2017 Impoundment Forecast
Virginia has extremely diverse aquatic ecosystems found over varied geographic regions, from the Lowland Coastal Plain to the rugged topography of the Appalachian Plateau. Over 176,000 acres of public lakes, primarily man-made impoundments, and 28,300 miles of fishable streams (1,000 miles tidal) provide fishing opportunities for more than 600,000 licensed anglers. Virginia‘s 24 man-made large impoundments (>500 acres) are spread throughout the state and provide the public with over 139,000 acres of quality fishing. These impoundments range in size from 510 to 48,900 acres and were built by various federal, state, or private entities for flood control, water supply, hydroelectric generation, and /or recreation. Additionally, Virginia has over 40,000 miles of streams. This important resource includes approximately 25,000 miles (1,000 miles are tidal) of fishable warmwater streams which support a great diversity of freshwater fish species and provide excellent sport fishing opportunities. Included here is the 2015 fishing forecast for selected large impoundments (>500 acres) representing all the physiographic regions of the Commonwealth.
Beaverdam Swamp Reservoir is a 635 acre impoundment located in Gloucester County. The fishery provides valuable freshwater angling opportunities on the middle peninsula. The 2016 electrofishing survey collected 146 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 87 fish/hr. This catch rate showed a favorable increase from the 2015 survey (CPUE = 72 fish/hr). The 2016 survey (April 21st) was conducted on the tail end of the spawning season. The colder than average weather in April elongated the spawning time period. Beaverdam Swamp Reservoir is rather shallow and typically warms up quickly during normal spring weather. Look for bass to tuck their spawning nests in close proximity to shallow flooded timber. Collected bass were in good condition with favorable relative weight values. The bass population continues to forage on the gizzard shad and bluegill populations. Similar to past surveys, a large concentration of bass in the 13 to 16 inch range was detected. The survey revealed fair recruitment of bass in the 6 to 10 inch range. The bass population receives a great deal of pressure from anglers and the various bass tournaments that are held each year. Anglers are encouraged to try new and different lures and patterns that the bass have not grown accustomed to. The yellow perch and black crappie populations continue to provide excitement for anglers during the late winter to early spring time frame. Anglers are encouraged to switch their effort from the bass population to the great angling opportunities that exist for yellow perch and black crappie. Beaverdam Swamp Reservoir has been producing an abundance of citation-sized yellow perch and black crappie. These schooling fish, when found, can provide some great action and can keep young anglers interested in fishing. Bluegill, chain pickerel and the occasional channel catfish will provide anglers with some additional action. The bluegill population has been producing some larger fish in the 6 to 9 inch range. DGIF staff assisted Gloucester Utilities with the stocking of 7,000 grass carp into the reservoir during the spring of 2016. These fish will hopefully mature to the point where they can control the excessive hydrilla growth that has taken over the shallow regions of the reservoir.
Chickahominy Lake is a popular destination for anglers that enjoy fishing a 1,230 acre reservoir with plenty of habitat and cover. Chickahominy Lake continues to be a predator heavy system with an abundance of bass, black crappie, chain pickerel and bowfin. The blue catfish population continues to increase as anglers have started to target the catfish population. Fishing reports from Ed Allen’s refer to numerous large blue catfish being caught by anglers over the last couple of years. Based on the fishing records taken at Ed Allen’s, 2016 was an incredible year for anglers catching bass greater than 5 pounds. The 2016 trap net survey was conducted during mid-March. The survey continued to reveal an abundance of healthy black crappie in the 10 to 13 inch range with the largest fish just shy of 15 inches in length. Schools of crappie will migrate toward the shallow regions of the lake. The flats of Johnson and Lacey Creeks will typically provide the earliest crappie action each spring. The 2016 spring electrofishing survey collected a total of 224 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 84 fish/hr. This catch rate showed a slight increase from the 2015 survey (CPUE = 79 fish/hr). The collection of 73 preferred-sized largemouth bass (15 inches or larger) provided a respectable catch rate of 27 preferred bass/hr. An abundance of bass in the 12 to 14 inch range were also detected. The two private boat ramps, Ed Allen’s and Eagles Landing, have numerous bass tournaments over the course of the year. Anglers that put enough time on the water can usually find the hot spots and catch quality limits of bass. The highlight of the electrofishing survey was the collection of two trophy bass in Johnson Creek. The smaller bass measured 23.94 inches and weighed 9.33 pounds. The larger bass measured 24.49 inches and weighed 9.65 pounds. Chickahominy Lake continues to produce an abundance of 4 to 6 pound bowfin with a chance at a citation over 10 pounds. The bluegill and redear sunfish populations have been producing some larger fish that anglers will typically target during the first wave of the spring spawn. Anglers that fish Chickahominy Lake will find a wide variety of fish species that can provide an enjoyable day on the water.
