by Tambra Stevenson
WASHINGTON, DC—As tourists flock into the nation’s capital for the 100th anniversary of the cherry blossoms, one fisherman will be fly fishing off the west Potomac.
Jesse, a retired residential roofer from Virginia, sits on the riverbank catching crappie while beating the tree-loving crowd coming en masse to see the blossoms. When asked about the safety of eating the fish from the river, the great-grandfather stated: “I have been eating this fish for more than fifty years, and I am just fine.”
Running along the western board of the District, the Potomac River is home to the cherry blossom tree as well as bass, panfish, crappie and catfish. Perfect for fishing, the weekend weather was calm and clear. Within minutes of sitting with Jesse, he caught a beautiful crappie.
Released back into the water, the crappie dines on a diverse diet of zooplankton, insects, and crustaceans, which keeps it lean. According to the University of the Wisconsin’s Sea Grant Institute, one serving size (3.5 ounces) of crappie is low in calories, fat and protein compared to bass and catfish.
For some fishing isn’t just for recreational activities but a way to feed the family. And before Jesse, the Virginia Algonquians in the 1600s fished along the Potomac (which is a European spelling of an Algonquian name for a tribe subject to the Powhatan confederacy). Known as ‘the place where tribute is brought,’ the river filled with fish fed nearly 20,000 tribesmen before being enslaved or slayed by infectious disease or war from the English colonizers.
Fish or Seafood Calories % Fat % Protein Bass (Small & Largemouth) 104 2.6 18.8 Crappie 79 0.8 16.8 Catfish (freshwater) 103 3.1 17.6
And in less than two days, the National Cherry Blossom Festival will kick off its ground-breaking Centennial events running from March 20th to April 27th. Winding along the tidal basin, cherry blossoms bloomed earlier than expected due to the short winter season. So festivities have have begun earlier this year.
This year marks the centennial celebration of the cherry blossoms, which were a gift from Tokyo, Japan to Washington, DC in 1912 “as a living symbol of friendship between the Japanese and American peoples.” And horticulturist, Dr. David Fairchild, of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s foreign plant service was instrumental in cultivating the blossoms to ensure their viability on the East Coast.
Before sitting down with Jesse, I spoke with one of the tree trimmers for the U.S. National Park Service under the U.S. Department of the Interior. “I must love trees because on my off day I trim trees too,” said the tree trimmer, “but sometimes I get tired of looking at trees.” He shared how he works throughout the year to cut the dead branches and remove from nearly 15,000 trees. For photographers and tourists this means a picture perfect snapshot of the blossoms.
Tourists and local residents can fish for their supper like Jesse off the Potomac. And for ten dollars, they can get a DC fishing license at area vendors such as One Stop Benning Corporation located at 4443 Benning Road in northeast Washington.
Tambra Stevenson is the President of the Student Dietetic Association at the University of the District of Columbia where she is completing the didactic program in dietetics. You can follow her on Twitter @tambra.