I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. The best fishing is always a two hour drive from your house. During that drive, you will pass somebody who is also driving two hours to fish in your backyard.
The Occoquan is my back yard and we had never been on the section that runs from I95 up to the dam. Why? It’s only 15 minutes away. Late last year, we were pressed for time, so the Basswife and I decided to give this a try.
The best access to the river below the dam is through the Regional Park that sits across the river from the quaint town of Occoquan. Be prepared to pay a small launch fee in the summer – there is a kid there to collect it. Since the park is open all year, they may have somebody there during the winter as well. The ramp is pretty nice and will handle several boats. With the basscanoe, we simply unloaded, geared up and launched.
The river is broad and deep with the greatest depth being on the north side. I wanted to fish the docks that lined the southern banks, but when we motored over there, they were clogged with grass and only had a foot or two of water. Since I did not have my weedless propeller on the trolling motor, we turned upstream. We ran flat out, a blazing 3.4 mph, with the wind in our hair until we got to the top end.
I was surprised to see that we could not get all the way up to the dam. The river becomes very shallow and rocky at the upper end near the storage tanks. No problem, we started fishing our way back downstream allowing the current to carry us. There is a pipe that spans the river on a raised bridge in this area that features a small waterfall. We had a good time throwing top water baits into the torrent of water and pulled in a few small bass and some large bluegills.
The current in this area is just enough to drive you nuts in the canoe. I had to put the motor in reverse and on low speed to hold the canoe in position so I could cast. Of course, the acrobatics associated with this were transparent to the Basswife sitting in the front as she happily casts to all the good structure around the bridge. I noticed that there were a number of guys fishing from the opposite shore. There is access to the river from the upper end of the town and about 5 guys were sitting and fishing. I did not see them catch anything while we were up there.
After working the waterfall, I switched to the southern bank so we could work the concrete wall that protects the town from the river. We drifted down, swatting a few flies and did not pick up any action. When the water became really shallow, I decided to head across the river and we worked our way down the northern shore.
If you cannot get to the docks, the northern shore is pretty good. There are trees and other interesting obstructions that should hold fish at intervals all the way back to the boat ramp. We did not pick up any bass after we left the waterfall, but did grab a catfish and, of course, plenty of bluegills.
I was using my long rod out of the canoe and worked poppers pretty hard. The Basswife had good luck on brown Gulp worms and a Mepps spinner.
On the day we were here, the water was running at 15 – 20 feet deep on the track we followed, The northern bank dropped off sharply with a bankside depth ranging from 4 to 15 feet. I did not encounter any interesting humps or bumps as we drifted down. While it will require another visit to confirm whether there is any hidden underwater holding areas, the initial perspective is that the northern bank is pretty slick and level. Other than what you see above water, there may not be anything else.
Bottom Line: I don’t think I will go back here in the near future. There are better places to fish the Occoquan above the dam from either the Lake Ridge or Bull Run access points. Those areas provide access to more traditional water, no big boats, and a more scenic setting. We fished this in the late afternoon, so there was not a lot of boat traffic. I imagine this can be sporty in a small boat if the larger boats are active and kicking up waves. I have visions of our experience on Lake Anna – rough for canoes.
Getting There: Take exit 160B from I95 and follow Rt 123 north. Once you pass over the river, be alert for the park entrance on the right at the top of the hill
Boat launch area
Looking up towards the Rt 123 bridge
The dam area
Nice water feature pops into the river here
This is big water, but not too big for the basscanoe
Rt 123 construction in Occoquan
I wanted to fish the docks, but this was totally plugged with weeds and shallow
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore