Lake Frederick - Fishing Opportunities
The largemouth bass population is excellent with many fish in the 2-4 pound range available to anglers. Lake Frederick has historically produced the best quality largemouth bass fishery in the Shenandoah Valley. Anglers have wrestled largemouths up to 10 pounds from the lake in recent years. Some of these trophy bass have also been released back to fight another day. Electrofishing sampling in spring 2001 produced excellent densities of bass. Reproduction appears to be very stable, and good numbers of bass 12-18" representing the bulk of the fishery.** Compared to bass from more southern latitudes, largemouth in Lake Frederick exhibit slow growth rates. It takes around 6 growing seasons for a bass to reach 14" in Lake Frederick. The primary forage for largemouth bass are numerous small bluegill and black crappie. The fact that Frederick produces bass up to 10 lbs is proof that a pelagic forage species need not be present to grow large fish. The clear water of Lake Frederick often makes it difficult to catch bass. Bass often become suspended in the submerged standing timber that surrounds much of the shoreline. Anglers need to fish different depths until they locate fish. Night fishing during the summer months can also be productive. Some of the largest bass are caught during the pre-spawn in the months of March and April.
The quality largemouth bass population is beneficial to the sunfish population. By preying upon small sunfish and keeping their numbers low, bass help to produce "hand-sized" bluegill and redear sunfish. Spring 2001 sampling revealed an excellent population of these two sunfish species.** If you are looking to catch a "citation" sized sunfish then head to Lake Frederick. It is the only lake in the region that produces good numbers of large sunfish. Anglers have been successful using live bait such as crickets and red worms to catch these "whopper" panfish.
We have not done any specific sampling targeting crappie in recent years, but the population appears to be healthy. Crappie numbers are stable and fish of harvestable size (8-10") are available to anglers. Anglers should focus on the breast of the dam and around the fishing pier in the spring when water temperatures reach the mid 50's. Live minnows and small jigs should be the best baits.
Channel catfish fingerlings are stocked annually be the Department. Some bruisers up to 30lbs have been taken from Lake Frederick in recent years. Catfish anglers should use cut bait, nightcrawlers, or commercial catfish baits to entice these "whisker fish".
Department biologists conducted a walleye research project at Lake Frederick in the late 1990's. The goal of the project was to determine the size of the walleye population and to learn the habitat preferences of walleye in Lake Frederick. We discovered that the walleye population was not as large as we originally thought. Walleye do not naturally reproduce in Lake Frederick so the department must stock each year. To increase the walleye population, in 1999 we increased the number of walleye being stocked each May. It will be a few more years before we can evaluate the success of the stocking increase. Several walleye were implanted with radio transmitters to document movements and habitat preferences. We were able to determine what depths walleye occupied throughout the different seasons. We also mapped the areas of the lake that walleye frequented during different seasons.
Detailed results of the walleye study can be found in the June 2001 issue of Virginia Wildlife magazine, or by contacting the Region IV DGIF office at 540-248-9360. This document is also available online, here (PDF - 2.8 MB).
Lake Frederick contains a fair number of walleye and fish up to 9 lbs have been sampled by biologists. Most of the walleye caught by anglers range from 2-3 lbs. In early spring when the lake temperature reaches the mid 40's walleye move into the shallows attempting to spawn. One of the best places to catch walleye at this time of year is along the "rip-rap" on the breast of the dam. Other times of the year walleye can be associated with structure or suspended in open water. Look for walleye to be in the coolest water with the highest concentration of dissolved oxygen during the summer months. Unlike warmwater fish species that slow down in the winter, walleye actively feed throughout the winter months. Fishing slow and deep is the key to catching walleye in the winter. Walleye are very light sensitive and like to feed in low light conditions. Anglers should fish for walleye after dark or during the dawn and dusk period. A dim cloudy day can also be a good time to go after walleye at Lake Frederick. Walleye can be caught on all kinds of live and artificial baits. A combination of a artificial lure trailed with a minnow or night crawler works well.