Lake Chesdin is a 3,100 acre impoundment located primarily along the county line of Chesterfield and Dinwiddie Counties. This popular fishing destination continues to produce some very respectable largemouth bass. The 2016 spring electrofishing survey yielded 237 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 118 bass /hr. This catch rate showed a decline from the 2015 survey (CPUE = 125 fish/hr), which was most likely due to the survey date of May 12th. An earlier survey would have encountered a higher proportion of the adult bass population in and around the thick water willow vegetation. A large proportion of the collected bass were in the 16 to 20 inch size range. The total of 169 preferred-sized bass (15 inches or larger) provided a high catch rate of 47 preferred-bass/hr. The 2016 catch rate placed Lake Chesdin in first place again for all public impoundments sampled within Region 1, District 1. Relative weight data from the collected bass showed favorable values that indicate that adult bass are finding plenty of available forage. The abundant gizzard shad population provides a great forage base for the largemouth bass population, but also makes fishing a bit tricky for the average angler. The survey revealed an abundance of bass in the 3 to 5 pound range with a few bass in the 6 to 7 pound range. The bluegill population is extremely abundant, but very few fish make it past 6 inches in length. The redear sunfish population has improved with a decent abundance of 9 to 11 inch fish. The crappie fishery consists of both black and white crappie. The crappie population has historically suffered from stock piling issues, but still has the capacity to produce some quality fish. One of the better fishing opportunities on Lake Chesdin comes in the form of the channel catfish population for those anglers willing to target them. The electrofishing and gill net surveys revealed some extremely healthy channel cats that most likely have been feeding upon the stunted bluegill population. Lake Chesdin received saugeye (sauger x walleye cross) fingerlings in May 2013 and 2014 as well as walleye fingerlings. Fall electrofishing surveys have shown decent survival of these stocked saugeye. The 2016 gill net survey revealed an abundance of saugeye with fish from the 2013 stocking in the 4 to 6 pound range. Anglers are reminded that the minimum size limit for saugeye and walleye is 18 inches and the daily creel limit is 5 per day in the aggregate. The 2015 stocking consisted of just walleye fingerlings as saugeye were not available. Requests have been made within the DGIF hatchery chain of command to hopefully get additional saugeye stocked into Lake Chesdin. Both walleye and saugeye have taken to foraging upon the abundant gizzard shad population. The chain pickerel population has produced some very healthy fish with numerous fish in the 2 to 4 pound range. Anglers may be surprised by a trophy pickerel.
Back Bay has continued to experience a substantial recovery as in recent years. The bay showed continued growths of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in 2016, and the bay’s fisheries populations are still doing great. In 2012, the VDGIF initiated a three-year largemouth bass stocking project. Approximately 400,000 bass fingerlings were stocked into the bay from 2012 to 2014. Stocked bass have survived well, and natural bass reproduction has been outstanding. The 2016 year class of bass (those bass that were spawned in the spring of 2016) showed outstanding survival. The 2016 year class appears to be one of the strongest year classes in this decade. The creeks on the western shore hold excellent numbers of bass. Creeks such as Tabernacle, Hell’s Point, and Nanney’s are some of the favorite fishing spots. However, some of the major marsh complexes also harbor excellent bass populations. These marsh complexes include, House Cove, the Sandbridge Ponds (Woods Broad), Landing Cove and Great Narrows. The 2016 fall fisheries sampling indicated that overall bass size has continued to increase, a result of excellent survival of fingerlings and abundant forage in the bay. Although anglers may catch some quality bass, they should still remember this is a recovering fishery and the bass size structure is steadily improving. The 2016 angler survey revealed anglers caught over 18,000 bass from April to September, an improvement over previous years. Spring and summertime catches of White Perch have been excellent. Anglers fishing with live bait, beetle spins and small spinner lures should expect consistent action when fishing near the duck blinds, marsh islands and SAV edges. The White Perch population and sport fishery are, without comparison, the best in the state. White perch in the bay are large, with many 8-10 inches in length and very abundant. The 2016 angler survey showed that June and July were the most popular months for White Perch. Anglers caught over 26,000 White Perch in 2016. An often overlooked late winter/early spring fishery is one for spawning Yellow Perch. Anglers should focus on the creeks such as Hell’s Point and Asheville Bridge Creeks. These creeks can offer great fishing for 12+ inch Yellow Perch. The month of February is generally best, and anglers should plan on fishing warm days when surface water temperatures may slightly rise, triggering these fish to become more active. The mid-February time period is often the peak of this fishery, nearing the full moon. Channel and White Catfish are also possibilities in these creeks. Blue Catfish were first documented in the bay in 2014, and anglers are reporting scattered catches in the deeper portions of the bay. One of the most improved fisheries in the bay is the Black Crappie fishery. These fish are growing quite large, up to 14-15 inches. Although crappie are not extremely abundant, some great fishing can be found. Biologists continue to see the crappie population rebound, and the angler survey showed that anglers are indeed encountering these fish more frequently. Anglers should focus on duck blinds that are located near shore and SAV beds, and the typical structures such as pilings and docks located in the major creeks.
