Rappahannock River - Upper - Fishing Opportunities
Above Fredericksburg, the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers provide excellent smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish angling. River herring (blueback and alewife) and shad (hickory and American) ascend the river through Fredericksburg each spring past the old Embrey Dam site. Recently, the hickory shad run has been very good, although it was off a bit in 2006. Target these acrobatic fighters the two weeks on either side of Easter, but if conditions are right; they can be found much earlier than most people think. Since Embrey was demolished, striped bass, especially juveniles, have been found as far upstream as Kelly's Ford and Ely's Landing.
The Rappahannock is a river rich in Virginia history, a river that is favored by canoeists and a river that is renowned primarily for its smallmouth bass fishing.
Beyond the put-in at Kelly's Ford landing, canoeists can find 25 miles of stream awaiting them that have changed little over time. The friendly currents push past miles of rich stands of hardwoods spared because of the steep cliffs they inhabit, rock bluffs that have withstood centuries of raging floodwaters, wooded islands begging to be explored and giant midstream boulders that seem to shout "smallmouth bass". There will be rapids to run, but they are not difficult and long quiet pools where anglers may have to paddle to travel through. The substrate over which clear water flows (providing it has not rained recently) is sandy in places, but in others filled with ledges and rock gardens where bass lurk.
When anglers leave the Kelly's Ford launching ramp, they are committed to a minimum of two days on the river. On the left as they leave the launch area is approximately five miles of the C.F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area. The next public access; however, is Motts Landing, about 25 miles downstream. Look forward to a leisurely trip - fishing, admiring the river and its environs, and taking turns at fishing and paddling. In addition to smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish, anglers floating the river may encounter native fish such as catfish, chain pickerel, fallfish, and suckers. There is also limited fishing for bluegills, crappie, and largemouth bass. Periodically, canoeists and anglers will pass the mouths of numerous tributaries such as the Hazel and Rapidan rivers - good smallmouth streams in their own right.
Most upriver canoeists and anglers end their trip at Mott's Landing on the right near the city of Fredericksburg, but a hardy few may want to tackle the fall line rapids that end at the U.S. Highway 1 bridge where the high gradient upstream river water collides with sluggish tidal flats. The take-out point is at the City Dock Landing on the right - or south side of the river another mile downstream.
Once you have floated and fished the Rappahannock, you will always want to return. It's just a matter of time before you accept this challenge again.
For more Fishing Information by float section, see Maps and Directions.