2013 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 2013 fishing forecast for selected large impoundments (>500 acres) and rivers representing all the physiographic regions of the Commonwealth.
Chickahominy Lake is a popular destination for anglers that enjoy fishing a 1,230 acre reservoir with plenty of habitat and cover. Chickahominy Lake is a predator heavy system with an abundance of bass, black crappies, chain pickerel and bowfins. The blue catfish population has recently increased as many anglers have started to target the catfish population. The 2012 trap net survey showed a decent abundance of black crappies with the majority of the fish in the 10 to 12 inch range. The shallow flats of Johnson and Lacey Creeks usually provide the earliest crappie action each year. The 2012 spring electrofishing surveys collected a total of 400 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 92.31bass/hr. The bass population has a stock pile of bass in the 11 to 15 inch range with a fair number of bass in the 16 to 18 inch range. The electrofishing survey collected 113 black crappies with the typical size distribution of 10 to 13 inch fish. The yellow perch and chain pickerel populations appear to have shown a decline in overall abundance when compared to past survey years. Chickahominy Lake continues to be the best bowfin lake in the state with an abundance of 4 to 6 pound bowfins present.
Diascund Reservoir is a popular destination for anglers living in between Richmond and Williamsburg. This 1,110 acre impoundment provides a solid largemouth bass population along with an abundance of black crappies. A strong forage base of gizzard shad and blueback herring is present. The 2012 electrofishing surveys collected 233 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 95.85 bass/hr. Many of the bass were in the 13 to 17 inch range. The largest bass measured 21.5 inches. The surveys revealed an abundance of black crappies with 174 crappies collected. The majority of these crappies were in the 8 to 10 inch range. The largest black crappie measured 13 inches. The bluegill population is abundant with an excess of smaller fish. The redear sunfish population is in good shape with some decent 8 to 10 inch fish present. The white and yellow perch populations will provide a great deal of action, but they will lack any respectable size. Diascund Reservoir has shown a recent surge in the catch rate of trophy-sized longnose gar.
Beaverdam Swamp Reservoir is a 635 acre impoundment located in Gloucester County. The fishery provides valuable freshwater angling opportunities on the middle peninsula. The 2012 trap net survey collected a total of 104 black crappies with the majority of crappies measured in the 10 to 12 inch range. The largest crappie measured an impressive 15.5 inches and weighed 2 lbs. and 7 ounces. The survey collected 1,072 bluegills with fish measured to 8 inches in length. The 2012 electrofishing survey collected 146 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 87.6 bass/hr. The relative weight data from collected bass showed the fish were finding a sufficient amount of forage. A recent increase in gizzard shad abundance has provided an extra protein boost for the bass population. The survey revealed a good concentration of bass in the 13 to 17 inch range. The yellow perch population has shown a major increase in abundance with some citation-sized fish caught every year. The black crappie population provides a lot of excitement for anglers during the early spring. Anglers reported 9 citation-sized crappies in 2012. Bluegills, redear sunfish, chain pickerel and the occasional channel catfish will provide anglers with some action.
Little Creek Reservoir is a scenic 947 acre impoundment located in James City County. The walleye population has seen recent improvements due to continued stocking efforts of walleye fingerlings. The 2012 electrofishing efforts revealed higher than average catch rates of walleyes with most walleyes in the 19 to 22 inch range. DGIF staff started to tag walleyes in Little Creek Reservoir during 2012 as part of the Department's walleye tagging study. The 2012 spring electrofishing survey yielded 77 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 38.5 bass/hr. The majority of collected bass were in the 9 to 13 inch size range. The bass fishery does provide anglers with some larger specimens over the course of the year. The bluegill and redear sunfish populations are both abundant, but average size is not too impressive. The chain pickerel population is very abundant and always willing to strike various baits and lures. The black crappie population is productive for anglers that spend time figuring out their movements. Anglers reported the total of 9 citation black crappies during 2012. One of the better fishing opportunities at Little Creek Reservoir comes in the form of the yellow perch population. The 39 citation yellow perch reported during 2012 ranked LCR as the third best yellow perch water in the state.
