2016 Walleye Fishing Forecast

South West Virginia

walleye-forecast-01Upper New River

Walleye fishing on the Upper New River from Buck Dam downstream to Allisonia will improve in 2016. Department fisheries biologists suspended walleye stocking in 2012 and 2013 to determine if the walleye are spawning naturally. Based on our evaluations, natural walleye spawning is low, so stocking resumed in 2014 and 2015. The 2014 and 2015 stockings at Allisonia will produce good numbers of young walleye this year all the way to Buck Dam. Walleye fishing from Fries Dam to Byllesby Reservoir will not produce as many walleye due to a lack of stocking in recent years, but the 2015 stocking will enhance the walleye population in this area.

Anglers catch most walleye in the Upper New River from February to April, but walleye are also caught throughout the year. Crankbaits, jigs, and live minnows work well for catching them during the late winter and spring season. Ivanhoe, Foster Falls, and Allisonia are all good areas to fish. During spring 2015 walleye sampling, 40% of the walleye collected were less than 14 inches, 9% were between 14 and 19 inches and 47% were between 19 and 28 inches. While anglers will have to return 19 to 28 inch walleye under the spring season size limit (explained below) they should catch plenty of walleye under 19 inches.

When you fish for walleye on the Upper New River, follow these size and creel limits:

  1. From Buck Dam downstream to Claytor Lake Dam: From February 1 through May 31: All walleye 19 to 28 inches caught must be released unharmed. Anglers may keep 2 walleye per day less than 19 inches or over 28 inches. From June 1 through January 31: A 20-inch minimum length limit with a five per day creel limit is in effect.This regulation allows anglers to harvest a few smaller male walleyes (typically less than 19 inches) or a trophy female walleye (typically greater than 28 inches) while protecting the best spawning-size walleyes during the spring months.
  2. From Fries Dam downstream to Buck Dam: A 20-inch minimum length limit for walleye, with a 5 per day creel limit is in effect year-round. This regulation is designed to protect the walleye population stocked in Byllesby Reservoir that runs upstream to Fries Dam.

Biologists tagged walleyes in the Upper New River from 2008 to 2012 as part of a statewide walleye research project. A cash reward of $20 will still be offered for the return of these tags with catch information. Anglers can remove the tag by cutting through the monofilament attachment with scissors or a knife. The fish can then be released or harvested (the length limits listed above apply). Return the tag and catch information to the address printed on the tag. Catch information includes: date, time and general location of catch, “Was the fish harvested or released?”, “Were you fishing for walleyes?”, and “Did you catch other walleyes on this fishing trip?”

South Holston Reservoir

South Holston should provide excellent walleye fishing in 2016. Sampling during 2015, including both electrofishing and gillnetting, documented an exceptional size structure with most walleye collected during the fall gillnetting in excess of 18 inches. Electrofishing catch rates during April 2015 were slightly below average (7/hr), however; the 2015 gillnet catch rate of 23 fish per net was almost double the average (12/net night) and set a lake record.

walleye-forecast-03Anglers can expect good catches during the spring spawning “run” on the South Fork Holston River. Anglers congregate near the community of Alvarado from February through April to catch walleyes on the spring spawning “run”. During May and June anglers find walleyes feeding along the shorelines of the lake. The post spawn top water bite in the lower lake will yield the best walleye fishing Virginia has to offer. When walleyes move deeper during the summer months, successful anglers troll crawler harnesses on lead core line or use jigging spoons to reach the depths. Fall and winter fishing call for jigging spoons or jigs and live minnows.

Walleye growth is outstanding, so anglers should find plenty of fish larger than the minimum size of 18 inches. Most walleye exceed 10 inches in their first year and measure 15 to 18 inches in their second year. Walleye generally reach 20 inches by their third year. Walleye growth slows after age four and males seldom exceed 24 or 25 inches in length, while females may reach lengths of 30 inches or more.

Flannagan Reservoir

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 a large number of fish that should reach legally harvestable size in spring-summer 2016 (see figure below). 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.

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 them 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.


