Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF)
Outdoor Report

Managing and Conserving Our Wildlife and Natural Resources

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

VDGIF is an agency of the Virginia Secretariat of Natural Resources
In this edition:
  • Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Thankful...
  • VDGIF Commences Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance for 2007
  • Do The Right Thing!
  • Hunters For The Hungry Needs Your Support!
  • Hunters - Did You Remember To...
    A new section to note some important reminders before you head to the woods.
    • Pack Several Glow Light Sticks
    • An Open Letter to Landowners - Harvest Does
    • Remember - Feeding Deer is Illegal!
    • Video Available on Field Dressing Your Deer
  • People and Partners in the News
    • Powhatan Lakes Projects Needs Volunteers!
    • VDOT Provides Safety Vests for Volunteers
    • Learn the Basics of Fly Fishing
    • Educational Rabbit Hunting Workshop December 8 in Bedford
    • Education Youth Waterfowl Hunting Workshop December 29 in Essex
    • Decoy Carving Workshop Makes a Great Holiday Gift
    • Video Available to Help Virginians Live with Bears
    • Wildlife Center Receives 2007 National Conservation Achievement Award
  • Be Safe... Have Fun!
    • Drivers, Use Caution to Avoid Hitting Deer
  • Virginia Conservation Police Notebook
    • Field reports from officers protecting natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation
  • 2007 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife
  • Fishin' Report
  • In Case You Missed It...
    • Links to recent articles of on-going interest

Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Thankful...

As we approach the one year anniversary of the new, revived electronic Outdoor Report, I am a bit sentimental and humbled about all the hard work and support from colleagues, partners, contributing reporters and readers that have made this newsletter successful. I hope you have been informed, educated and even inspired on occasion to do something new and different to enhance your outdoor experiences, or better yet, share with others.

This edition is posted right in the middle of what I observe as the "Great American Heritage Appreciation Month," where we need to be especially responsible, respectful and thankful. This is a time to "walk the walk and talk the talk." Election Day was last week. As a responsible citizen, did you vote? The following Sunday was Veterans Day, honoring the brave men and women who have fought and died to protect our freedoms - especially the privilege to vote. I hope you showed your appreciation to our veterans in some way. This Saturday is the opening day of deer season; hunters, this is the most important time for us to be respectful. Common courtesy and safety are no accident - be respectful of other hunters, landowners and the wild game you pursue and harvest.

And finally, be Thankful for the opportunity to participate in all these wonderful blessings, for treasured friendships, and for the service, courage and sacrifice by our military, law enforcement and emergency services people and their families. I wish you a safe, rewarding and peaceful Thanksgiving.

David Coffman, Editor

VDGIF Commences Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance for 2007

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) has begun its active surveillance for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) for the 2007-2008 hunting season. To establish whether CWD occurs in Virginia, the Department commenced statewide CWD surveillance in 2002, and since then a total of 2,936 samples have been collected, deer have been sampled from every county in the Commonwealth, and CWD has not been detected.

For this season the Department will once again conduct statewide active surveillance. Hunter and road-killed deer from all counties in the Commonwealth will be tested for CWD, with the goal of over 1,000 samples during the 2007-2008 hunting season. However, due to the detection of CWD in deer from Hampshire County, West Virginia, additional surveillance will also be performed in a CWD Surveillance Focus Area in western Frederick County. This area will include the portions of Frederick County west of Virginia route 600.

VDGIF will be soliciting assistance from hunters in its CWD surveillance efforts by requesting that hunters voluntarily submit deer heads for testing. Hunter participation in CWD surveillance is vital as this will enable the Department to more quickly and effectively monitor for the presence of CWD. Hunters who are interested in participating in the CWD surveillance should contact the nearest Department office, or visit our Web site.

Do the Right Thing!

None of us is perfect. Few haven't been tempted to pull the trigger when a deer presents a less than ideal shot, step across a fence line without first getting the landowner's permission, or give up the search for a downed animal on a cold, rainy day. But if we all hold ourselves to a strict code of personal ethics, even in the isolation of the woods, it enhances our enjoyment of and pride in our sport. Perhaps even more importantly, it sets a positive example for kids and new hunters, and sends a good message to those who don't hunt. This makes the personal ethics of every hunter very important.

Many calls to our information centers deal with common courtesy and common sense (or lack thereof) rather than legal transgressions. Complaints come in about things that are more a matter of ethics than law, like hunters set up right on property line fences, irritating the landowners next door. Shots taken too close to a farmer's grazing livestock, or at distances too far for a clean kill. Downed game left lying in the woods without an earnest recovery effort. Things like this may not be illegal, but they give all hunters a bad name and frustrate true sportsmen and sportswomen.

