2015 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 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 2014 electrofishing survey collected 72 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 46 bass/hr. This catch rate showed a major decline from the 2013 survey (CPUE: 90 bass/hr). The 2014 survey (May 1st and 8th) 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. A large concentration of bass in the 14 to 16 inch range was detected. The survey revealed marginal recruitment of juvenile bass with limited abundance of bass less than 12 inches in total length. The yellow perch and black crappie populations provide a lot of excitement for anglers during the early spring. The 2014 trap net survey produced a new reservoir record with 938 black crappies collected (CPUE: 47 crappies/net night). The majority were in the 10 to 12 inch range with a few larger specimens that pushed to the 2 pound mark. The 2014 fishing season produced a decent number of citation-sized fish. Anglers reported 4 largemouth bass, 7 yellow perch, 2 white perch and 2 chain pickerel citations. Bluegills, redear sunfish, chain pickerel and the occasional channel catfish will provide anglers with some 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 crappies, chain pickerel and bowfins. The blue catfish population has recently increased as anglers have started to target the catfish population. The 2014 trap net survey was conducted during mid-March to take advantage of a short warm spell after the very cold start of 2014. 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 2014 spring electrofishing survey collected a total of 230 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 76.7 bass/hr. This catch rate showed a decline from the 2013 survey (CPUE: 96.3 bass/hr) which was conducted under ideal pre-spawn conditions. The collection of 70 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. Anglers reported a total of 18 citation fish during 2014. These citations consisted of 5 largemouth bass, 5 yellow perch, 4 chain pickerel, 3 bowfins and 1 blue catfish. Chickahominy Lake continues to produce an abundance of 4 to 6 pound bowfins with a decent 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.
Diascund Reservoir is a popular destination for anglers living in between Richmond and Williamsburg. This 1,110 acre impoundment provides a great largemouth bass population along with an abundance of black crappies. A strong forage base of gizzard shad and blueback herring is present. The bass and larger crappies take advantage of the shad and herring by schooling up in some of the pelagic areas of the reservoir. This water supply reservoir for Newport News experienced some extreme changes the last few years with drawdowns ranging from 2 to 7 feet. Repair work on the dam's spillway will actually take place during 2015. The water pool level will be down 6 feet starting in the spring of 2015 and last for the better part of one full year. The majority of the spring sampling was conducted when the reservoir was down roughly two feet from normal full pool. The 2014 electrofishing surveys collected 258 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 86 bass/hr. This catch rate showed an increase from the 2013 survey (CPUE: 80 bass/hr). A large proportion of the collected bass where in the 14 to 16 inch range. Past surveys have revealed an abundance of black crappies, but the 2014 survey revealed a decreased presence of crappies in the shallow shoreline areas sampled. The cold spring and the drawdown most likely had an impact on the crappie catch rate. The 2014 fishing season was very productive for black crappie anglers with a total of 11 crappie citations reported. This total matched the 2013 total and showed a favorable spike in trophy fish presence. The bluegill population is abundant with an excess of smaller fish. The redear sunfish population is in decent shape with some 8 to 9 inch fish present. The yellow perch populations will provide a great deal of action, but most yellow perch will lack any respectable size. Additional 2014 citations in the form of 3 yellow perch, 2 longnose gar, 1 largemouth bass, 1 chain pickerel and 1 bowfin were reported.
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 2014 spring electrofishing survey yielded 145 largemouth bass for a catch rate of 96.7 bass /hr. This catch rate showed an increase from the 2013 survey (CPUE: 88 bass/hr). The majority of collected bass were in the 16 to 20 inch size range. The total of 88 preferred-sized bass (15 inches or larger) provided an extremely high catch rate of 58.7 preferred-bass/hr. This catch rate placed Lake Chesdin in first place again for all public impoundments sampled within Region 1, District 1. The catch rate showed a marked improvement from 2013 (CPUE: 46.7 preferred-bass/hr). 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 5 pound range. The bass fishery provides anglers with some larger specimens over the course of the year. Anglers reported a total of 10 citation-sized bass from Lake Chesdin during 2014. 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 the total of 4 citation black crappies during 2014. 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 survey 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 fingerlings. Some of the 2013 saugeyes have grown into the 16 to 17 inch range as they quickly approach the 18-inch minimum size limit. Anglers have been able to catch a few of the walleye from previous stockings. One prime example is the 8 pound 4 ounce walleye that was caught from Lake Chesdin on July 6, 2014.
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 in the last 5 years due to the impacts of largemouth bass virus and reduced productivity of the system. 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 has gained the reputation as the best trophy largemouth bass lake in Virginia. Anglers from across Virginia fish for largemouth bass at Briery Creek Lake and about 80 percent of them fish this lake in hopes of catching a lunker. Catch rates for largemouth bass are highest in the summer, but the majority of the trophy fish are caught in March and April. While largemouth bass fishing is not as good as it was in the early 2000's due to largemouth bass virus and reservoir age, Briery is still one of the best Virginia destinations for trophy largemouth fishing. Density of bass greater than 15 inches has been the highest ever seen for the past two years, 2013 and 2014, and those fish will keep anglers busy. Number of bass over 20 inches is still lower than the peak years of 1999-2009 but those fish are still available. 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 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 in Southside. Sandy boasts an uncommon combination of a high density largemouth bass population with an excellent size distribution. The 2014 sample revealed an overall decline in bass density but 35% of bass sampled were larger than 15 inches and fish over 20 inches were well represented in the sample. 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 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 near all-time highs. Sampling in 2014 indicated an overall population decline of 15% since 2012. The number of bass over 15 inches declined 16% and bass over 20 inches dropped 55% in 2012, most likely due to Largemouth Bass Virus that was discovered at Smith Mountain Lake in 2011. Although overall bass numbers have had marginal declines since 2012, the percent of large fish in the population has improved to levels that are similar to 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 2014. 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.
