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Monster Smallies in Harpers Ferry West Virginia?

Posted: Sun May 17, 2020 9:45 am
by martalus
So yesterday I fulfilled a lifelong dream and set foot on the great state of West Virginia! I had in my mind that WV was worlds away from DC but it literally took just under an hour to get to Harpers Ferry from my place in DC. I guess its a big state that goes way down to Kentucky and up to Ohio/PA near Pittsburg but the 'eastern panhandle' is really close to DC and some people even commute by train. Unfortunately all the museums and parking areas were closed as were most shops, but it really looks like lovely place to visit with with all the history, B&Bs, and the Potomac and Shenandoah river coming together right in the heart of the historic lower town by a tressle bridge. The Appalachian trail goes right through the town and there are cliff lined hills just like the Delaware Water Gap and both sides of the town. We had to park 2 miles outside of town and had a nice hilly walk around with a picnic by the river. Unfortunately I left my rod in the car because right at the point where the rivers come together there were thousands of little bait fish and what looked to be monster smallies crashing them. Both rivers have an alluring mix of boulders, pools, and rapids, very similar to the Delaware between Columbia and the Water Gap (also prime smallie water). I did some reading and sure enough the waters around Harpers Ferry are some of the best smallmouth water in the US. Good smallmouth water continues all the way down to DC to Roosevelt island where the water slows down and Largemouth start to outnumber the smallies (though there still are some smallies, even in the DC tidal basin. Last week while shad fishing in the fast water by the Chain Bridge in DC I stuck a nice inch smallie and a 22 inch walleye in the boulders. As summer arrives and water levels go down, I look forward to driving back up to Harpers ferry, getting a WV license and wading through some of the historic smallie watter!

Re: Monster Smallies in Harpers Ferry West Virginia?

Posted: Tue May 19, 2020 11:53 am
by Rusty Spinner
We have been doing a huge job in that area on a native brook trout stream that flows into the Potomac just below where the Shenandoah dumps in to that bigger river in Harper's Ferry. We stay in the hotel next to White Fly Shop.

It is some great smallmouth fishing and parts of the river can be waded when low enough. There's some great restaurants that hopefully make it such as Rabbit Hole and others.
Potomac near Harpers Ferry.jpg
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Re: Monster Smallies in Harpers Ferry West Virginia?

Posted: Tue May 19, 2020 1:39 pm
by martalus
Thanks for the information! It really is a neat area with the history and the natural beauty. I will be back to sample the smallie water, museums, and bars/restaurants. I just ordered a guide to wading the Potomac from the Chain Bridge DC to Harpers Ferry. The Potomac basically transitions from a tidal river to a smallie river from the chain bridge in DC (see my previous post on shad fishing-at the chain bridge it becomes more rocky/fast moving ie perfect smallie water) I dont have a boat and dont really even enjoy boat fishing, so I was happy to find such a specific book that meets my needs of wading for smallies in that specific area from 5-60 minutes from my house! Its basically all public access in that area as there is a strip of national park land from DC to harpers ferry and beyond following the canal/potomac river

Its funny you mention wild brook trout steam in the area. From my recent experience with native brook trout in Shenandoah NP of Virginia and the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, I am noticing that even though these areas are well south of NJ, the brook trout are found at relatively low elevations. While southern Appalachian brook trout of Georgia and North Carolina are found at 3000-6000 feet, these 'mid atlantic brook trout are found much lower-Harpers ferry itself is at about 450 feet with the hills around it going up to maybe 1500-2000 feet. The brook trout I find in the Catoctin mountains of MD are found starting at around 600-700 feet, with hills maxing out in the 1500-2000 feet range. In the Shenandoah mountains, I start finding native brook trout just under 800-1000 feet in elevation, with the mountains peaking at 3000-4000 feet. One thing I find it common with all these 'mid Appalachian' brook trout streams is that they are all in county, state and/or national forests with thick forests /full canopy almost completely protecting the steams.

Re: Monster Smallies in Harpers Ferry West Virginia?

Posted: Sun Jun 07, 2020 10:20 pm
by martalus
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I took the fam today to the Maryland side of the Potomac just upstream from Harper's Ferry for a little swimming and fishing. I was able to find a good spot for both with some sandy slow moving eddy for my kid to swim and lots of rocky bottomed mix of slow and fast water, ie perfect smallie water. My wife has never fished and it was free fishing day so I taught her to cast and work a grub jig. Unfortunately I didn't teach her to fight a fish-she hooked a monster smallie that rocketed out of the water after being hooked and went for a massive run. She panicked and tried to hand me the rod, but unfortunately she lost it. I landed a few nice smallies from 12-16 inches and a nice walleye. It was bright blue sky, high pressure, and the middle of the day so I was happy that we had some fun and got some fish. I will definitely be back as the river drops into summer flows and I can wade around more for some late afternoon/early evening fishing.