Clinch River

Walleye are native to the Clinch River and are available in low densities throughout most of the river. Walleye numbers were up in the 2015 spring electrofishing sample and this is likely a result of consistent stockings over the last several years. Walleye collected in the 2015 sample ranged from 9 to 23 inches. Notable in the 2015 sample was the high abundance of young walleye in the 9-10 inch range. Walleye in this size range were either stocked or spawned in the river in spring 2014. These fish should recruit to the fishery in 2016 and provide excellent angling opportunities over the next few years. Late winter and early spring time is the best time to target walleye. Anglers should focus their efforts at the times and locations that concentrate walleyes. Walleyes often congregate in pools just below significant ledges and shoals during daylight hours, and then move into shallow water at dusk. Another good location to find walleye is where a creek enters the river.


walleye-forecast-04Hungry Mother Lake

This 108-acre lake provides anglers with a great opportunity to catch walleyes in a small lake setting. Located in Hungry Mother State Park, the lake is also a great destination for families. The walleye population is stable or slightly increasing. There are good numbers of fish up to 20 inches and just enough larger ones to cause anglers to lose some sleep this summer. Walleyes up to 28 inches in length have been landed in recent years. April, May, and June are the three best months, with night fishing generally being more productive. Most anglers use artificial lures, but live shad, minnows and night crawlers are also very effective.

South Central Virginia

Leesville Reservoir

The 2016 fishing season for walleye/saugeye at Leesville Reservoir will be very good compared to previous years. Fishing has historically been challenging due to sporadic stocking and poor survival of stocked walleye. This fishery has contained a limited number of primarily larger fish, but the overall numbers of walleye has been very low compared to other Virginia walleye lakes. However, saugeye stocked in 2013 and 2014 did very well and produced the highest number ever recorded in DGIF sampling. Most saugeye stocked in 2013 and 2014 will be 16-20 inches and falling just below or near the 18-inch minimum size limit, but some of these fish will be legal size. Physical differences between walleye and saugeye will not be noticeable for most anglers and habits for the two are very similar.

While the bulk of the walleye/saugeye population is in the 16-20 inch range, there are some larger fish still available, with an occasional fish in the 5-6 pound range. Walleye/saugeye at Leesville have good growth rates and typically reach 18 inches between their second and third year. Historically, approximately 50% of the walleye population was over 18 inches in length and about 10% of the population was over 22 inches. However, those percentages will be much lower in 2016 due to the higher density of young saugeye.

The most productive walleye/saugeye fishing is typically between Leesville Dam and mile marker 6. Night fishing in May and June, with floating or shallow running plugs cast to the shoreline, should not be overlooked. These fish often frequent water less than 2 feet deep during the dark spring and early summer hours. During daylight hours in the spring, fish the shoreline contour, targeting depths of 10-20 ft., then move deeper if those depths are unproductive. Walleye/saugeye are very light sensitive and prefer dark or shaded habitat; consequently, these fish will frequent shallower depths if the water is shaded or stained, but will remain deeper during the day if the water is clear. Rock cliffs and steeper shorelines should be the most productive, with some coves also holding additional fish. As water temperatures increase in late spring and throughout the summer, fish move deeper, seeking cooler water, and become most active during nighttime hours.

Leesville can be a challenge due to extreme daily water fluctuations, but anglers who spend time learning productive walleye/saugeye angling techniques for Leesville and concentrate on areas and habitat that hold walleye, may encounter a number of these elusive fish. Leesville Reservoir experiences very light fishing pressure and can provide solitude for anglers looking to avoid crowds and boating traffic.

leesville-lake-15 leesville-lake-14

Philpott Reservoir

There are a lot of walleye in Philpott Reservoir, and being one of the better walleye populations in Virginia, walleye fishing will be good in 2016. Walleye fishing reports from Philpott in 2015 indicated an abundance of walleye under the 18 inch minimum size limit, but very few over the 18 inch limit, were being caught. This fishery has been stable and consistent for the past ten years, but fishing pressure for walleye has increased and when walleye of legal size are caught, they are going home. Most legal size walleye are between 18 to 21 inches. Walleye reach 18 inches at about 3 years of age and most male walleye grow very slowly after reaching this size. Female walleye typically grow well for another few years, with some achieving larger sizes. Analysis of growth data shows a slight decrease in the growth rates of walleye, which could be contributing to anglers catching greater numbers of fish below 18 inches. Efforts are underway to improve growth rates.

