Fish America: Washington D.C.

Week 6 on the road began our Nation's capitol, Washington, D.C., where I got the chance to fish the Potomac River with Mike "Animal" Bailey. We fished from a rowboat, which better enables you to appreciate the history of the river.
We found some largemouth and smallmouth bass feeding on a mudflat not far from the dock. Just fishing the river from a rowboat is experience enough. But if it's big fish you're after, Mike catches some impressive striped bass from these same rowboats in the spring. You can rent the rowboats from Fletcher's Cove Marina on Canal Road, NW right in the city of Washington. The stripers are gorging on herring in the spring.
After fishing with Mike, I headed for Solomons Island, Maryland. The view from the pier, pictured here, is one of the better ones I've had the good fortune to take in on the trip. Solomons, just under an hour south of the Washington Beltway, is where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay, and can offer some tremendous striper fishing.
If you find yourself in Solomons Island, do yourself a favor and grab a drink and the view at Solomons Pier Restaurant pictured here. The only hard part will be leaving. The setting sun lights up the water and it's hard to walk away from the pier until it's completely dark.
I came to Solomons Island to fish with commercial rod and reel striper fisherman Mike Benjamin, and his mother. I was told Mike was one of the better commercial striper guys in the area, that it would be a long day, that I would be worked hard, but it would be fun. I'd never been on a commercial striper boat, so I went for it.
Everything about Mike Benjamin is all business. The first conversation I had with him went something like this: "Yeah, you're welcome on board, be here at 5 a.m. we'll have fun and catch fish, I gotta go we're into 'em." The guy doesn't waste words or minutes.
Mike's mother joined us for the trip, but she wasn't just along for the ride. The woman can fish. And like Mike, she's all business. I didn't have the courage to ask her age, but I can tell you she was tagging fish and hustling about the boat when I was dragging on my feet after 13 hours on the water. Her and her husband started a tackle shop in Maryland when she was in her 20s and she's been making a living in and around the water ever since.
We started off the day by live-lining spot, a small baitfish pictured here. Mike had a huge trash-barrel-turned livewell full of them. We started off catching stripers in the 8- to 10-pound range. Maryland commercial regulations allow fish to be kept that are between 18 and 36 inches, and commercial anglers can keep up to 1,500 pound per week, with a season that goes Monday through Thursday.
But when we switched to live-lining croakers, a larger baitfish, the fish got bigger. Pick a croaker up and it won't take you long to hear how they got their name. We were bailing 20-pound bass on almost every cast for a half-hour period. It was some of the fastest striper fishing I've ever been part of.
The late afternoon brought some of the most amazing striper surface blitzes that I've ever seen. You could hear these fish, like crashing surf, from hundreds of yards away, and before the word spread to the fleet, we had them all to ourselves. With a teaser, I was catching two legal-sized stripers on top on every cast, while Mike's mom tagged and boxed them. It was some of the most fun, exhausting fishing I've ever experienced.
The evening on the Chesapeake is beautiful especially on a calm night like we had. Temperatures of more than 100 degrees and non-stop striper action had me as tired as I've ever been on the water. I'd be lying if I said I didn't pass out on a cooler a few times on some of the longer runs between spots. But I'm glad we stayed out all day to catch the sunset.
We were also treated to a show by large schools of porpoises moving through the bay. We slowed down to take in the impressive creatures.
When the cleats are tied off at the dock, a commercial striper fisherman's day is far from over. There are fish to be boxed, sorted and taken to market. Mike works quickly while diners at the restaurant let their jaws drop at three coolers of stripers. All the ice he's brought has melted thanks to the 100-degree heat and it will be a 2-hour drive to get the fish back home and to market while they are cold, which is Jessup, Maryland for Mike, who sleeps on his boat during the commercial week. He hadn't planned on the long drive after the 15-hour day on the water, in the 100-degree heat, but he shrugs, absorbs the blow and makes preparations to do what needs to be done. You get the sense that complaining is wasted time when it's commercial season and there's money to be made.
Mike is an interesting guy. Not what you'd expect from a commercial fisherman, Mike is a passionate conservationist, and defender of the species. He is outspoken on behalf of the striped bass and is pushing for changes in regulations. His opinions won't get him voted most popular captain at the dock, but he sticks by what he believes in. But at the end of the day, Mike's got a job to do, and a wife and family to support. And he's very good at what he does. Mike also runs charters in the spring before commercial season. He's good, and it's not a secret, so he fills up his trips fast. But if you want to catch stripers until you're too tried to keep going, check out www.herbstackleshop.com or shoot him an e-mail at herbstackleshop@comcast.net.
