Snakeheads on Pohick Bay

Got an opportunity to get out with the VP of the George Washington Chapter of Heroes on the Water, and now good friend Jeff Singleton, on some water he knows well: Pohick Bay. Pohick is one the large estuaries that feed the Potomac River below Washington DC. These feeder creeks like Dogue Creek, Occoquan, and Aquia Creek on the Virginia side of the river have always been largemouth and blue cat heaven. But in the last decade or so they have become well known as *the* destination if you want stalk and catch Snakeheads.


But before we get too far into our story; Pohick is a good hour and half drive for me. So getting dressed in the dark is a requirement to make a 7:30am meetup at the put-in. When you do that, just make sure that your water sandals, that look and feel an awful lot like your street sandals because they’re made by the same company (Crocs), are not anywhere close together. Because you can easily end up with a mis-matched pair. In my defense, it was early, pre-coffee, and I was in a hurry….so stop laughing.


Snakeheads like their water fairly shallow, 18-36 inches max depth, murky and full of vegetation from which to ambush their food and raise their young. Pohick Bay’s upper reaches has this in spades. The paddle back up into the Lilly Pads and Spatterdock was pretty long for the group, that included my host’s 2 college-aged daughters, home for the summer and the oldest’s boyfriend: Matthew Reilly, and our photographer for the day Sean Kent. The idea for Matthew and I was see if we could score a Snakehead on the flyrod, so we were both armed with 8wt rods and some of master fly-tier Pat Cohen’s frog critters and some large bass poppers. Of course we both had some big rubber frogs and chatterbaits as well. You can only fling Pat’s big bugs on a flyrod for so long before you need to take a rest and use a baitcaster. 😉

This was not only a different location for me, but a VERY different kind of water and aquatic environment. When you’re seated in a kayak and surrounded by 5 feet high vegetation, you can’t see over it to know where you’re at in the channels back in the headwaters. I was really glad I came with Jeff who paddles back up in there on a regular basis. But the beauty and the sky full of Ospreys and the occasional Bald Eagle definitely offset the slight anxiety induced by basically not knowing where the heck you were. This also tidal water. The levels don’t go through a huge shift, but when you’re paddling in 12-18 inches of water for the most part, it doesn’t take huge change to leave you stranded. So lunch time was declared while we waited for the water to come back up from a slack to full tide so we could get back to an area Jeff said held decent fish.

Although neither I nor Matt ended up with snakeheads that day, Jeff managed to get a decent one and Jeff’s friend Andy, who we happened to run into, landed a magnificent specimen that would have run probably 12-13 pounds. These fish are absolute beasts, every bit as violent as a Musky or pike in their strikes and fighting ability and a desire to hurt you when you do get them in a net or a fish grip. But added bonus is these things absolutely one of the best eating fish you will ever want to put in your mouth. They are compared to Cod in taste and texture. And one large fish will feed a family of 4 easily.

Marine Biologists tasked to study and track their habits and their location originally feared they would supplant the largemouth in the Potomac system but that has not been the case. They seemed to have found their nitch and settled in nicely and even their numbers are beginning to stabilize and they have very quickly become just another gamefish that anglers are targeting. I suspect rules and regulations governing their size and slot limits are coming very soon, and probably restrictions on bow-fishing for them as well.
So get some heavy gear, rubber frogs and chatter-baits and get after them.
Just make sure your shoes match when you leave the house…okay?

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