Potomac River Fishing Report – Winter 2018 / 2019

Hot Water Discharge Edition, Dec 2018 - Jan 2019

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” – Steven Wright


Intro:  Winter fishing can be tough but if you monitor the social media pages you will see fish are still being caught.    Many of these fish have been caught down range from hot water discharges (HWDs).  You can usually tell by how green the bass are in the photographs.  HWDs tend to be water treatment plants returning clear and warm water back to a river or lake.  It’s not uncommon for the surrounding water to be up to 10 degrees warmer than normal winter temperatures.  These locations can make winter fishing relatively easy.  HWDs are fun and are well suited to new anglers and children to help them get on fish and have a great time outdoors during the winter.  I recently brought my son to an HWD and he caught 19 bass in 2.5 hours.  At one point he caught fish on 6 casts in a row!  Be forewarned that many of these HWDs are well known and you will not be alone.  There’s one in particular you will see on a popular fishing app that gets posted almost every week if not every day during the winter.  I once went to this location and counted 25 people fishing the bank in a span of 1000 feet.


Conditions / Fish:   Cold (35-50 degree) weather, short days, and often windy.  Water temps are low 40’s in the main body and anywhere from 45 to 58 degrees at the HWDs.  On a tough day (cold and muddy) I have been blanked and on a good day (clear and sunny) I have caught 22 bass, up to 4 lbs. 




Locations:  I have fished most of the HWDs in Northern Virginia via my Ranger “Black Beauty” and via pounding the bank.  I have met a lot of cool people fishing on the water and from the bank.  I wish all you a PB in 2019!


Lures / Tackle:  My best luck has come on:

  • Blade bait:
    • ½ oz Cincy Fisher Blade Bait in silver, http://www.cincyfisher.com/product-category/bb/ –This has been my best bait in colder water near channels and drop-offs.  I also like it because I can fish it “relatively” quick.  Yo-Yo it back to the boat but make sure you have 12 lb copoly or higher to avoid tangling the front treble hook.  At this cost there is no better blade bait you can buy.  Trust me I have tried 90% of the others.  It catches everything so be ready for the occasional striper and monster cat fish!   
  • Jerk bait:  Jerk baits are best in clear water.  If your water is stained use a jerk bait with rattles. 
    • Shallow:  Rapala Ripstop 09 in Albino Shiner.  I like to downsize my baits in the winter. 
    • Deep:  Lucky Craft Staysee 90 v2.  Match the hatch.
  • Swim bait:
    • Keitech Swing Impact 2.8”, match the hatch on a 1/8 oz swim jig head like a Megabass – Okashira Head
  • Finesse plastics – down size:
    • Pick your favorite (ned rig, grub, etc), use natural colors in clear water, dark colors in muddy water on a 1/16 oz mushroom style jig head.  I know you think you are fishing slow but slow down even more!!!
  • Spinning tackle:  6 – 6.5 ft med, fast action rod, 2500 spinning reels with 6-lb Halo fluorocarbon.
  • Baitcasting tackle:  7-7.5 ft med to med-heavy, med to fast action rod, with 12-20 lb P-Line fluorocarbon or copolymer.  I also use 40-50 lb braid with a fluoro or copoly leader tied with an FG knot. 


Take a kid fishing!


Tight Lines and Happy New Year,


Peter Arnold, BayBass writer