How did you start fishing?
I grew up on Bent Mountain located in the Southwest Virginia mountains outside of Roanoke. I was fortunate that my parent’s property had a great native trout stream on it and, I was able to fish conveniently my entire childhood.
How old were you when you started fishing?
I really became interested in fishing around age 4 after my grandfather who was visiting from California gave me a Popiel Pocket Fisherman F3000 folding rod & reel. I used to walk down our driveway every day and fish off our bridge. The funniest memory relating to that is of the family cat (who looked like Garfield) following me every time in anticipation of eating the fish heads as a reward for his company.
What’s your favorite fishing memory?
Altogether, my memories of fishing growing up are some of my fondest and most unforgettable. My hope and my goal are that my two daughters, Natalie and Sydney, will have similar experiences that stick with them throughout their lives. Fishing is one of the closest interactions with a wild animal that a person can have. It literally gives you a direct line to feeling survival instincts kick into action with every run and head twitch a fish makes. This gives you respect for the life taken to sustain your own life.
What does “fishing” mean to you?
Fishing is a great outlet for me and an opportunity to relax out in nature with my friends and family. I also appreciate that it has required that I develop patience and strategic thinking skills.
Is fishing a sport to you, recreational activity, or survival (dinner)?
While I haven’t participated in fishing competitions, I still enjoy the challenge of exceeding my personal bests and hoping to land the whopper of a lifetime. Just bringing home a few fish that the family can have for dinner is a pretty great reward itself.
Do you typically fish alone, with others, or both? If so, with whom do you fish mostly?
I enjoy fishing with my family and friends while constantly learning from each other. My father-in-law Al King and his friend the late Roland Murphy managed to land the world record spadefish on his boat and the record still stands 11 years later. He has a lot of fishing experience in this area and luckily, I have been able to learn from him on every outing we take.
Have you encouraged anyone else to start fishing? If so, who? Was there a reason why?
I recently encouraged my friend and neighbor Matt Fischer to get back into fishing after hearing his stories about him and his father catching rockfish in his youth. We managed to get out on the water a couple of times this year and had extremely successful trips using some of his family’s historic hotspots.
Have you taught children to fish? If so, what are your tips for helping children learn?
Almost every person on both sides of my family has always encouraged my girls and their cousins to fish since they were old enough to hold the rod and turn the crank. They started out catching small bluegill with a worm on a hook and a bobber, and we typically used the fruits of their labor live lining the bluegill to catch big bass, black crappie, and yellow perch. I’d recommend to anybody trying to introduce children to fishing to first be patient and pick the right location and conditions that will give the highest probability of catching fish. It is all too easy to attempt fishing with children and not have any action resulting in bored kids that don’t want to ever try again.
How can novice fisherman get started?
For adults who are new to fishing, they should try picking up pointers from others, reading books and magazine articles and even watching some fishing on TV or YouTube. I also recommend stopping by your local tackle shop and asking for their advice on what to try and where. They might not give up the secret honey hole in the area, but they should be able to point you in the right direction to get you started. It is in their best interest to give you good advice which should keep you coming back to buy more supplies from them. Ultimately, nothing beats getting out and trying and learning from the experience.
Are there any places in King George where someone could go to find out about how to fish (knot tying, casting, baiting, etc.) or what they might need?
Gander Mountain in Fredericksburg as well as Bass Pro Shops and Green Top that are both located in Ashland, Virginia and are great resources for purchasing equipment. There is also a locally owned shop called 8 It Lure Company that makes great looking custom baits.
Are there any resources available in King George for fisherman-that you know of? (Associations, stores, groups, clubs, etc.)
The ones I’m familiar with are the two Facebook groups: Potomac River Fishing Report and Rappahannock River Fishing.
Some people might think it’s expensive to get into fishing with equipment, licenses, boats, etc. What are the essential materials to get started?
It is not necessary to have top-end, expensive equipment to catch fish, especially if someone is just starting out. That being said, though, I do believe that using a quality rod and reel that provide more sensitivity and reliability can greatly improve the experience. In terms of boats, it comes down to reliability and safety for your intended use. If you plan on fishing local ponds or small streams, I highly recommend a kayak, canoe or 12’ jon boat. If you are planning to go out on the Rappahannock or Potomac rivers, I personally feel that a boat should be 18 feet or longer. I have always bought used boats in the offseason to save money. If you go this route, I highly recommend having a local shop check the boat out before buying it. Fairview Beach Marine and Power Sports is a great and honest shop that will be able to give you reassurance that you are getting the boat you think you are paying for. I personally bought my 20’ center console bay-boat out of state and didn’t have it checked out before hand; it had problems right off the bat. Luckily, I still got a good enough price that I came out ahead after getting the kinks worked out.
What types of equipment do you have that have helped you be more successful at catching fish? (Depth finder, etc.)
Besides having the right boat for the type of fishing you plan to do, you should also consider getting a fish finder chart plotter combo. This added resource not only can help you find the fish easier, but it will also keep you safe by showing your location and potential hazards.
Do you have a boat? Is it better to fish off a boat or a pier? Does it make a difference?
Although it is nice to have a boat to fish from, it is possible to fish from the shore or a pier and still be successful. Having a boat does allow the angler to reach areas that are typically pressured less by other fisherman and to use techniques that are not possible from the shore.
