2016 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 2015 electrofishing survey collected 120 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 72 bass/hr. This catch rate showed a favorable increase from the 2014 survey (CPUE: 46 bass/hr). The 2015 survey (May 4th) was conducted later than usual and represented the typical post spawn pattern for the largemouth bass within Beaverdam Swamp Reservoir. 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 14 to 16 inch range was detected. The survey revealed several years of successful recruitment with an abundance of bass in the 6 to 10 inch range. 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. The 2015 fishing season produced a decent number of citation-sized fish. Anglers reported 10 yellow perch, 2 chain pickerel and 2 black crappie citations. Bluegill, redear sunfish, chain pickerel and the occasional channel catfish will provide anglers with some additional action. Gloucester Utilities stocked 2,000 grass carp into the reservoir during the fall of 2012. These fish have had minimal impact on the hydrilla growth that typically covers the shallow regions of the reservoir. Anglers will find excessive amounts of aquatic vegetation covering large areas of the reservoir during the late summer to early fall time period.
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. The 2015 trap net survey was conducted during late March. The survey revealed an abundance of healthy black crappies in the 10 to 13 inch range that managed to migrate toward the shallow regions of the lake. The flats of Johnson and Lacey Creeks provide the earliest crappie action each year. The 2015 spring electrofishing survey collected a total of 238 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 79 bass/hr. This catch rate was similar to the 2014 survey (CPUE: 77 bass/hr). The collection of 68 preferred-sized largemouth bass (15 inches or larger) provided a decent catch rate of 23 preferred bass/hr. An abundance of bass in the 12 to 14.5 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. Anglers reported a total of 14 citation fish during 2015. These citations consisted of 6 largemouth bass, 4 yellow perch, 3 chain pickerel and 1 bowfin. Chickahominy Lake continues to produce an abundance of 4 to 6 pound bowfin with a chance at a citation over 10 pounds. 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 2015 spring electrofishing survey yielded 438 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 125 bass /hr. This catch rate showed a major increase from the 2014 survey (CPUE: 97 bass/hr). 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 48 preferred-bass/hr. This catch rate of preferred-sized bass showed a decline from the record year of 2014 (CPUE: 59 preferred bass/hr). The 2015 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 4 to 6 pound range with a couple bass weighing in just shy of 8 pounds. The bass fishery provides anglers with some larger specimens over the course of the year. Anglers reported a total of 7 citation-sized bass from Lake Chesdin during 2015. The bluegill population is extremely abundant, but very few fish make it past 6 inches in length. The black crappie population has historically suffered from stock piling issues, but still has the capacity to produce some quality fish. Anglers reported some good crappie action with 11 citation crappie reported in 2015. Anglers can expect to catch both black and white crappies. 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 2015 gill net survey revealed an abundance of saugeye with fish from the 2013 stocking in the 3 to 4.5 pound range. The survey also revealed a strong stock of saugeye from the 2014 stocking. 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. Anglers have been able to catch a few of the walleye from previous stockings. The 2015 stocking consisted of walleye fingerlings as saugeye fingerlings were not available.
Back Bay is located in extreme southeastern Virginia. The bay has been experiencing a substantial recovery in recent years, with continued growths of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). SAV growth decreased slightly in 2014, but the bay’s fisheries populations are still doing great. In 2012, the VDGIF initiated a three-year largemouth bass stocking project in the bay. 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 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, Landing Cove and Pocahontas. Although anglers may catch some quality bass, they should still remember this is a recovering fishery and the bass size structure is steadily improving. Spring and summertime catches of white perch have been excellent and anglers fishing with beetle spins and small spinner lures should expect consistent action when fishing near the marsh islands and SAV edges. White perch in the bay are large, averaging 10 inches in length. 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 Trojan Canal – leading to Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area. These creeks can offer great fishing for 12+ inch yellow perch. The months of February and March are generally best, and anglers should plan on fishing warm days when surface water temperatures may slightly rise, triggering these fish to become more active. Channel and white catfish are also possibilities in these creeks. 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. Anglers should focus on duck blinds that are located near 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. 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. 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, white bass, white perch, and freshwater drum.
Briery Creek Lake was historically renowned as the best trophy largemouth bass lake in Virginia. However, a chain of events in the mid 2000’s has brought the bass fishery at Briery back down to reality. Yet hope is on the horizon. The 2015 spring electrofishing survey revealed that bass densities have decreased for two consecutive years, which is great news for growth, and increases the chances of producing trophy fish again. Briery still boasts an impressive size distribution with nearly 40% of all bass being 16″ or greater. Briery also showed an increase of fish over 20″ inches in 2015 to a level that hasn’t been seen since 2005. Crappie and sunfish densities remain relatively low compared to neighboring lakes and is likely due to the high abundance of bass. Approximately 500,000 bluegill fingerlings were stocked in September of 2015 in an effort to increase sunfish abundance and ultimately improve largemouth growth. Biologists encourage anglers to harvest a few bass below the 16″ slot minimum to help keep bass numbers at a healthy level. This will ensure that the bass who make it to the 16-24″ slot will grow faster and have more girth. Despite sunfish numbers being low, their sizes are excellent. Thirty percent of all sunfish collected were six inches or greater. Crickets, worms, and popping bugs (with a fly rod) fished in the shallows around the abundant structure are effective for catching sunfish. Crappie fishing in early spring can also be exciting; fishing with minnows or jigs always a good bet to catch a nice mess of fish from February through April.
