Potomac Highlands Watershed School

Cacapon River Watershed Readings

Excerpts from

Portrait of a River:

The Ecological Baseline of the Cacapon River

Read the entire document: Portrait of a River: The Ecological Baseline of the Cacapon River (2.5 mb, PDF)



The Cacapon has long been known as one of the best places to fish in the region. Most anglers seek the smallmouth bass, a hard-fighting member of the sunfish family.

But the smallmouth is just one of 39 fish species inhabiting the river. The most abundant is the redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus). Other species include:

3 trouts (which do not reproduce in the river);

4 suckers;

13 minnows;

5 catfishes;

8 sunfishes (including bass);

3 darters; and

1 sculpin.

The Cacapon ranks first in number of fish caught per cast (compared to the nearby Shenandoah River and South Branch of the Potomac). The river has yielded excellent numbers of  trophy-sized smallmouth bass (3 pounds or greater). Between 1986 and 1988, 32 trophy bass from the Cacapon were registered with the state Department of Natural Resources.

While the smallmouth is the Cacapon's high-profile fish, the rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) may actually tell us more about the river's health. This fish known locally as the "redeye" or "goggleye" needs rocky, silt-free river bottoms to prosper. It is abundant in Cacapon reaches with relatively silt-free waters.

Because they meet the criterion of being "over five miles in length with desirable fish populations and public utilization thereof," the state has listed the Lost, North, and Cacapon rivers as "high quality streams."  For everyone who likes to fish, the challenge will be to keep them that way.

(See "Fishes of the Cacapon River" in the Summer 1989 issue of Cacapon.)