Virginia.gov

Shenandoah River - North Fork - Fishing Opportunities

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass River Fishing Forecast

The most sought after sportfish in the North Fork Shenandoah River is the smallmouth bass. Densities of smallmouth are high and anglers can experience catch rates that average 1.2 bass per hour. Fisheries biologists consider a catch rate greater than one fish per hour to be very good. Experienced anglers can experience catches of 50+ smallmouth in a day of fishing. Remember, fishing success can vary depending upon environmental conditions. The natural mortality rate of smallmouth in the North Fork is high and harvest by anglers is low, based on research conducted by biologists. Therefore, the smallmouth bass population is mostly influenced by environmental conditions (flood/drought). Years where there is a very successful spawn produces a strong "year-class" of bass. These strong year-classes are what makes the fishing favorable. When one or two strong year-classes of bass are reaching the sizes that anglers prefer, fishing can be considered excellent. However, when weak year-classes are produced by environmental variables, fishing success can be poor. Currently, there are several strong year-classes of bass recruiting into the fishery of the North Fork. There should be good numbers of quality-size smallmouth bass available to anglers in 2002-2003. Anglers will find smallmouth throughout all habitats on the river. One of the most productive areas to find smallmouth is directly below riffle areas or bedrock ledges. The area of the North Fork between Edinburg and Strasburg contains many bedrock ledges. Various types of artificial lures and live baits can be effective for catching smallmouth on the North Fork. Anglers should not limit their smallmouth fishing to just the warmer months. Smallmouth are active throughout the year and some of the largest bass are caught during the colder months.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are limited to relatively few areas of the North Fork where deep pools with slower currents exist. The North Fork has a low percentage of pool habitat compared to the South Fork Shenandoah. However, anglers can encounter some good largemouth fishing in the pools of the North Fork. Most any offering of artificial or natural bait should entice a hungry largemouth.

Sunfish

The North Fork Shenandoah River is home to several sunfish species. They include: redbreast sunfish, rock bass, bluegill, and pumpkinseed sunfish. All these sunfish species tend to occupy the same habitats. They prefer to associate with areas of reduced current and structure. The redbreast sunfish may also be located in areas with faster currents. Sunfish densities are excellent and the number of larger "hand-size" panfish is outstanding. Anglers should not overlook the sunfish population when fishing the North Fork.

Fallfish

This fallfish feels right at home in the mid-depth currents of the North Fork. These fish are numerous and can attain lengths of up to 15 inches. Fallfish are often overlooked as a sportfish, but the can put up a good fight on light tackle. Fallfish often feed on the surface taking mayflies and other insects. Fly fishing for "rising" fallfish on the North Fork can be very rewarding.

Muskellunge

The VDGIF annually stocks fingerling-size musky at several sites on the North Fork Shenandoah River downstream of Mount Jackson. There has been no evidence of muskies reproducing naturally in the North Fork, therefore they must be stocked to sustain a fishery. Adult musky densities are low and closely resemble numbers seen in a wild, reproducing population.

Other fish species

American eel, white sucker, northern hogsucker, common carp, crappie, yellow bullhead, and channel catfish are some other fish species that anglers might encounter in the North Fork.