Anglers, who spend time learning effective techniques for walleye and find areas that are productive, should have successful fishing trips. Top-water night fishing is very popular and productive in May and June, during the alewife spawn. By late June, walleye start moving into deeper water and are caught on nightcrawler harnesses and plugs trolled in deeper water. As water temperatures increase throughout the summer, walleye continue to move deeper seeking cooler water. Anglers must fish deeper throughout the summer or fish at night to capitalize on this fishery. Catching a few walleye per outing is considered good and many anglers in 2015 reported catching more than 20 walleye per trip. However, catching a limit of five walleye 18 inches or larger will prove difficult this year on Philpott.

walleye-forecast-06Northern Virginia

Shenandoah River

There is currently a population of naturally reproducing walleye that occupy the Shenandoah River from Warren Dam in Front Royal downstream beyond the Virginia / West Virginia state line. Although they are not numerous they can reach lengths exceeding 25 inches. The main source of this population came from stocking 285,000 fry in 2007. In spring 2014 VDGIF started stocking walleye fingerlings in the Shenandoah River annually to supplement the natural population and increase the number of walleye present for anglers to target. Sampling indicated very low survival of the 2014 stocking. However, the 2015 stocking seems to have survived well and anglers should expect to see an increase in the catch of walleye in 2016 and 2017. Most fish won’t reach legal harvest size until sometime in 2017. As future annual stockings are added to the Shenandoah River the walleye population should increase to offer an abundant walleye fishery. Anglers fishing for walleye on the Shenandoah River should focus their efforts in the deeper pools during the daylight hours. Walleye will move out of the deeper pools into shallow bedrock ledge areas to feed during night hours.

Lake Brittle

Lake Brittle continues to be one of the best places in the northern Virginia piedmont to catch a walleye. Anglers targeting walleye report good success at this small impoundment, with most fish caught in the 2 to 3 pound range, and the occasional fish up to 8 pounds. Fish sampling continues to document good survival of stocked walleye fingerlings, with a strong population of walleye up to age 5 residing in Lake Brittle. Spring 2015 surveys showed that 29% of walleye were harvestable size with a 16″ average. Recent data from the ongoing tagging study has shown that angler catch and harvest rates for walleye are higher than previously thought and, as a result, an 18-inch minimum size limit was put into effect in 2009. Angler success seems to be the highest during the late spring and early summer.

Biologists will continue tagging walleyes at Lake Brittle again in 2016 as part of an ongoing tagging study to evaluate stocking densities in small impoundments. A cash reward of $20 is offered for the return of the tag and catch information. Anglers can remove the tag by cutting through the monofilament attachment with a knife or scissors. The fish can then be released or harvested. Return the tag and catch information to the address printed on the tag. Catch information includes: date; general location of catch; “Was the fish harvested or released?”; “Were you fishing for walleyes?” and “Did you catch any other walleyes on this fishing trip?”

walleye-forecast-07Burke Lake

Burke Lake is located in Fairfax County, a stone’s throw from Washington D.C. Anglers in pursuit of walleye can expect to find most fish in the 2 to 3 pound range, with some fish as large as 8 pounds. Spring 2015 surveys showed that 35% of walleye were harvestable with a 17-inch average size. An 18-inch minimum size limit is in place at Burke.

Burke Lake is included in an ongoing tagging study that began in 2014, to evaluate stocking densities in small impoundments. A cash reward of $20 is offered for the return of the tag and catch information. Anglers can remove the tag by cutting through the monofilament attachment with a knife or scissors. The fish can then be released or harvested. Return the tag and catch information to the address printed on the tag. Catch information includes: date; general location of catch; “Was the fish harvested or released?”; “Were you fishing for walleyes?” and “Did you catch any other walleyes on this fishing trip?”

Lake Orange

Anglers hoping to catch decent walleye, while fishing for multiple species, should look no further than Lake Orange. Walleye have been stocked into this northern piedmont impoundment for years and current management includes annual stockings of walleye fingerlings. Spring 2015 surveys resulted in 25% of walleye being harvestable size with a 16-inch average. Walleye growth at Orange is fast up to age 4, averaging 20 inches and 3 pounds, but growth slows beyond age 4, with fish seldom reaching 26 inches. Anglers occasionally catch walleye in the 6 to 8 pound range. Most walleyes are caught during the late spring and early summer by anglers fishing Lake Orange for bass, although a few anglers do specifically fish for walleyes at this location. Anglers should also be aware that there is an 18-inch minimum size limit on all walleyes caught at Lake Orange.

Again in 2016, Lake Orange is included in the walleye tagging study to evaluate stocking densities in small impoundments. A cash reward of $20 is offered for the return of the tag and catch information. Anglers can remove the tag by cutting through the monofilament attachment with a knife or scissors. The fish can then be released or harvested. Return the tag and catch information to the address printed on the tag. Catch information includes: date; general location of catch; “Was the fish harvested or released?”; “Were you fishing for walleyes?” and “Did you catch any other walleyes on this fishing trip?”

