Occoquan Reservoir - Fishing Opportunities
The main species of interest at Occoquan are largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie, but opportunities exist for anglers to catch channel catfish, flathead catfish, northern pike, and white perch. No matter the skill level, technique of choice, or time of year, the tastes of all anglers should be satisfied while fishing at Occoquan.
The largemouth bass fishing is exceptional at Occoquan. Currently, the population is diverse, with bass found in all size classes up to about 21 inches. Good numbers of fish are available in the 4-6 pound range with an occasional larger fish mixed into the bag.
Routine population sampling conducted by fisheries biologists provides the Department with information pertaining to the status of the fishery. Comparisons can be made between electrofishing samples conducted during different years, which allows biologists to assess changes to the fishery. One index used by biologists is the CPE-P or catch per effort of preferred fish. The CPE-P for largemouth bass is the number of fish 15 inches or larger that are collected per hour of effort. Occoquan Reservoir was last sampled in 2007, and based on those numbers and rankings, it was the best place to fish for big bass in the District. This is even more noteworthy considering its large size and its comparisons to many reservoirs that were much smaller (catch rates are usually higher in small water bodies).
Heavy fishing pressure with ample habitat and abundant forage may make it more difficult to consistently catch fish. Patience is the key; anglers willing to try different techniques and lures to match the prevailing conditions should find success. Largemouth bass typically are found in transition areas between different habitats, particularly around heavy cover. Anglers should concentrate their efforts in these areas, fishing with a variety of lures such as plastic worms, jigs, spinner baits, or crank baits.
Black and White Crappie
Occoquan Reservoir has a very good crappie fishery and anglers should concentrate on areas with structure during the early spring. Anglers consistently catch fish around boat docks, fish attractors, or brush piles. Crappie can be successfully caught by a variety of methods ranging from small jigs, spinners, or flies fished with ultra light spinning gear or anglers may desire more traditional tactics such as fishing small minnows with a cane pole and bobber. Remember that crappies are a schooling fish, and once a fish is caught it is likely that several more will be caught with in close proximity. White crappie typically run larger; and, with the closure of Lake Manassas, Occoquan is the only District lake to offer white crappie.
The bluegill population has dropped considerably since the early 1990's, but the population remains in balance. Fair numbers of bluegill are found in the 5-7 inch range at Occoquan, which provides anglers' ample opportunity to fish for this delightful pan fish. Bream fishing does not have to be complicated. Anglers may use live bait such as worms or crickets with hopes of enticing a strike. Some anglers prefer to use ultra light spinning gear or fly fishing gear to present small lures or flies. Pound for pound, there's not a fish that fights any harder than a scrappy bluegill. Bream are easy to catch which makes them ideal for introducing young children to the sport of fishing.
Occoquan provides a good channel catfish fishery for anglers living close to the Beltway. Channel catfish were first stocked into Occoquan Reservoir in 1964 and were stocked annually afterwards until 1978. Stocking of channel catfish occurred on alternate years between 1981-1991. A good fishery has developed since those initial stockings and the channel catfish population is self-sustaining. Channel catfish are not currently stocked into the reservoir since there is adequate natural reproduction. Anglers can expect to catch fish in the 14-20 inch range, with most fish averaging about 2 pounds.
Twelve flathead catfish were stocked into Occoquan Reservoir in 1965. Since that initial introduction a fantastic fishery has developed which produced the state record flathead catfish catch of 66 pounds 4 oz., caught and released by Mike Willems in May 1994. Anglers may want to concentrate their efforts in areas around rocky bluffs in close proximity to deep water. Live bream are the bait of choice and are often fished on the bottom with a slip sinker rig.
Northern pike were stocked into Occoquan in 2001 at a rate of 0.5 fish per acre. Anglers should expect to encounter these fish in 2-4 years. Northern pike were stocked to prey on the abundant alewife and gizzard shad populations present with in the reservoir and should provide a trophy element to the fishery.