Do you need a license to fish off a pier? Do you need a separate license to fish off a boat or does your boating license cover that? Where can someone go to get these licenses?
Persons not required to have fishing licenses are:
- People who are 65 years of age or older do not require a saltwater license
- Residents under 16 years of age (also do not need a trout license);
- Landowners, their spouse, children and minor grandchildren within the boundaries of their own land;
- Tenants on the land they rent and occupy if they have written permission of the landowner;
- Guest fishing in individually owned private ponds;
- Non-resident children under 12 (except in designated stocked trout waters) when accompanied by a properly licensed adult; and
- Legally blind persons.
The easiest way to purchase a fishing license is online through https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/licenses/
They can also be purchased at Walmart and other tackle shops and are good for one year. Virginia has reciprocal license agreements for the Potomac River which include the Middle Potomac and its Tidal Freshwater Tributaries (between Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Rt. 301): Valid Virginia freshwater and saltwater, Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and Maryland Bay sport licenses are all honored on the mainstem Potomac and Maryland tributaries up to the demarcation lines; all of these same licenses, except the Virginia saltwater licenses, are honored on the Virginia tributaries up to demarcation lines.
Saltwater licenses are required downstream of the Potomac River Rt. 301 Bridge and the Rappahannock River: Rt. 360 Bridge.
It is important to know the regulations that govern the area you are fishing. A good example is that striped bass (rockfish), season and limits are different for the Chesapeake Bay and for different sections of the Potomac River; and, they follow separate regulations covered under the Potomac River Fisheries Commission.
Are there any activities you routinely do on the rivers in addition to fishing? If so what? Why?
While my family and I are out on the river fishing, we sometimes also take the kids tubing, look for shark teeth along the shoreline, and hangout at Rick’s on the River, Tim’s Rivershore II, or Randolph’s on the River to get a bite to eat and hang out with friends. Something to keep in mind for any watersport activity in the river is to check for floating debris. Especially after a storm, the river can have large amounts of driftwood and other debris floating in it, which could be hazardous if hit.
How do you feel about how local rivers are kept? Is there anything the public can do differently in regard to the care of the rivers? Have you seen any changes over the course of time?
The river water quality has improved from a rating of “D” in 2011 to a “B” in 2019. Pollution levels continue to decline but can still fluctuate greatly. Luckily, there is a website and app called Swim Guide which tracks the weather and water quality of approximately 7,000 beaches around the world, including Fairview Beach. The amount of plastic debris in the water and along its banks can be reduced significantly by people being more conscious about littering while on and off the water. My family occasionally walk along the river shore with trash bags for an hour or two and are able to pack out a significant amount of debris that otherwise would be washed back out into the river and the Chesapeake Bay. My wife Sally and I feel that being good stewards to our surrounding natural resources is an important lesson to teach our children from an early age.
Do you have any safety tips for fishing?
The most important safety tip I can give is to check the weather report before going and continuously get updates throughout the day. The weather can change very quickly in this area, and river conditions can become treacherous very easily. If you plan to use a smaller boat on the Potomac this becomes even more important. I have been out on the Potomac River on a 14’ old bomber style bass boat when I’ve been caught by a quick weather change and had to question if I was actually going to make it back to the boat ramp. Both times that happened, the forecast didn’t seem that bad, but a slight increase in wind speed in a direction that has a long fetch can really create some large waves. When you add the movement of a peak tide change, the waves can double in size very quickly. One of those scary times was additionally complicated by my bilge pump not functioning. I learned a very important lesson that day to always check and maintain your equipment before every trip. I don’t want to scare people away from getting out on the river, but the water conditions should be taken very seriously. If you don’t have experience with this area and its conditions, I recommend playing it safe if there is any doubt in your mind.
What do you do with the fish you catch? Eat/Catch and release? Why?
I typically catch and release unless I’m fishing for rockfish or snakeheads. Occasionally I’ll keep a few perch or black crappie for dinner, too.
What’s the best time of day for fishing in your opinion?
I like fishing the hour or two after sunrise or before sunset with the tide moving and not slack.
What kind of fish are in local rivers?
yellow perch, black crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, rockfish, puppy drum, speckled trout, spot, Spanish mackerel, croaker, white perch, catfish.
What kind of fish do you catch most often?
snakehead, yellow perch, black crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, bluegill, trout, catfish, rockfish, puppy drum, speckled trout, spot, spadefish, cobia, bluefish, croaker, flounder, and white perch
Are there size limitations on what fish you can keep? If so, what are they?
What are the seasons for fishing in local rivers? (Ex: rockfish season)
Be sure to check the state and Potomac River Fisheries Commission regulations before fishing. The regulations often change each year.
What things have you caught that are not fish?
I did catch an osprey once by accident. It swooped down and grabbed my Texas rigged worm and flew off with it for about 100 feet before realizing its mistake. The bird got lucky that I didn’t set the hook on that catch! Also, while fishing in Potomac Creek, my friend Heath Mullins and I had a 14-point buck swim by us as it escaped an intense chase from a coyote. We managed to get some of the encounter on video which can be found on YouTube.
In 20 years, will we still find you fishing? Why?
I can’t picture a scenario as I get older where I don’t continue fishing. As long as I’m physically able-and probably a bit longer than that too-I’ll be fishing!