Buggs Island (Kerr Reservoir) is located in south-central Virginia and north-central North Carolina. Largemouth bass in the 2–4 pound range are still common; however, density of bass over 4 pounds has declined mainly due to reduced productivity of the system. DGIF samples have shown that survival has improved since the impacts of LMBv were felt in 2009 -2012 and the number of bass over 15 inches in spring surveys has steadily improved since 2012. Several bass in the 16-20 inch range were sampled in 2016 even though lake levels and cool temperatures made spring sampling difficult. The best fishing is on the upper end of the lake and the lower end creek arms, especially during high water events in the spring when water gets into the trees. The catfish fishery has become dominated by a world class blue catfish fishery with many fish caught from 5-30 lbs. Many larger fish are also caught and Buggs Island boasts the state and world record blue catfish at 143 pounds caught in 2011. The striped bass population is in good condition and you can expect to see more striped bass over 24 inches this season. Density of stripers is still increasing so expect a quality striper fishing experience this year. During spring, striped bass may be found in the upper end of the lake and in the river above the lake as fish travel upstream to spawn. During summer, habitat (combination of temperature and dissolved oxygen) forces striped bass to be found in the lower end of the lake (the dam to about Buoy 9 and in the mouth of Nutbush Creek). Fishing during the fall and winter is typically best from Goat Island to the Clarksville Bridge, although fish may be found throughout the lake. Buggs Island Lake is also one of Virginia’s best places to catch crappie with fish over two pounds not uncommon but the crappie population is experiencing a bit of a decline lately. We are actively investigating the crappie population to determine the best management strategy for the fishery. We will explore every avenue to restore this fishery to its former glory. Fishing for crappie is typically best from February through April (pre-spawn and spawn); however, many anglers enjoy high catch rates year-round. Buffalo, Grassy, Bluestone, and Butcher Creeks are very productive for crappie. Other species available for Buggs anglers include channel catfish, flathead catfish, walleye, white bass, white perch, and freshwater drum.
Ask any longtime fishermen of Briery Creek Lake and they’ll remember the “hay day” when it was consistently knocking on the State record door. A cascade of events in the 2000s starting with trophy fish naturally aging out of the population, followed by largemouth bass virus, and a Hydrilla invasion caused trophy size bass to disappear. However, don’t let that stop you from fishing the lake. Briery Creek Lake boasts a unique combination of size and numbers of largemouth bass. It also provides an excellent sunfish and moderate crappie fishery. Since the implementation of the 16-24” slot limit, abundance of largemouth bass in that size range, has tripled. Currently, 40% of the largemouth bass population is greater than 15”.
Will Briery ever regain its’ trophy status?
That is left to be determined. However, positive signs are showing that big fish are making a comeback. The abundance of bass greater than 20” has increased for three consecutive years. Intensive forage stocking of 750,000 1-3” bluegill in the lake in 2015 and 2016 has resulted in a 20% increase in forage abundance. Hopefully this will translate to faster growing and larger bass. Briery is not just a Bass lake. Anglers would be hard-pressed to find a redear (aka “shellcracker”) population that is greater than the one currently at Briery. Over 50% of redear collected in 2016 were greater than 8” with 5 fish topping 12”. Although Briery’s hay day of producing near state record fish is distant, it is showing signs of improvement and remains one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the state.
