I’m sure you’ve heard the good news about the Anacostia River. DC’s bag fee, the polystyrene ban on takeout foods and the tireless cleanup efforts of a myriad of community groups are paying off. Bald eagles fly overhead and nest in the nearby National Arboretum, while great blue herons dot the shoreline. At long last, the Anacostia is getting cleaner.
Nowadays, you can fish in the Anacostia and even eat some of the fish found in it. Recent surveys have found increased numbers of game fish, including bass, crappies, and yellow perch. On Saturday, April 28, DC’s Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) sponsored the 2018 Family & Youth Casting Call along the shores of the Anacostia. The weather was ideal for being outdoors, and over 750 attendees participated in the event, which provides fishing lessons and environmental education.
But, if you’re between the ages of 17 and 64, you need a license to fish in the DC portion of the Anacostia or in any waterways inside the District. DC residents can purchase a license for $10, while non-residents pay $13. A 14-day license is also available for only $6.50. Scientific research permits are available to nonprofit and public institutions at no charge and to for-profit research organizations for $50.
You can purchase a fishing license at Frager’s Hardware on E Street in Capitol Hill, at Dick’s Sporting Goods on Market Street NE or online through the DOEE website. Rumor has it that a commemorative “Year of the Anacostia” license will be issued to all 2018 license holders in the coming months.
Per DOEE, fishing licenses are valid from the date of purchase until Dec. 31 of the year displayed on the license. Commercial fishing is prohibited in any DC waters.
If you catch a fish, you might want to share your tale. Did you know that DC has a recreational angling records program? You can share photos of your catch by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You might even receive an angling certificate!
While fishing is allowed in DC waterways, DOEE advises limited consumption of Anacostia and Potomac river fish due to concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly referred to as PCBs. These and other chemical contaminants have been found in some fish species caught in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and tributaries inside the District, including Rock Creek. Rules for what fish can’t be consumed or can be consumed in limited quantities can be found on the DOEE website along with tips for preparing fish to minimize any ingestion of contaminants.
DOEE Director Tommy Wells loves the Anacostia, noting, “It’s inspiring to see the Anacostia River bouncing back from years of neglect. This progress is thanks to coordinated efforts by the District government, community organizations, and individuals. I’m particularly excited about re-launching our fishing license system, enabling you to get a fishing license in just two clicks of a mouse. I encourage everyone to get out and experience all the river has to offer.”
DC government relies on fishermen – and women – to be the eyes of the Anacostia and all of its waterways. If you see 50 or more dead fish floating on the surface of the water, you’re urged to contact the DC Fisheries and Wildlife Division to report the location of the kill and its extent. Should you catch a northern snakehead, DOEE notes, “Do not return it to the water.” These are invasive fish that feed on and threaten native fish populations. Per DOEE, “Snakeheads should be immediately killed by removing the head, removing all vital organs, or removing both gill arches.”
Though you can fish in the Anacostia, unfortunately, you still can’t swim in the river. The DC Department of Health (DOH) bans swimming in the Anacostia due to sewage overflows associated with DC’s old combined system that enables raw effluent to flow into the Anacostia during any heavy rain event, resulting in high bacteria levels. The portion of the Clean Rivers Project that was activated along the Anacostia River in late March should prevent 80 percent of sewer overflow volume from flowing into the river and significantly improve water quality.
Until that hopefully not-too-far-off day when we can all swim in the Anacostia, get a license and go fish! It’s a lot of fun and a great way to appreciate the beauty of DC’s Anacostia River.
Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, a writer, and a blogger for the DC Recycler: www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler. She is also a board member and the conservation chair of the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, but the perspectives expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.