Sandy River Reservoir is thought of as a sister lake to Briery Creek Lake and this county owned impoundment gives anglers another opportunity to catch quality largemouth bass, sunfish, and crappie in Southside. Sandy boasts an uncommon combination of a high density largemouth bass population with an excellent size distribution. The 2015 sample revealed a slight overall increase in bass densities from 2014. Most notable however, was the increase in the number of bass over 20 inches which nearly doubled the previous 10 year average. After the change to a 14-20 inch protective slot limit in 2004, number of bass greater than 14 inches has doubled, and is starting to show up as 20+” fish. We do encourage anglers to harvest some bass below 14 inches to help reduce density and improve growth rates of larger bass. Anglers should target bass on points with drop-offs and near any structure like beaver lodges. Large bass are common in early spring in the standing timber in the upper Marrowbone and Sandy River arms of the reservoir. Quality channel catfish, fish over 20 inches, are fairly common in our samples. Night fishing near the dam and mid-lake in the summer months can be excellent for catfish. The sunfish fishery at Sandy River is average with bluegill and redear sunfish plentiful in the spring. Look for beds in the shallows in April and May. Anglers might fish near beaver lodges or other structure in the summer months. Other sport fish species present in the lake include crappie, chain pickerel, and bullhead catfish.
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. The number of bass over 15 inches declined 16% and bass over 20 inches dropped 55% in 2012 when compared to the previous year, most likely due to Largemouth Bass Virus that was discovered at Smith Mountain Lake in 2011. Although overall bass numbers declined in 2014 and 2015, the percent of large fish (≥ 15″) in the population has improved to levels that exceed years before the Largemouth Bass Virus was found. 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 mirrors very closely the largemouth bass with overall numbers slightly declining but the percentage of larger fish in the population increasing after the bass virus was discovered in 2011.
Striped bass fishing overall success may decline some from 2015. While this decline will not be large, the management goal for the fishery is to reduce the number of striped bass in the 26-29 inch range. Growth of the striped bass 26-29 inches has been steadily declining since 2008 and is limiting the production of trophy fish. Forage has not been adequate to support healthy growth for these fish year around. However, growth for younger fish (less than 26 inches) is still good indicating the slower growth is only occurring for larger striped bass. There does seem to be some modest improvements in the number fish over 30 inches. The new striped bass slot limit (30-40 inches) that began on January 1, 2015 was designed to remove more of the slower growing and stunted striped bass with the goal of improving their growth and provide additional striped bass over 30 inches.
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 five year old fish averaged 29 inches and eight pounds in the fall of 2015. 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 2016 should have an exceptional season. Sampling by VDGIF biologist in 2015 documented that the largemouth bass catch data remains at record levels. Fifty-five percent of all the largemouth bass collected measured 15 inches or longer, and forty-six percent of the smallmouth bass collected measured 14 inches or longer. This is good news for bass anglers in 2015. 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 122 walleye during sampling efforts in 2015. Of these, 54 fish were 18 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 2014-15 that good numbers of walleye were utilizing shoreline structure. Anglers should be flexible during the summer of 2016 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 2015 samples as 263 fish were collected during spring and fall surveys. Of those, biologists collected 208 crappie of legal harvestable size (10 inches or larger). As a result, prospects for anglers pursuing crappie look good for 2016. 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.
Fishing for bass on Flannagan Reservoir in 2016 should remain good. The 2015 bass sampling results by VDGIF biologists showed healthy numbers and sizes of largemouth. Approximately 32% of all the largemouth bass collected measured 15 inches or longer and the catch rate of largemouth bass of this size was still among the highest recorded for this lake. 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 catch rate for smallmouth bass in spring samples has been consistent over the past several years, but the numbers remain low compared to largemouth bass and to catch rates of smallmouth bass in previous years.
Hybrid striped bass continue to provide a popular sport fishery in Flannagan Reservoir and this system has produced the current state record hybrid striped bass. This fish was caught on June 19, 2013 by Joshua Neece and weighed 13 lbs. 9 oz. The abundance of hybrid striped bass in 2015 was similar to that observed in 2014. Hybrid striped bass collected in the December 2015 gill net sample ranged from 5 to 24 inches with fish in the 20-inch length group contributing the most of any single length group to the overall length distribution. This suggests that are a good number of legal-sized fish to be caught by anglers. Approximately 20,000 hybrids striped bass fingerlings were stocked last year. Hybrids are routinely caught in the lower lake on top water baits or by drifting live baits.
