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Fishing in the District

Illustration of man in fishing boat

Licensing and Regulation

Fishing licensing and regulation allows for more effective protection for species and their habitats. The ability to better protect, conserve, and enhance fisheries and wildlife resources is crucial for our native species. DDOE develops and enforces regulations in coordination with the District's Metropolitan Harbor Police and the Capital Park Police. This has contributed to the tremendous water quality improvements in the Potomac River and signs of improvement in the Anacostia River resulting in an increase in the numbers of game fish, including bass, crappies, and yellow perch.

Fishing regulations have helped to minimize the exploitation of the District's fisheries resources. The District introduced regulations that limit the size and number of a select fish species that anglers are allowed to keep. Surveys of migratory and resident fish, fish habitat, fish health, and anglers' practices are conducted. These activities provide valuable information to better understand and advance the efforts to increase the number and diversity of fish in its waters.

- Get a Fishing License          - Fishing License Vendors

- DC Fish Field Guide             - Regulated Fishing Activities

Public Health Advisory

DDOE urges limited consumption of Anacostia and Potomac river fish. PCBs and other chemical contaminants have continued to be found in certain fish species caught in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and their tributaries, including Rock Creek, within the Distric's boundaries. Because of these findings, DDOE advises the general public to limit consumption of fish from all DC waters, as follows:

  • Do not eat: Catfish, carp, or eel.
  • May eat: One-half pound per month of largemouth bass, or one-half pound per week of sunfish or other fish.
  • Choose to eat: Younger and smaller fish of legal size.
  • The practice of catch and release is encouraged.

To prepare, skin the fish and trim away fat. Cook fish and drain away fat because chemical contaminants tend to concentrate in the fat of the fish. These recommendations do not apply to fish sold in fish markets, grocery stores, and restaurants, since commercial fishing is prohibited in DC waters; thus fish from these venues will not be from the Potomac nor Anacostia Rivers.

DDOE also notes that other species of fish found in the District's waters not identified above did not have elevated levels of PCBs or pesticides.

Reporting a Fish Kill

Anglers and the general public are asked to report a fish kill. If you see 50 or more dead fish floating on the surface of the water, please contact the DC Fisheries and Wildlife Division at (202) 535-2260 with the following information: exact location of the floating fish, date, time, and the extent of the fish kill.

Snakeheads

The northern snakehead (channa argus) is a predatory species of freshwater fish native to China. First documented in U.S. waters in 2002, the snakehead is considered highly invasive and poses significant threats to native fish populations. Unfortunately, the snakehead has become established in several DC, Maryland, and Virginia waterways, including the Potomac River and its tributaries. If you catch a northern snakehead DO NOT RETURN IT TO THE WATER. Snakeheads should be immediately killed by removing the head, removing all vital organs, or removing both gill arches. Please help stop the spread of this species and reduce its population numbers.

Moratorium on Shad and River Herring

In accordance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for shad and river herring, the possession of these species is prohibited.

DC Debuts Recreational Angling Records Program

Report your Significant angling achievements by calling (202) 306-7373. Share your photos at fishandwildlife.photos@dc.gov. See complete instructions and official rules.

Contact
For more information please contact the District Department of the Environment at 202.535.2260 between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. You may also email the Associate Director, Bryan King.

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