Eastern Virginia

Little Creek Reservoir

walleye-forecast-08Little Creek Reservoir is a 947-acre water supply impoundment for the City of Newport News located within James City County. The reservoir provides a great opportunity for anglers to try their luck at catching walleye. The walleye population continues to show signs of improvement. Little Creek Reservoir typically receives 94,700 walleye fingerlings each May, with fish stocked in a pelagic manner to allow for greater dispersal. The 2015 stocking consisted of a full allocation of walleye fingerlings. The 2014 stocking consisted of 97,000 saugeye fingerlings, which are a hybrid between a female sauger and a male walleye. Angler reports from the summer of 2015 relay the message that saugeye in the 13 to 14 inch range were being caught by anglers targeting the walleye population. These saugeye should reach the minimum size limit of 18 inches near the spring of 2016.

Some of the best walleye action has come from anglers that slow troll their baits in the 17 to 20 foot depth range within the western half of the reservoir. Dedicated anglers will catch their fair share of walleye surprisingly during the summer months if they are able to keep their baits in the walleye strike zone. One of the keys to fishing on Little Creek Reservoir is to concentrate on the deeper edges in and around the numerous points that line the shoreline. Anglers that fish Little Creek Reservoir for the first time should be aware that the reservoir is trolling motor use only. Anglers must also adapt to the clear water conditions in order to find walleye holding in deep water habitat most times of the year.

Walleyes will congregate along the southern shoreline of the reservoir in their classic pre-spawn pattern from March to early April. There are no large tributaries that flow into Little Creek Reservoir, so the walleye will target various rock shelves in their attempt to spawn. The 2015 spring electrofishing survey yielded 42 walleye for a catch rate of 36 walleye per hour. This was a favorable increase from the 2014 survey (17 walleye per hour). The collected walleye ranged from 14 to 23 inches with the average length at 20.5 inches. The average weight was 3.16 pounds with the largest walleye weighing 5.56 pounds. The walleye population feeds heavily upon the schools of blueback herring that are present. Relative weight values showed an increase when compared to past surveys. DGIF biologists continue to tag walleye collected from Little Creek Reservoir as part of the state wide tagging study. Anglers that catch a white-colored reward tag can receive a $20 reward after the tag is returned to the Region 1 DGIF office with some catch information.

Lake Chesdin

Over the last couple of years, Lake Chesdin has benefitted from the great production of walleye and saugeye in our DGIF hatcheries. Lake Chesdin is stocked with surplus fish from various hatcheries when conditions are favorable; receiving both saugeye and walleye fingerlings in May 2013 and 2014. The 2015 stocking consisted of a full allocation of walleye fingerlings. These consecutive stocking efforts along with additional stockings conducted prior to 2013 have created a respectable fishery. Lake Chesdin has a strong gizzard shad population that the walleye and saugeye will target for forage. Anglers are encouraged to try fishing for walleye and saugeye in Lake Chesdin. DGIF surveys conducted during 2015 revealed the saugeye population to be in good health and the walleye population to show potential. The spring electrofishing survey found schools of saugeye swimming among schools of gizzard shad in the coves of the north shoreline. The night electrofishing survey conducted on October 28th and November 4th encountered warmer than average water temperatures. These conditions yielded a decreased catch rate of walleye when compared to the 2014 survey, but an increase in saugeye abundance. Collected saugeye measured 10 to 21 inches in total length with walleye in the 6 to 20 inch range. The fall gill net survey collected 52 saugeye that measured in the 12 to 21 inch range. The survey yielded only 8 walleye, but produced some excitement in the form of a 24.25 inch walleye that weighed an impressive 6.4 pounds. DGIF biologists began tagging collected walleye and saugeye from Lake Chesdin in 2015 as part of the state wide tagging program. Anglers that are able to catch a walleye or saugeye should inspect the fish to see if there is a reward tag located just below the dorsal fin. Anglers should contact the DGIF Region 1 office to report collected reward tags if they would like to receive a $20 reward check.


More Information

For more information, contact the following offices:

Waterbody Contact
Leesville and Philpott Reservoirs Forest Office: (434) 525-7522
Lakes Orange, Burke, and Brittle Fredericksburg Office: (540) 889-4169
Little Creek Reservoir and Chesdin Charles City Office: (804) 829-6580
Upper New River and Clinch River,
South Holston Reservoir,
Flannagan Reservoir,
Hungry Mother Lake
Marion Office: (276) 783-4860