The walleye and saugeye fishing forecast on Flannagan Reservoir for 2016 looks promising. Although the combined walleye/saugeye catch rate in late 2015 was down slightly from the previous year, there are large numbers of fish that should reach legally harvestable size in spring-summer 2016. Growth of saugeye that were stocked in Flannagan in 2013 has been somewhat slower compared to walleye at similar ages, but the survival of this cohort appears to have been very good. Additionally, the walleye cohort stocked in spring 2014 should be right behind the saugeye as they reach 18 inches, which should result in some excellent fishing over the next couple of years. Flannagan received a stocking of about 118,000 walleye fingerlings in spring 2015.
The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries initiated a creel survey on Flannagan, which began on January 1, 2016 and runs through the end of the year. The survey clerk will intercept anglers at the public access sites and ask questions pertaining to their targeted species, catch and harvest, and trip characteristics. Also, beginning in February 2016 VDGIF biologists will be tagging walleye and saugeye on Flannagan in order to estimate the level of angler exploitation (i.e. harvest) on these species. Anglers will be 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 are abundant and fishing for this species should be good in 2016. Channel and flathead catfish continue to provide great fishing opportunities for anglers on Flannagan Reservoir. Sampling in December 2015 by VDGIF resulted in good numbers of catfish overall with channel catfish measuring 15-24 inches and flathead catfish in the 19-35 inch size range. Black crappie abundance in the spring 2015 sample was again down slightly from the previous year, but would be considered an average year over the long term trend. The majority of crappie in the 2015 sample were in the 10-13 inch size range. Angler reports from late 2015 and early 2016 indicate good angling success for harvestable size crappie on Flannagan Reservoir. Approximately 49,000 crappie fingerlings were stocked in spring 2015.
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 spring 2015 electrofishing, 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 2015, Claytor Lake produced 7 smallmouth bass trophy award certificates (more than 5 pounds or over 20 inches), ranking Claytor Lake as the second-best 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. 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 produced 4 trophy award certificate size (more than 20 pounds or over 37 inches) stripers in 2015, ranking second to Smith Mountain Lake. Claytor Lake is the top destination for hybrids in Virginia, producing 8 trophy award certificate size (more than 8 pounds or 24 inches) in 2015.
Anglers will also find schools of walleye in Claytor Lake. In 2015, anglers reported 7 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 2015, 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 the best largemouth bass fishing in the lake’s history in 2016 based on evaluations of over two decades of sampling data. Spring electrofishing catch rates for all size categories were above average in 2015 after setting lake records the previous year. Sampling data suggest Anna is now holding more and larger bass than ever before. Although spawning success has been stable, above average year classes were produced in four of the past five years suggesting continued good fishing in future years. 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. The mid-lake region seems to blend the best of Anna’s extremes giving anglers perfectly colored water with adequate nutrients and excellent habitat driven by both submersed and emergent aquatic vegetation.
Although striped bass catch rate was below average in 2015 (based on winter net samples), several strong, recent year classes should continue to produce good angling for keeper fish in 2016. Additionally, the first ever hybrid striped bass stocking in Lake Anna occurred in 2014, and fish were well represented in net surveys. Anglers should begin to see some of these fish reach the 20″ harvestable size later this year. Striped bass will continue to be stocked while the 2014 hybrid stocking is evaluated. If successful, both will be stocked in future years. 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 in 2015 were above average, and size structure was excellent with good numbers of large fish plus good size distribution. The trend over time of declining abundance was finally reversed and holds promise for improved angling. Look for crappie to be transitioning from bridge pilings and docks during April to water willow edges and natural wood.
Saugeye (hatchery cross between sauger and walleye) were stocked for the first time in 2013 (on a one-time experimental basis), have reached legal size (18″) and were located mainly in the North Anna arm between the splits and Route 719 (there were also good numbers in the Pamunky arm in the vicinity of Terry’s Run). Pending evaluation, this species may be stocked in future years.
Occoquan Reservoir should provide anglers excellent opportunities to pursue a variety of species in 2016. 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 12-15″ fish should be available to anglers in 2016. Moomaw actually provides better habitat conditions for smallmouth bass and anglers have the opportunity to catch more quality-size bronzebacks than bucketmouths. The deep, cold waters of Moomaw provide excellent year-round trout habitat. Brown 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″. In 2014, both anglers and biologists observed a dramatic reduction in the numbers of both 12-13″ and 16-20″ brown trout. At this time biologists are not quite sure of the cause. However the cohort of brown trout that was stocked in January 2015 showed much better survival and anglers should see good catches of trout in the 14-18″ range in 2016. The most recent stocking of brown trout in December 2015 should also provide good numbers of fish in the 12-13″ range. The Department began experimenting with stocking steelhead rainbow trout in 2009 as a replacement for McConaughy rainbow trout that were stocked in Lake Moomaw since the 1980’s. Survival of steelhead stocked directly into Lake Moomaw in early 2015 appears to have been the highest to date. Anglers should expect to see modest numbers of steelhead in the 14-18″ range in 2016. Steelhead have very similar feeding habits to brown trout and both species should be found in the same habitats. 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. Biologists are not certain of the cause, but have instituted a conservative 10 fish per day creel limit to help stabilize the population.