Sandy River Reservoir is currently in its prime and is gaining popularity among bass anglers. Considered Briery’s Sister lake just East of Farmville off Route 460, Sandy offers the same caliber of bass fishery as Briery, but without the “stumps” and greater trophy potential. Collections by biologists in 2016 yielded 13 fish over 20” and two fish topping out at 24”. Furthermore, catch rates (fish/hour) of bass over 20” has increased for 3 consecutive years. Large bass can be found throughout the lake but shore fishing is likely most productive in the spring before and after the spawn. During the summer, anglers should fish deeper water (8-12 ft) during the day off points and ledges. Anglers who pay attention to what the shad are doing are often very successful too. Sandy also has an impressive catfish, sunfish, and crappie fishery. DGIF stocks aver 7,000 channel catfish annually which do very well in Sandy. The abundance of beaver lodges in the lake has made ideal habitat for sunfish and crappie and anglers accompanied with children should have easy pickings in and around lodges and fallen trees. The fishing pier at Sandy can also prove successful for crappie and sunfish anglers during the spring months.
The Smith Mountain Lake largemouth bass population was stable from 2007-2012 with general numbers remaining at all-time highs. Sampling in 2014 indicated an overall population decline of 15% and a 23% decline by 2015, when compared to 2012 which had the highest numbers ever collected. However, sampling in 2016 showed improvements with the population increasing and matching 2014 values in all categories except the number of bass ≥ 20 inches. Although overall bass numbers declined in 2014 and 2015, the percent of large fish (≥ 15”) in the population is now at levels that exceed years before the Largemouth Bass Virus was discovered in 2011. Current population trends indicate largemouth bass numbers should be stabilizing or slightly increasing the next couple years. The smallmouth bass population makes up less than ten percent of the bass population at this lake but still contributes to the fishery. This species generally mirrors very closely the largemouth bass trends with overall numbers slightly declining in 2014 but rebounding to historical levels by 2016.
Striped bass fishing overall success declined some in 2015 and substantially in 2016. While some decline was expected, the larger drop in 2016 was unexpected. Management goals for the fishery were to marginally reduce the number of striped bass in the 26-29 inch range by changing the protective slot limit to 30-40 inches. Growth of striped bass 26-29 inches, steadily declining since 2008 and limited the production of trophy fish. Forage was not adequate to support healthy growth for these fish year around. In addition, stocking success was unexpectedly poor for three consecutive years (2013-2015) and has substantially reduced catch rates for stripers < 26 inches. The forage base (shad) greatly improved in 2016, there have been modest improvements in the number striped bass over 30 inches, and striped bass growth has been improving.
The crappie population has been very consistent for several years for both numbers and sizes. Anglers should also find a good distribution of fish between 8-13 inches. Channel and flathead catfish should be similar to the past few years with little change.
Leesville Lake largemouth bass population has been very stable for many years for both numbers and sizes. Most fish are between 13 and 16 inches but there is a fair number of fish up 21 inches. Catch rates of bass, 15 inches and larger with electrofishing gear, is actually slightly better than neighboring Smith Mountain Lake. The best fishing areas are between the Leesville dam to approximately mile marker 6, most of the upper lake has poor largemouth habitat due to high flows from Smith Mountain Lake dam and other hydrological conditions.
This reservoir has historically supported a fair striped bass population that has fluctuated in both numbers and sizes due to variable recruitment. However, the current population is good due to a record year class in 2010. These seven year old fish averaged 31 inches and 11.3 pounds in the fall of 2016. The striped bass population will begin to decline in a couple years due to limited recruitment after 2010. Leesville Lake has historically produced a marginal walleye population but experimental saugeye stockings were initiated in 2013 and produced much better survival in 2013 and 2014 than any of the previous walleye stockings. Consequently, the walleye (walleye and saugeye) numbers are higher in the lake than ever before and indicate walleye fishing is improving and will continue to be good in the near future. Saugeye are a cross between walleye and sauger but look almost identical to walleye in both appearance and behavior.