Prepare yourself for difficult choices in the field. Determine the effective range of your rifle when practicing before the season, and refuse to take a shot farther away. Realize that the law prevents you from retrieving game on someone's land without permission, but ethics dictate whether you'll set up your tree stand near a property line in the first place. If it's getting close to dark and you're still hoping to see a deer, but don't want to comb the woods on your hands and knees with a flashlight, go ahead and pack it up for the night. One of the easiest ways for all of us to do the right thing is not to put ourselves in difficult situations in the first place. For those who do not want to follow the law, our wildlife crime line heats up with reports of everything from trespassing to spotlighting to shooting across roads.

This season, hold yourself to the kind of standard you'd like to see in all hunters. It's sometimes harder than it sounds. But an ethical hunt is always a successful day afield, and when we are fortunate enough to take home game, it's a trophy every time.

This valuable information is reprinted from an article in The Outdoor Wire from Hayley Lynch of the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. She is an avid hunter and shotgun shooter. It's good advice for any of us who take to the woods during hunting season.

Hunters for the Hungry Needs Your Support!

Attention hunters! Hunters for the Hungry needs your support. This uniquely Virginia program was started by hunters in 1991 and is primarily supported financially by hunters. This grass roots effort, more than any other program, gives hunters and hunting a good image. The following comments are from distinguished outdoor writer Bill Cochran, from Roanoke:

Let's just come right out and say it: Hunters for the Hungry is struggling. Yes, this great organization that processed and distributed 356,054 pounds of venison for the needy last year -- that's 1.4 million servings -- is finding it increasingly challenging to keep up financially with the demands being placed on it. Where is the money going to come from to process all these deer?

Right now, funds come from various fund raising events at outdoor shows, raffle ticket sales or golf tournaments entry fees and banquets. This is worthy, even pretty spectacular, but it hardly is the financial foundation required to maintain a program of this magnitude. Hunters get much of the credit for the program's success, which, since its modest beginning in 1991, has set records each year in pounds of venison distributed to the needy. I can think of no other program that gives hunters and hunting a better image.

Yet, hunters need to do more. They have the option to check off $2 for Hunters for the Hungry each time they buy a hunting license, but few do, even when asked. Since it costs about $40 to process a deer, hunters should also consider paying the processing fee as well.

You might ask why hunters should be forced to support a benevolent program. The answer is that the state's deer management plan simply can't work unless there is a system to deal with the excess of deer. Hunters can't eat them all. So why not share the bounty by feeding the needy? It is the right and noble thing to do and it is vital to the well-being of hunting.

For more ideas on supporting Hunters for the Hungry, read more. To read Bill Cochran's latest column, visit

Hunters - Did You Remember To...

The following notes are quick reminders of things you may have overlooked in your efforts to get ready for hunting season. Most of these notes are reported from numerous calls we received recently at our information desk.

Pack Several Glow Light Sticks

VDGIF Videographer, Ron Messina knows the importance of good light. An avid bowhunter, he offers this tip to deal with loss of sunlight if you shoot a deer just before dark and need to track it with the light fading. "Crack" a glow light stick and hang it at your stand to find your way back in the dark. Carry several of these inexpensive light sticks to hang along the trail to keep you on track.

An "Open Letter" To Landowners and Deer Hunters in Bedford, Fairfax, Fauquier, Franklin, Loudoun, Patrick, Prince William, and Roanoke Counties

Help VDGIF reduce deer populations in these areas! High deer and human populations have led to increased deer-human conflicts (e.g., deer-vehicle collisions, property damage, habitat damage, etc.). Despite very liberal deer seasons, doe harvests remain too low to control the herd. A change in hunter and landowner attitudes is needed. Hunters need to take more does and landowners need to encourage it! If hunting does not reduce herds to optimum levels, then the public will demand deer herd reduction using other methods (e.g., out of season kill permits, sharpshooting). In the long run, reducing the deer population will benefit the deer herd, society, and deer hunters themselves. Less deer will mean bigger, healthier deer, healthier habitat, and less damage. Read the full letter online (PDF) or see page 53 in Hunting and Trapping in Virginia.

Remember - Feeding Deer is Illegal!

Remember that it is unlawful to feed or attract deer from September 1 through the first Saturday in January. Feeding deer is a bad idea any time of year. Fed deer are more likely to lose their fear of humans, become a nuisance, spread and maintain diseases, suffer digestive problems, become overabundant, and destroy the local habitat. So help keep the "wild" in wildlife - Don't Feed the Deer! For more information see the Department's Web site.