Western Branch Reservoir is a 1,579 surface acre water supply reservoir owned by the City of Norfolk, located in the City of Suffolk. Western Branch is well known for producing big numbers of large shellcrackers (redear sunfish) as well as supporting an excellent quality largemouth bass fishery. This lake, an impounded section of the Nansemond River, offers anglers a variety of options when it comes to fishing. Striped bass are stocked annually and do quite well in this system. Stripers average around 6-10 pounds, but fish in the 20+ pound range are caught as well. Largemouth bass garner most of the attention in the spring. The 2011 electrofishing sample revealed an excellent fishery, with lots of 4+ pound bass encountered. Bass over 8 pounds were also collected in the spring of 2012. In fact, the 2012 sample was one of the best, in terms of large bass and overall numbers, in the last 10 years for "Branch". Western Branch is consistently one of the top bass lakes in southeastern Virginia, as well as the entire state. Perhaps the top fishery in the lake is the summer shellcracker fishing, when citations can easily exceed fifty or more per year, likely towards the hundred mark
Back Bay has been experiencing a substantial recovery in recent years, with submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) growths near levels not seen since the early 1980's. The fisheries have also dramatically improved. In May of 2012, the VDGIF initiated a three-year largemouth bass stocking project in the bay. Approximately 125,000 bass fingerlings will be stocked annually in the bay, in the spring of 2013 and again in 2014. The creeks on the western shore held excellent numbers of 1-3 pound bass. 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. 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, Muddy Creek, Beggar's Bridge Creek, and the canal leading to Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area. 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. Channel catfish are also possibilities in these creeks.
The Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Reservoir) largemouth bass fishery still supports good numbers of bass in the 2-4 pound range, however, density of bass over 4 pounds has declined in the last 5 years due to the impacts of largemouth bass virus (LMBv). 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 fair condition and should be similar to the last couple of years. 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 and fall, 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). 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 angers include channel catfish, flathead catfish, white bass, white perch, and freshwater drum.
Anglers from across Virginia and beyond fish for largemouth bass at Briery Creek Lake, and about 80 percent of them fish this lake in hopes of catching a lunker. While largemouth bass fishing is not as good as it was in the early 2000's due to LMBv and reservoir age, Briery is still one of the best Virginia destinations for trophy largemouth fishing. Fishing with subtle baits, such as jigs and plastic worms, tend to be better than crank baits and spinner baits. On January 1, 2013, the regulation for largemouth bass was changed to a 16-24 inch protected slot limit (no bass between 16-24 inches may be kept) and a five fish per day creel limit (only one fish larger than 24 inches may be retained). Biologists recognize that some harvest of largemouth bass is necessary; this regulation merely directs the harvest to younger, more abundant largemouth bass while at the same time allowing the harvest of exceptionally large fish. Briery Creek Lake also has an excellent sunfish fishery. From late spring through summer, anglers can expect to have success with big redear (also known as shellcrackers) and bluegill. Crickets, worms, and popping bugs (with a fly rod) fished along the vegetation 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.
Thought of as a sister lake to Briery Creek Lake, Sandy River Reservoir gives anglers another opportunity to catch quality largemouth bass in Southside. Sandy boasts an uncommon combination of a high density largemouth bass population with an excellent size distribution. Number of fish greater than 20 inches in one hour of DGIF sampling has been as high as 7 per hour. After the change to a 14-20 inch protective slot limit in 2004, number of bass greater than 14 inches has doubled. 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 huts. 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. Anger might fish near beaver huts or other structure in the summer months. Other sport fish species present in the lake include chain pickerel and bullhead catfish.
The Smith Mountain Lake largemouth bass population has been stable for several years with overall numbers remaining near all time highs. However, the number of bass over 15 inches declined 16% and bass over 20 inches dropped 55% during the past year. The decline in larger bass is likely due to LMBv that was found at Smith Mountain Lake in 2011, previous testing in 2001 for this disease was negative. While this disease does not usually impact the overall numbers, it does typically impact the number of larger fish. The good news, this virus usually impacts a bass population temporarily and populations do recover. 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 has been stable for many years and has not experienced declines of larger fish similar to the largemouth population.
Striped bass fishing success will be similar to 2012 for fish up to 30 inches but with fewer fish in the 30-36" inch range. The 2010 and 2011 year classes were very good producing high numbers of young fish, 20-23 inches. Current poor growth of larger and older fish is limiting the number of trophy fish available.
The crappie population is doing well with higher than average numbers. Anglers should also find an even distribution of sizes from 8-13 inches. Channel and flathead catfish should be similar to the past few years with little change.
The 2012 South Holston Lake largemouth bass sample collected by VDGIF biologists was one of the best ever collected. Forty-three percent of all the largemouth bass collected measured 15 inches or longer, and thirty-five percent of the smallmouth bass collected measured 14 inches or longer. Swim-baits and plastic jigs were the hot ticket in 2012.
Walleye fishing is still great and producing heavy stringers for anglers. Biologists collected 130 walleye in sampling efforts in 2012. Of these, 52% were 18 inches or larger, and 25% of the walleye collected were 20 inches or larger. 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.
South Holston will produce the best crappie fishing of all the lakes in southwest Virginia. So far in 2013 anglers are catching good numbers of crappie in the upper sections of the lake and in the larger creek arms. Biologists collected 240 crappie in their 2012 sampling, and approximately 53% of the crappie collected were of the legal harvestable size of 10 inches or larger. 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. Bluegill will provide excellent fishing opportunities in the summer when fishing 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 in 2013. The Department has been working with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to re-introduce white bass back into the lake.