Catfish are abundant at this reservoir with the most common species being channel and white catfish. There are limited numbers of blue and flathead catfish available but these species make up a smaller portion of the catfish population. The crappie fishery is fair with good sizes but low numbers. This reservoir can be difficult to fish due to quickly rising and falling water levels and lack of submerged structure. However, many anglers who spend the time to figure this lake out are rewarded with good fishing.
Bass anglers fishing South Holston Lake in 2017 should have an exceptional season. Sampling by VDGIF biologist in 2016 documented that the largemouth bass catch data remains at record levels. Sixty-three percent of all the largemouth bass collected measured 15 inches or longer, and thirty-eight percent of the smallmouth bass collected measured 14 inches or longer. This is good news for bass anglers in 2017. Creel survey data from 2012 indicate that anglers target smallmouth bass in the cooler months and largemouth bass in the warmer months as there habitat use and catchability changes.
Walleye fishing remains the best in the Commonwealth of Virginia; however, fishing success has declined in recent years possibly due to ever increasing fishing pressure. Biologists collected 103 walleye during sampling efforts in 2016. Of these, 24% fish were 20 inches or larger and legal for harvest. Anglers can expect good catches during the spring river run on the South Fork Holston River. The post spawn top water bite in the lower lake will yield the best walleye fishing Virginia has to offer. Summer trolling for walleye and channel catfish in the main lake is productive and growing in popularity. However, it was observed during the summers of 2014-16 that good numbers of walleye were utilizing shoreline structure. Anglers should be flexible during the summer of 2017 and if trolling is not productive, they should shift to targeting the shoreline at night with lures.
South Holston offers the best crappie fishing of all the lakes in southwest Virginia. Biologists found crappie abundant during the 2016 samples as 129 fish were collected during spring and fall surveys. Of those, 86% of the crappie biologists collected were of legal harvestable size (10 inches or larger). As a result, prospects for anglers pursuing crappie look good for 2017. Biologists continue to work on adding fish habitat (brush piles) in designated areas to improve spawning habitat and add cover for young crappie.
Bluegill are always plentiful in South Holston and will provide excellent fishing opportunities in the summer when fishing success for other species slows as the water temperatures increase. Anglers can find good numbers of quality size bluegill concentrated in the backs of coves near wood structure and piles of logs. Anglers may even catch the occasional white bass on South Holston. The Department has been working with TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) to re-introduce white bass back into the lake and these fish cannot be creeled (catch and release only). Visit the South Holston Lake page for more fishing information or go to the TWRA website.
Flannagan Reservoir should provide excellent fishing for bass in 2017. Although catch rates for both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass were down in the spring 2016 sample, this was likely a result of a significant jump in lake elevation (nearly 8 feet) in the days prior to sampling rather than a true decrease in the bass populations. The bass were likely already on the spawning beds at the time of the elevation increase and were, therefore, deeper than the electrofishing gear could effectively sample.
Approximately 25% of all the largemouth bass collected measured 15 inches or longer and 1% exceeded 20 inches in length. Additionally, there were good numbers of bass in the 12-inch size range, which bodes well for future fishing prospects as these fish grow into larger size groups. The size distribution observed during the sample was consistent with the size distribution of bass caught by anglers during a year-long creel survey in 2016.
Hybrid striped bass continue to provide a popular sport fishery in Flannagan Reservoir and this system has produced the former state record hybrid striped bass. Approximately 18,000 hybrids striped bass fingerlings were stocked in August 2016. The abundance of hybrid striped bass in December 2016 gill net samples was considerably higher than that observed in 2015. Hybrid striped bass observed in the gill net samples ranged from 7 to 23 inches with 42% of the fish greater than 20 inches. This suggests that a good number of legal-sized fish will be out there for anglers to catch in 2017. Hybrids are routinely caught in the lower lake on top water baits or by drifting live baits.
Walleye and saugeye fishing on Flannagan should be very good in the coming year. This favorable outlook is largely a result of the saugeye stocked in 2013 finally reaching legally harvestable size. The saugeye that were stocked in 2013 appear to have had great survival, but their growth has been somewhat slower compared to walleye at similar ages. However, 44% of the saugeye in the 2016 gill net samples were 18 inches or larger. The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries will continue the tagging study on walleye and saugeye in Flannagan in 2017 to estimate the level of angler exploitation (i.e. harvest) on these species. Anglers are asked to mail in the tag from any tagged fish that they catch and will receive a $20 reward for each tag returned. All of this information will help VDGIF biologists to better manage the fisheries on Flannagan Reservoir.
