Point, Coles Neck  

Printable Tide Graph for Travis Point, Coan River


Happy Fishing and Tight Lines!!!

Potomac Rockfish Regulations and Limits 2013

Fishing for Rockfish (Striped Bass) in the Potomac River is something that I really enjoy.  The rules and regulations associated with Potomac River Rockfish must be strictly adhered to, or one risks getting into a significant amount of trouble.

Rockfish are a protected species, and the creel limits are set in order to ensure that too many of them are not taken in hopes that their numbers will rebound.  Limits are also set specifically around the spawning season in order to ensure that the Potomac Rockfish spawn is not too negatively impacted by overfishing.

The following link is the "Potomac River Blue Sheet" for 2013, which outlines size and number limits for all gamefish species in the Potomac River.

2013 Potomac River Fisheries Commission Blue Sheet

Within the 2013 regulations, you will find the Rockfish regs, as indicated below:

Spring Season

Season Open: April 20 through May 15
Open Area: Below Harry W. Nice Bridge (Rt. 301)
Minimum Size Limit: 28”
Possession Limit: 1 per person
Bait Restrictions: No live eel. No more than 2 hooks None

Summer/Fall Season

Season Open: May 16 through December 31
Open Area: Below Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-95)
Minimum Size Limit: 18” with only 1 over 28”
Possession Limit: 2 per person
Bait Restrictions: None

Special Restriction: When Fishing for Striped Bass During the Closed Season – Barbless Hooks are Required

The Spring season is pretty straightforward - you can only have one Rockfish per person in your possession, and each Rockfish must be at least 28 inches in length.

The Summer/Fall season is a little tougher to understand at first read - so, here's some clarification.  Each person may possess up to TWO Rockfish.  Both of them must be over 18 inches, but only one of them may be over 28 inches.  So, you can have a 21 and a 26, or a 22 and a 29, but you cannot have a 29 and a 32 in one person's possession.

I purchase a boat license from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) every year, and this license effectively covers everyone who wants to fish on my boat.   You can purchase your own boat license here: or here:

I'm very interested in seeing what you catch, so please take a moment to stop by my fishing forum at