The 2012 Flannagan Reservoir bass sampling results by VDGIF biologists showed healthy numbers and sizes of largemouth. Approximately 40% of all the largemouth bass collected measured 15 inches or longer and the majority of smallmouth bass collected measured 14 inches or longer. Anglers reported catching some quality bass in 2012, and this should mean good fish in the 2013 season.
Hybrid striped bass continue to be stocked annually in the reservoir. Results from biologists' samples found that 85 % of hybrids collected were 20 inches or larger with the largest measuring approximately 27 inches and weighing 11 pounds. Hybrids are routinely caught in the lower lake on top water baits or by drifting live baits.
Walleye fishing is still great and producing limits for anglers willing to target them. Walleye continue to be stocked every year, and they grow very fast. Biologists collected 52 walleye in sampling efforts in 2012, and 81% of the walleye collected were 18 inches or larger and 43% were 20 inches or larger. Anglers can expect good catches during the spring river run in the Cranesnest River, and post spawn walleye are great for night top water action. Summer trolling for walleye in the main lake is productive and continues to grow in popularity.
Bluegill are abundant and provide excellent fishing for everyone. Bluegill fishing should be good in 2013. Channel and flathead catfish continue to provide great fishing opportunities for anglers on Flannagan Reservoir. Fish samples collected in 2012 by VDGIF recorded catfish from 12-44 inches.
Black crappie have declined in numbers in the past few years. Very few were collected in 2012 samples and plans are being made to stock black crappie in 2013 to enhance the population.
Smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass are the "bread and butter" fishes of Claytor Lake. Almost 50 percent of the anglers at Claytor Lake fish for these species. During spring 2012 electrofishing, 74% of the largemouth bass collected over 8 inches long were over 12 inches, and 42% were over 15 inches long. Anglers can find largemouth bass in coves throughout the lake, but the best area to fish is Peak Creek. In 2012, Claytor Lake produced 7 smallmouth bass trophy award certificates (more than 5 pounds or over 20 inches), ranking Claytor Lake as the second-best reservoir in the state 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. While most anglers troll or float live gizzard shad and alewife for stripers, many stripers are taken with topwater baits (Redfins, Rapalas, etc.) and bucktails in the spring and fall. Trolling bucktails in 20-60 feet of water can produce good catches. Claytor Lake is the top destination for hybrids in Virginia. Since they can tolerate higher water temperatures, hybrids often chase schools of shad at the lake's surface at night in the summer months. Hybrid striped bass diets are very similar to striper diets, so they can be caught using the same techniques.
Anglers can tie into schools of walleye at Claytor Lake. In 2012, anglers reported 12 trophy award certificate walleye 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.
Claytor Lake anglers catch yellow perch in the one-pound range. In 2012, trophy award certificate size yellow perch (more than 1 pound, 4 ounces or 12 inches) numbers hit a record high of 32. 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.
Anglers at Lake Anna should find an improving largemouth bass fishery in 2013 based on evaluations of two decades of sampling data. The spring electrofishing catch rate was at a record high in 2012 (93 fish/hour) with good numbers of fish over 15" and average numbers of fish over 20". 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.
Striped bass catch rate was also at a record high in 2012 (based on winter net samples). This excellent fishery for small to medium-sized stripers should continue to produce limits in 2013. Maintained by stocking, the strongest year class documented (2006) is now averaging over 24" providing above-average size potential despite slow growth in this thermally enriched reservoir. Additionally, excellent stocking success was experienced in 2010 and 2012. 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 2012 were down, continuing a trend somewhat opposite of the largemouth bass trend. However, anglers should find more fish in 2013 than last year, and the average size should be exceptional. More 15"+ crappie were surveyed during winter 2012 than any time over the past 16 years (with one exception). Look for crappie to be transitioning from bridge pilings and docks during April to water willow edges and natural wood.
Occoquan Reservoir should provide anglers excellent opportunities to pursue a variety of species in 2013. Largemouth bass catch rate during 2012 spring electrofishing surveys was 49 fish/hour, with excellent numbers of fish over 15". 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 17". 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.
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 2013. 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. Both brown and rainbow trout are stocked as fingerlings each year. The brown trout fishery has remained very consistent the past few years and anglers should expect to see good numbers of trout, some reaching 25", in 2013. Beginning in 2009 biologists started stocking a "steelhead" strain of rainbow trout. Steelhead are a replacement for the McConaughy rainbows that had been stocked in Moomaw for many years. Steelhead rainbow trout will feed heavily on alewives similar to brown trout and the hope is that they will grow much larger than the McConaughy rainbows did historically. If the steelhead stocking is successful, there is also the potential for large steelhead to make spawning runs out of Lake Moomaw up the Jackson River and Back Creek. Currently, the steelhead stocking program is being evaluated. 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. A recent gill net survey conducted by biologists in 2011 produced adequate densities of all of these species. 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.