I couldn't accompany Mike to Jessup. For me, it was off the Virginia. I was meeting Tom Sadler in Madison, Virginia the next day. A three-hour drive that didn't begin until 10 p.m., once I snagged a free shower at the marina. After getting up at 4 to fish, I could hardly have been more tired.
Tom was going to show me something a little different. We were going to fish the Rapidan, a beautiful small river in northern central Virginia.
We would be fishing using a method called Tenkara, a traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing that uses only an 11-foot line attached to the tip of a 10-foot rod. There is no reel, there are no guides. If you're like me, you're probably thinking this is some kind of prank when you first hear about it, but amazingly it works pretty well. Think about it, how often do you really use your reel when fly-fishing small streams? Exactly.
Wet-wading the cool mountain stream provides some relief from the oppressive heat below, where temperatures in town are climbing back into the 90s. Although it would be a stretch to say I mastered Tenkara in my one day on the water, I did manage to land this wild brook trout. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful fish.
Although he was a lobbyist in Washington for more than 30 years, Tom's efforts are saved now for what he cares about most, protecting and ensuring a safe future for these beautiful fish. The work he's doing on behalf of brook trout is important and worth your time if you've ever wet a line, or enjoyed the fight of a trout on light tackle. Learn more about his efforts with the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture at http://easternbrooktrout.org.
After thanking Tom for the demonstration, lesson, patience, and tour of the beautiful area, I was off to Hatteras, North Carolina, one of the most storied fishing destinations on the East Coast, renowned both for its offshore fishery, and its inshore redfishing.
Perhaps no other location on the East Coast is as well known for its offshore fishing, as is Hatteras, North Carolina. It's the edge of the Outer Banks, the end of the road, it is a bull's-eye for Hurricanes, it has beautiful beaches, the country's tallest lighthouse, and it has big fish, and lots of them.
Everything about Hatteras is offshore. Wayne Fulcher holds down a seat in a local artisan gallery, The Indian Town Gallery, and paints photos of underwater scenes that he bases off of underwater video. I caught him on his last day before he began working from home.
My first priority was getting offshore. And thanks to Captain Rom Whitaker and his boat, The Release, I got that chance on Sunday. With light winds and plenty of sun, it was a beautiful day to experience some of the best saltwater fishing the world has to offer.
Aboard Rom's 53-foot Bobby Sullivan, we steamed about 20 miles off, in search of Mahi and blackfin and yellowfin tuna.
For more than two decades Rom has been fishing Hatteras, and he has a quiet, easy patience that makes you think it's not a matter of whether or not you'll find the fish, just when you'll find them. And sure enough, it doesn't take long for outrigger clips are popping left and right. Pictured here is Rom Jr., perhaps one of the most fluid and efficient mates I've ever seen work a boat.
The tuna were followed shortly by some fun action with mahi. By dropping baits back when we trolled over a school, we bailed these fish one after another over the gunnel. Their coloration is something I never get tired of seeing in the water.
The fish also make some of the better table fare to come out of the sea.
The tuna, like this smaller yellowfin, are also a sight to behold glimmering in the afternoon sun. The action was almost too fast to appreciate the fish we were catching … almost.
Again we were treated to a show by dolphins, except this time we had front row seats. They followed right off the bow, just out of arm's reach, or close to ten minutes.
Hatteras was just too hard to leave…so I stuck around for some kayak fishing with Rob Alderman right off the point. But that's for next week, so come back and check it out.
If You go… Hatteras (offshore): Captain Rom Whitaker, www.hatterasrelease.com. This guy took me out, put me on fish, put me up for the night and his wife served me homemade peach cobbler. I was ready to move in. You couldn't ask for a better fisherman or finer human being to spend a day on the water with. Solomons Island Stripers: Mike Benjamin, www.herbstackleshop.com. I don't know that I've ever met a better striper fisherman. The guy is all business, and he has a blast doing his job. Row the Potomac: www.fletcherscove.com Save Brook Trout: www.easternbrooktrout.org