Bluegill and catfish (both channel and flathead) continue to provide great fishing opportunities for anglers on Flannagan Reservoir. Black crappie abundance in the spring 2016 sample was down slightly from 2015, but again this may have resulted from the change in lake elevation. Observations during the 2016 creel survey indicate that there are good numbers of harvestable crappie available for anglers that know how to target them.
Visit the Flannagan Reservoir page for more fishing information.
With the possibility of catching smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass, the Claytor Lake bass fishery is popular, with nearly 50 percent of lake anglers fishing for these species. During the last Claytor Lake electrofishing sample in spring 2015, 46% of the largemouth bass collected over 8 inches long were over 15 inches long. Anglers can find largemouth bass in coves throughout the lake, but the best places to fish are Peak Creek, Clapboard Hollow, and large coves in the lower lake area. In 2016, Claytor Lake produced 8 smallmouth bass trophy award certificates (more than 5 pounds or over 20 inches), ranking Claytor Lake as the second-best large Virginia reservoir for trophy smallmouth bass. Spotted bass in Claytor Lake do not grow as large as largemouth and smallmouth bass, rarely reaching 2 pounds in size, although the state record 4-pound, 7 ounce spotted bass was caught at Claytor Lake in March 2012.
Striped bass and hybrid striped bass are the second biggest fishery at Claytor Lake, with nearly 20% of anglers fishing for these 2 species. Poor habitat conditions (low dissolved oxygen levels at their preferred temperature at depth) for striped bass in summer 2016 caused a striper kill, but recent angler reports indicate that this event was nowhere near a complete population die-off. Claytor Lake bait populations (alewife and gizzard shad) are high, so stripers are feeding well since fall 2016, so anglers are reporting some fat and happy stripers! Water temperatures below 70 degrees produce the best striper and hybrid striper fishing. While most anglers troll or float live gizzard shad and alewife for stripers and hybrids, many are taken with topwater baits (Redfins, Rapalas, etc.) and bucktails in the spring and fall. Trolling bucktails and umbrella rigs in 20-60 feet of water can produce good catches. Since they can tolerate higher water temperatures, hybrids often chase schools of shad at the lake’s surface at night in the summer months. Claytor Lake is the top destination for hybrids in Virginia, producing 13 trophy award certificate size hybrids (more than 8 pounds or 24 inches) in 2016 and setting a new state record with a hybrid weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces caught by local angler Don Jessie on March 16, 2016.
Anglers will also find schools of walleye in Claytor Lake. In 2016, anglers reported 6 trophy award certificate walleye (more than 5 pounds or 25 inches) caught from Claytor Lake. During fall, winter, and summer months, look for schools of these fish in the same areas where stripers hang out. During the spring spawning run, look for walleye where the New River enters the lake near Allisonia. From February 1 to May 31, from Claytor Lake Dam upstream to Buck Dam on the New River in Carroll County, no walleye 19 to 28 inches may be kept and anglers are limited to 2 walleye per day. From June 1 to January 31, walleye in Claytor Lake and the New River upstream from the lake are regulated by a 20 inch minimum size limit and a 5 per day creel limit. This seasonal slot limit is designed to protect large female spawning walleye in the New River, while allowing some harvest of the more abundant male walleye.
In 2016, anglers reported 11 trophy award certificate size yellow perch (more than 1 pound, 4 ounces or 12 inches). The black crappie population is not large compared to other lakes, but they average a little less than a pound in size. Bluegill are numerous throughout the lake, providing fishing action when other species are not biting. Flathead and channel catfish up to 20 pounds can also be caught from the lake. With catches of 20 to 30 pound carp possible, anglers from as far away as England come to fish for them at Claytor. For more fishing information, consult the most recent Claytor Lake biologist report on our website.