Bass anglers fishing South Holston Lake in 2015 should have an exceptional season. Sampling by VDGIF biologist in 2014 documented that the largemouth bass catch data remains at record levels. Fifty-one percent of all the largemouth bass collected measured 15 inches or longer, and fifty 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 74 walleye during sampling efforts in 2014. Of these, 25 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 summer of 2014 that good numbers of walleye were utilizing shoreline structure. Anglers should be flexible during the summer of 2015 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 2014 samples as 368 fish were collected during spring and fall surveys. Of those, biologists collected 281 crappie of legal harvestable size (10 inches or larger). As a result, prospects for anglers pursuing crappie look good for 2015. 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 2015 should be good. The 2014 bass sampling results by VDGIF biologists showed healthy numbers and sizes of largemouth. Approximately 35% of all the largemouth bass collected measured 15 inches or longer and the catch rate of largemouth bass of this size was the highest recorded under the current sampling protocol (2001-2014). Additionally, the numbers of 8-inch and 12-inch bass observed were the highest seen in recent years, which bodes well for future fishing prospects as these fish grow into larger size groups. The catch rate for smallmouth bass in spring 2014 was similar to that observed the previous year, but the numbers remain compared to largemouth bass and to catch rates of smallmouth bass in previous years. Overall anglers reported catching some quality bass in 2014, and this should mean good fishing in the 2015 season.
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. Results from 2014 samples indicate that the abundance of hybrid striped bass was up from that observed in 2013. However, there was a noticeable absence of fish in the 20 - 23 inch length class. Hybrid striped bass are stocked annually into Flannagan with the exception of 2011 when no hybrids were stocked. Based on existing growth data, fish that would have been stocked in 2011 would have now averaged 22 inches in length, which helps explain the absence of fish in this range. The good news is that there is an abundance of 2-3 year old fish that will provide some great fishing action in 2015. Hybrids are routinely caught in the lower lake on top water baits or by drifting live baits.
Walleye are still providing good fishing opportunities for anglers willing to target them. The catch rate for walleyes was down slightly from previous years, but this may partially attributed to saugeye (walleye x sauger hybrid) being stocked in place of walleye in 2013 as a result of hatchery availability. Juvenile walleye (Age 1+) typically account for 20-25% of the fish observed during sampling, but these fish would have been absent in the 2014 sample. Despite the slightly lower abundance of walleye, approximately 52% of the walleye observed during sampling were 18 inches or larger and 14% 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. The saugeye stocked in 2013 appeared to have had good survival and should be reaching legal size in late 2015 - early 2016.
Bluegill are abundant and provide excellent fishing for everyone. Bluegill fishing should be good in 2015. Channel and flathead catfish continue to provide great fishing opportunities for anglers on Flannagan Reservoir. Fish samples collected in 2014 by VDGIF recorded catfish from 14-26 inches.
Black crappie abundance in the spring 2014 samples was down only slightly from the previous year and was among the highest observed in the past 10 years. The majority of crappie in the 2014 sample were in the 10-12 inch size range. Approximately 55,000 crappie fingerlings were stocked in summer 2014, which should contribute to some good fishing for crappie in 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 2014 electrofishing, 71% of the largemouth bass collected over 8 inches long were over 12 inches, and 35% 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 2014, Claytor Lake produced 5 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 8 trophy award certificate size (more than 20 pounds or over 37 inches) stripers in 2014, 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 2014.
Anglers will also find schools of walleye in Claytor Lake. In 2014, anglers reported 9 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 2014, anglers reported 12 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 (except perhaps for the 1970s) in 2015 based on evaluations of over two decades of sampling data. Spring electrofishing catch rate again reached a record high in 2014 (99 fish/hour) with good numbers of fish over 15" and above average numbers of fish over 20". Although spawning success has been stable, above average year classes were produced in the past four 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.
Although striped bass catch rate was below average in 2014 (based on winter net samples), several strong, recent year classes should produce good angling for keeper fish in 2015. 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 these fish this year, although most will not reach the 20" harvestable size until 2016. 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 2014 were again below average but improved from 2013, and size structure was excellent. The trend over time of declining abundance is in contrast to the largemouth bass trend. 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) and will enter the fishery in 2015. Net surveys indicated most of these fish were legal (over 18") and were located 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 2015. 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 2015. 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. In 2015 anglers can expect to continue to see reduced catches of brown trout >13". Hopefully the cohort of fingerling browns that were stocked in early 2015 will produce good catch rates of trout in the 12-13" range. Beginning in 2009 biologists started stocking a "steelhead" strain of rainbow trout in the Jackson River upstream of Lake Moomaw. 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. To date, the steelhead introduction has not been very successful. Anglers and biologists are seeing limited survival of these fish in the reservoir. Biologists will be experimenting with different stocking strategies to improve steelhead survival over the next few years. In 2015 anglers can expect to run into a few rainbow trout as some steelhead are surviving and other rainbows find their way into Moomaw from upstream stockings on Back Creek and the Jackson River. 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.