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PRIME FEEDING TIMES
The Rappahannock River is a river in eastern Virginia, in the United States, approximately 195 miles (314 km) in length. The name of the river comes from an Algonquian word, “lappihanne” or “toppehannock”, meaning "river of quick, rising water" or "where the tide ebbs and flows," the name used by the local native population, the Rappahannock tribe. It traverses the entire northern part of the state, from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west, across the Piedmont, to the Chesapeake Bay, south of the Potomac River. An important river in American history, the Rappahannock was the site of early settlements in the Virginia Colony, and, later, it was at the center of a major theatre of battle in the American Civil War. The river drains an area of 2,848 square miles, approximately 6% of Virginia. Much of the watershed is rural and forested, but it has experienced increased development in recent decades because of the southward expansion of the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
The river rises at Chester Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains a few miles southeast of Front Royal, Virginia, near the single point where Warren, Fauquier, and Rappahannock counties come together. It flows southeastward, past Remington, Kelly's Ford, and Richardsville, before it meets the Rapidan River, its largest tributary, from the right. The broad river enters Chesapeake Bay approximately 15 miles (24 km) south of the mouth of the Potomac and approximately 50 miles (80 km) east of the state capital, Richmond. At the point where the river enters the bay, between Windmill Point, on the north, and Stingray Point, on the south, it is more than 3.5 miles (5.6 km) wide. This area, the estuary south of the Northern Neck peninsula, is a productive oyster and crab fishery. Above Fredericksburg, the Rappahannock provides fine opportunities for recreational canoeing and kayaking.
Both Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers provide excellent smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish angling above Fredericksburg and tidal influence. Additionally, herring, shad and striped bass run the river each spring and ascend past Fredericksburg now that Embrey Dam has been completely removed. Below the fall line, the Rappahannock has good populations of white perch, largemouth bass, striped bass, black crappie, yellow perch, channel catfish, and blue catfish. Several of these species (e.g., yellow perch and channel catfish) are now being found above the old dam site. Access to the Rappahannock system (defined here as the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers) is fairly limited and primitive. Established access points on the Rappahannock (traveling downstream) are at Kelly's Ford (Route 672 off Route 651) in Culpeper County and Motts Landing (Route 618) in Spotsylvania County. About 25 miles separates these canoe/Jon boat slides, and an overnight camp stop is nearly mandatory for those that float fish this reach. Another access point is located on the Rapidan River at Elys Ford (Route 610) in Spotsylvania County about 14 miles upstream of Motts Landing. Access may also be gained via several non established points. These consist of VDOT right-of-ways along bridges (e.g., Route 522 on the Rapidan). Many anglers choose one of the canoe liveries that have agreements with landowners and provide floats of varying length from access points not available to the general public.
The Rappahannock's character changes abruptly in Fredericksburg at the fall line (the limit of tidal influence). Above the fall line, the river is usually clear, swift, and dominant substrates are bedrock, boulder and cobble providing perfect habitat for smallmouth bass and related species. However, below Route 1 the river is tidal, and the substrate is finer, dominated by sand; and the water is frequently murky. Species composition shifts with habitat, and largemouth bass, catfish and anadromous species are more common in and below Fredericksburg. Boaters and anglers can now navigate from upstream access points such as Motts Landing across the old Embrey Dam site and into the tidal waters adjacent to Fredericksburg. Blue catfish were stocked below Fredericksburg in 1974, 1975, and 1977; channel catfish in 1975 and 1987. Tiger musky were stocked above the fall line in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985 but were discontinued due to poor survival. Other species such as smallmouth bass were stocked well over 100 years ago but now are naturally self sustaining populations.