Anglers at Lake Anna should find 2017 Largemouth Bass action consistent with recent years (including fish with above average weights) based on evaluations of over two decades of sampling data. Spring electrofishing catch rates in 2016 were below average but were believed to have been heavily biased by weather conditions, as nearly all waters sampled during the typical two-week window in late April and early May produced extraordinarily low catch rates. However, size structure was excellent (record setting) suggesting the population was composed of predominately larger fish. Spawning success has been very stable. Some of the best fishing should be found along edges of water willow beds in the area of the State Park – especially around Rose Valley, Ware Creek and Plentiful Creek. Fish biomass (in addition to bass catch rate) is much higher up lake, so it’s a good idea for anglers unfamiliar with the lake to stay above the splits (or at least upstream of Route 208).
Striped Bass catch rate (combined with hybrid Striped Bass catch) was slightly above average in 2016 (based on winter net samples). This good fishery for small to medium-sized stripers should continue to produce limits in 2017 and will only be helped by the addition of the 2014 year class of hybrids now reaching legal 20” size. Hybrids have only been stocked once (2014) but are planned for 2017. Maintained by stocking, these fisheries provide great potential despite slow growth in this thermally enriched reservoir. Stripers will be moving around the lake following forage as temperatures change. Don’t overlook early season action in extreme upstream shallows in areas such as Henry’s Point (Pamunkey arm) and Route 719 Bridge (North Anna arm).
Black crappie numbers have recently been very cyclic (a trait this species is known for). Catch rate in nets was down in 2016 after an above-average spike in 2015. However, the 2013 year class appeared to be excellent and should boost angling success in 2017 as these fish enter the fishery. Look for crappie to be transitioning from bridge pilings and docks during April to water willow edges and natural wood. Once again, upper lake locations should work best: Christopher Run vicinity on the North Anna arm, and Terry’s Run vicinity on the Paumunkey arm.
Occoquan Reservoir should provide anglers excellent opportunities to pursue a variety of species in 2017. Largemouth bass catch rate during the 2015 spring electrofishing survey was an outstanding 146 fish/hour, with excellent numbers of fish over 15” (60 fish/hour). The quality of this fishery cannot be overstated – numbers and size in the 2015 were simply amazing. Anglers should concentrate on abundant shoreline cover and cove mouths in the middle and upper lake. Black and white crappie are present offering anglers excellent opportunities to catch fish as large as 16”. It’s unique to find white crappie populations at most locations around Virginia, as they are generally associated with more riverine systems. Channel catfish are abundant throughout the reservoir, and a limited flathead catfish population also exists. The current state record flathead catfish, 66 pounds 4 oz, was caught and released in 1994 – anglers should concentrate around rocky bluffs that transition into deeper water. Occoquan currently ranks 1st out of 20 impoundments managed in the Fredericksburg district.
The main forage base in Lake Moomaw consists of gizzard shad and alewife. The alewives are shallow and in-shore during late spring, and then move to the thermocline when the reservoir stratifies in summer. Anglers should target the depth of the alewife when fishing for bass, crappie, or trout. Moomaw is home to both largemouth and smallmouth bass. The largemouth population has remained fairly consistent over the years and good numbers of 12-18” fish should be available to anglers in 2017. As Lake Moomaw has “aged” over the years it has actually become better habitat for smallmouth bass. Smallmouth now outnumber largemouth in many areas of the reservoir. Serious black bass anglers should add Lake Moomaw to their “must- fish” list in 2017. The deep, cold waters of Moomaw also provide excellent year-round trout habitat. Brown and rainbow (steelhead) trout are stocked as fingerlings each year. The brown trout fishery mainly consists of three cohorts (separate annual stockings), and anglers distinguish these by size-range. Brown trout that are stocked in Nov-Feb at 6-7” grow to 12-13” in six months. The second cohort are in the 16-20” range and the third cohort produces fish >20”. Historically rainbows have never been as abundant as brown trout, but growth rates are similar. In recent years DGIF has stocked steelhead rainbow trout in place of McConaughy rainbows and biologists are still evaluating this change. In recent years there has been a lot of variability in DGIF netting survey catch rates. Some of this change could be explained by DGIF changing their netting methods or switching from stocking McConaughy to steelhead rainbow trout. This variability may or may not be reflected in angler catch rates. Based on 2016 DGIF netting surveys biologists predict that trout anglers “could” see improved catch rates in 2017 compared to last year. While black bass and trout are the mainstay fisheries in Lake Moomaw, anglers should also find favorable populations of black crappie, bluegill, chain pickerel, and channel catfish. Yellow perch also provide a very important fishery in Lake Moomaw. However, the population has declined dramatically in recent years.