Lake Moomaw - Fishing Opportunities
Alewives are members of the herring family and are, literally, the backbone of the lake's sport fishery. Transplanted from Smith Mountain Lake and Flanangan Lake in the early 1980's, the alewife has thrived in the clear, deep waters of Lake Moomaw. Alewives are a schooling fish, occupying the open waters of the lake. They grow up to 7 inches, but average 4-5 inches long. The alewife is the classic prey species for open water predators such as trout, walleye, and striped bass. In Moomaw, the alewife is the perfect link in the food chain between the microscopic plankton and the lunker brown and rainbow trout. In fact, almost all of the predacious fish species in the lake utilize alewives in their diet. Although they have a reputation for large “die-offs” during long periods of cold weather, alewives have done extremely well at this mountain reservoir.
Brown and rainbow trout have been stocked annually since the early days of the lake. Brown trout have done extremely well, and it is not uncommon to catch brown trout in the 3-5 pound range. They are especially active in late winter and early spring, when they can be found in 15-20 feet of water engorging on alewives. Rainbow trout come in two varieties: McConaughy and Eagle Lake. Biologists determined that a “lake-run” strain of rainbow trout would thrive in Lake Moomaw as well as the Jackson River above the lake. As it turns out, the McConaughy rainbow has done very well in this system. Large silvery rainbows can be caught during late winter through spring in the Jackson River as far as Highland County. Those that remain, or return, to the lake can be found in trophy proportions. Eagle Lake rainbow trout have been mixed into the stocking plan. Eagle Lakes appear to be less migratory and can devote most of their life gaining weight in the deep waters of the reservoir. Brook trout have been periodically stocked to add variety to the coldwater fishery. Trout can be caught at Lake Moomaw at least three different ways: trolling, still fishing with live bait (alewives or shiners), or “jump fishing” when they are active slurping insects or surface running alewives. Neither a trout license nor National Forest Stamp is required.
Two types of black bass – smallmouth bass and largemouth bass - currently occupy the waters of Lake Moomaw. Smallmouth bass, present in the river before the lake was formed, have thrived along the rocky shorelines and steep cliffs (particularly above McClintic Point and around Coles Point). Smallmouths can be found deep (25 ft.) in the lake during summer and winter, and moving along the shallows in spring and fall, searching out food and spawning habitat. Largemouth bass prefer the numerous shallow flats in the lake's center, particularly around Greenwood Point, the swimming beach, and the islands. Try plugging or jigging around weedy areas, old roadbeds, and grass beds in 8-10 feet of water for best largemouth bass results.
Yellow perch are “the new kids on the block” at Lake Moomaw. Actually, they were introduced with a load of stocked fish in the 1980's, but it took a full decade before numbers of trophy size yellow perch became the norm. The state record yellow perch was caught, then surpassed, then caught again at Lake Moomaw in 1999 (2 lb, 7 oz). Yellow perch are often taken using techniques and lures that commonly work for black bass in the spring. However, late winter yellow perch fishing (either through the ice or drifting minnows in 10 feet of water) at Moomaw can provide a much-needed remedy for cabin fever.
Black crappie, bluegill, and redear sunfish are the big three panfish species in Lake Moomaw. To a lesser degree, pumpkinseed, rock bass, and redbreast sunfish, make up the remaining component of this popular sport fish group at the lake. Black crappie have done extremely well. The initial stockings of stunted black crappie from Rural Retreat Lake in the early 1980's have produced generations of 2 pound fish over the years. Black crappie are notorious for having boom-and-bust years, but crappie fishing has been consistent. Hinge trees and brush shelters that work well for bass also benefit the crappie. As with yellow perch, crappie fishing at Moomaw is at its best during the waning weeks of cold weather using live bait. Once a school is located, it is not uncommon to witness stringers of quality size fish. Bluegill and redear sunfish have been coming on strong during the 1990's. To witness large bluegill at the lake, take a quiet stroll out on a boat ramp at one of the landings. In the shadows, schools of fat gills lazily swim about, eager to take a worm. Redear sunfish lie in slightly deeper waters, but are found tight against the shore in May. One pound redears have been taken from Lake Moomaw, from time to time. Rock bass, pumpkinseed, and redbreast sunfish can be quite large, but their numbers are somewhat depressed.
Lake Moomaw boasts two types of catfish species: channel catfish and yellow bullheads. Channel catfish have done very well since they were introduced in the early days of the lake. Stumps at the edge of the river channel, as well as old muskrat holes serve as habitat and spawning areas for this popular game fish. Channel catfish in excess of 20 pounds have been caught on cut bait and live bait, but 10-15 pounders are caught more frequently. Bullheads were abundant in a couple of farm ponds prior to the lake being filled, hence they were introduced “accidentally”. Yellow bullheads do very well in the shallow flats around mid-lake. They provide good recreation for young fishermen and are a preferred food fish among some of the angling community.
This small member of the pike family haunted the cool waters of the Jackson River prior to lake construction. Once the waters rose, the chain pickerel adapted quickly, and large (4-5 pound) “pike” were caught with consistency. Chain pickerel love the shallow, weedy areas around mid-lake and Greenwood Point. They hit with the ferocity of their larger cousins, the northern pike and the muskellunge. Surface plugs provide the best action in early spring, but pickerel can be take year round with plastic bodied jigs.