Alexandria, VA has a rich history, and the old town section has riches of money. This high end area is known for its million dollar plus townhouses, quaint stores, and fancy eateries that don’t know what “under $50 a plate” means. I’m not going to say that its all overpriced, but the majority of the retail establishments are, even though there are tourist attractions that are free or low in cost. My favorite activity in Old Town is to scare the hell out of the “silver spoon” crowd, by wearing flannel clothing, and bringing out my big surf rods and tackle boxes. The looks of shock, bewilderment, and disdain are worth their weight in gold. The area of Founder’s Park, that’s right on the banks of the Potomac River, offers some of the best opportunities for big catfish in the region.
Parking is a bit of a hassle down here. A lot of the residential streets are by “permit only,” so my advice is to get to this park and the surrounding areas of N. Union Street and Quay/King Streets early in the morning. Then you can get a parking spot within a 1/10th of a mile, without having to pay for placing your car in one of the public garages. Those can get expensive, at either $5 an hour, or up to $30 for a day. They are also a bit of a walk, which normally wouldn’t be that difficult, but its made more challenging by carrying fishing polesA and your equipment with you down to the riverbank. Thankfully there are no major hills, and the sidewalks are kept in pristine condition at all times.
Founder’s Park is a good starting point, and if the catfish aren’t hitting there, you can walk in a southern direction for about a 1/8th of a mile, to where King Street is located. Waterfront Park is located there, and in between these two facilities you will find it impossible not to pull up some monster channel cats. The reason is simple, as there are numerous channels in the river about thirty yards out, and also businesses in the area feed the catfish. That’s right, they actually throw out bread crumbs to these goliath sized creatures on a daily basis. I’ve never left here without catching at a minimum five or six catfish, and a lot of them are well over ten pounds in weight. Its been rumored that some of them are about five feet long, and tip the scales at around fifty pounds. I’ve seen a twenty pounder on several occasions, but haven’t had the luck of catching one yet.
Don’t bring your wimpy Zebco pole here. The currents are strong, and a surf rod is going to be a necessity. You are going to want to use at a minimum a 3 ounce weight, and usually I go with a four, in order to guarantee that my casts will be long in distance. The best baits are nightcrawlers and minnows, but a surprising treat might be one of the best of all. These catfish love hotdogs. If you cut them into small pieces, and put them on a large snelled hook, they just cannot resist them. While it is disgusting, if you let the hotdogs sit under the sun for a couple of days, that will drive these stink loving creatures into a near frenzy. Chicken livers are usually a fantastic bait, but I’ve had more luck with the other three here.
You might get looked at funny by the suit wearing crowd, but who really cares if you are catching fish? On my last trip, a few residents of the area approached me, and actually admired the catfish that I caught. They were very friendly, and asked for some suggestions about a trip they were taking on the bay later in the season. Do I stick out like a sore thumb? Perhaps, but this is one of the best places you can go for monster catfish, and you will occasionally hook a bass, eel, or perch. My only concern is the level of pollution, and there are signs warning you to limit your consumption of fish caught. Otherwise, enjoy the big fights from catfish you’ll get from these waters, and check out the view of Washington D.C. and Maryland across the river. It’s a beautiful setting, and my favorite place to go in the area.