Richard from the Friends of Anacostia Park teaching 4 children how to fish
Richard from the Friends of Anacostia Park teaching 4 children how to fish

National Park Service


Fishing the Anacostia River

What comes to mind when you think about fishing? Patience, relaxation, challenge, and memories are a few words often associated with fishing. You will experience all of that and a sense of stewardship, conservation and preservation on this page. We want you to have an enjoyable time during your visit, and for those who come after you. Take some time to explore what the park has to offer and learn your responsibilities before casting a line.


Visitors fishing within Anacostia Park must follow the fishing license requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations of the City of Washington D.C. Department of Energy and Environment.

Fishing Regulations

Except as provided below, fishing shall be in accordance with the laws and regulations of the City of Washington D.C. For city fishing regulations, go to the Washington D.C. Department of Energy and Environment website.

The fishing regulations apply to all "finfish" found in the park. Other taxa, including amphibians, mollusks and crustaceans (e.g. waterdogs, crayfish) are not considered "fish" for the purpose of NPS fishing regulation and addressed by NPS regulations governing wildlife.

These fishing regulations apply, regardless of land ownership, on all lands and waters within the park that are under the legislative jurisdiction of the United States.

The following are prohibited:
  • introducing wildlife, fish or plants, including their reproductive bodies, into a park ecosystem. This includes discarding and/or dumping of bait and bait buckets.
  • The use or possession of fish, wildlife or plants for ceremonial or religious purposes, except where specifically authorized by Federal statutory law, or treaty rights.

Fish Consumption Advisories in National Park Waters

The Environmental Protection Agency, states, territories, and tribes provide advice on fish and shellfish caught in the waters in their jurisdiction to help people make informed decisions about eating fish. Advisories are recommendations to limit your consumption of, or avoid eating entirely, certain species of fish or shellfish from specific bodies of water due to chemical or biological contamination.

Fish is part of a healthy balanced diet, but eating wild fish and shellfish caught in park waters is not risk free. Parks are “islands”, but the much larger “ocean” that surrounds them affects the natural resources inside a park. Other aquatic toxins are the result of natural biological processes. Also, chemical contaminants that originate outside of park boundaries can come into parks.

Mercury is an example of a toxin originating outside a park that can find its way into a park. Mercury exists naturally in some rocks, including coal. When power plants burn coal, mercury can travel in the air long distances before falling to the ground, usually in low concentrations. Once on the ground, microorganisms can change this elemental mercury to methyl mercury. This type of mercury can build up in animal tissues, and it can increase in concentration to harmful levels. This high concentration can occur in large predatory fish - those often pursued and eaten by anglers. Studies have shown that fish in some National Park System waters have mercury levels that may be a concern to people who regularly eat a lot of fish.

Anacostia River Fish Consumption Advisories

Effective 2016, the Washington D.C. Department of Energy and Environment urges limited consumption of Anacostia and Potomac river fish. PCBs and other chemical contaminants have continued to be found in certain fish species caught in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and their tributaries, including Rock Creek, within the District's boundaries. Because of these findings, DOEE advises the general public to limit consumption of fish from all DC waters, as follows:

  • Do not eat: Eel, carp or striped bass.
  • May eat: Four servings per month of sunfish, or three servings per month of blue catfish or white perch, or two servings per month of largemouth bass, or one serving per month of brown bullhead catfish or channel catfish
  • Choose to eat: Smaller fish of legal size.
  • The practice of catch and release is encouraged.

Please see additional documents containing more information on the Fish Consumption Advisory and Fish Preparation Guidelines. The fish consumption advisory is available in Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.


Aquatic Invasive Species

Imagine your favorite fishing spot and the wonderful memories. Things may look fine but underneath the surface there is a serious threat. Everything you remembered is now cemented together in a sharp, smelly mess. Invaders have wiped out the fish species you used to catch.

Aquatic invasive species are not native to an ecosystem. Their introduction causes, or is likely to cause, harm to the economy, the environment, or to human health. Aquatic invasive species are a growing risk to parks and their values. In the United States alone, there are more than 250 non-native aquatic species.

For many centuries, humans have contributed to spreading non-native species around the globe. You can make a difference. To learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species in the National Park Service, visit the Fish and Fishing website.

How You Can Help -- Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers

The northern snakehead (channa argus) is a predatory species of freshwater fish native to China. First documented in U.S. waters in 2002, the snakehead is considered highly invasive and poses significant threats to native fish populations. Unfortunately, the snakehead has become established in several DC, Maryland, and Virginia waterways, including the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and tributaries. If you catch a northern snakehead DO NOT RETURN IT TO THE WATER. Snakeheads should be immediately killed by removing the head, removing all vital organs, or removing both gill arches. Please help stop the spread of this species and reduce its population numbers.


Fishing Throughout the National Park Service

We invite you to visit the Fish and Fishing website for more information about fish and fishing in the National Park Service. You will learn about conservation, different fish species, and parks that offer fishing.

Last updated: December 27, 2022

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1900 Anacostia Drive, S.E.
Washington, DC 20020



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