Video Available on Field Dressing Your Deer

Whether you are a novice hunter who may not feel comfortable tackling the chore of gutting and butchering a deer themselves, or a more experienced hunter who would like to take their deer processing to a professional level, the VDGIF has a DVD to help you make the most of your harvest. "A Professional Guide to Field Dressing, Skinning and Butchering White-Tailed Deer" video begins with step by step instructions on how to field dress a deer as demonstrated by VDGIF Wildlife Biologist Ron Hughes. Then, professional butcher and hunter education instructor Rob Bingel demonstrates the best way to cape out a deer for mounting. The video really gets good when he shows in detail how to de-bone and professionally butcher a deer using only a knife and a hacksaw. Sure, many of us think we know how to process a deer, but seeing the way Rob does it with no wasted effort is well worth the price of the video.

By the end of the video you will learn how to make butterfly chops, de-bone a front shoulder, tie up a roast using a butcher's knot, be able to identify all the proper cuts of meat on a deer, and more! This is one video you will watch over and over! The price is only $12 each.

Hunters: plan your hunt, hunt your plan. Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Above all else, put safety first!

People and Partners in the News

Powhatan Lakes Projects Need Volunteers

VDGIF Complementary Work Force program is currently seeking volunteer groups and individuals to assist with immediate and on-going projects at Powhatan Lakes in Powhatan County. If you can provide skills in carpentry, construction, trail building and clearing, or just want to see how you or your group could help, please contact Jim Battle, CWF Region Coordinator at (804) 829-6580.

VDOT Provides Safety Vests for Volunteers

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has contributed safety vests to the VDGIF Complementary Work Force volunteers in the Valley and Mountain Region (Region 4). CWF Program Manager, Tom Wilcox, expressed appreciation to Jimmy White, VDOT, Residency Administrator, Verona Residency, for coordinating this effort and for VDOT's commitment to keeping the volunteers safe while working near the roadways.

Learn the Basics of Fly Fishing

Do you want to learn to tie your first fly, cast a fly rod, or how to pick your equipment for a better fly-fishing experience? The Chesapeake Parks & Recreation Department, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and Bill Wills Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Federation of Fly Fishers are sponsoring a series of fly fishing workshops. The classes will be held at Northwest River Park in Chesapeake, the first Saturday of the month beginning November 3, 2007 through March 2, 2008. Sessions begin at 10:00 a.m. in the activities building and are free and open to the public. No registration or experience is required. You may bring your own equipment if you like, but it's not required. For more information or directions contact the Park at 421-7151, Bill Campbell at 635-6522, or send email to or

Educational Rabbit Hunting Workshop December 8 in Bedford

This workshop is an excellent educational opportunity for youth, 17 years and younger, to participate in educational sessions that cover Eastern Cottontail biology & habitat, firearm & hunting safety, game care, and ethics. This workshop also includes an opportunity to harvest rabbits. Participants must successfully complete the basic hunter education course prior to workshop and meet all license requirements. A $20 refundable deposit is required to confirm reservation for the workshop. Space is limited, call today. For more information, contact Jimmy Mootz at (804) 367-0656 or

Educational Youth Waterfowl Hunting Workshop December 29 in Essex

This workshop is an excellent educational opportunity for youth 17 years of age and younger to increase their skills and knowledge about waterfowl and waterfowl hunting techniques. Workshop topics include educational hands-on sessions with decoys and blinds setup, waterfowl habitat & ecology, and firearms safety & instruction. Lunch will be provided for participants. Waterfowl, USA is providing a goose & duck hunt for this workshop. The guides, decoys and blinds are included for the hunts. Call to register today! A $20 refundable deposit is required to confirm your registration. For more information, contact Jimmy Mootz at (804) 367-0656 or

Decoy Carving Workshop Makes a Great Holiday Gift

Looking for a unique gift for a special sportsman or sportswoman? Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center Director, Brian Branch, suggests making a reservation in the decoy carving class March 9-13, 2008 open to novices and advanced carvers alike! First time carvers will carve and paint a working Canvasback, one of the most popular of all decoys. Returning or experienced students will carve and paint a decoy of their choice. Decoys will be carved from Tupelo, a favored decoy wood. Decoys will be carved the traditional way using knives and rasps. For hunters wishing to carve their own decoys or outdoor enthusiasts who want a decoy to show, this class is a great deal. Meals, lodging, instruction, and all materials are all included in this exceptionally priced class. Participation is limited to 15 people.

Video Available to Help Virginians Live with Bears

This past year, wildlife biologists and Conservation Police Officers with the VDGIF responded to a tremendous number of calls about property and agricultural damage caused by black bears. The upswing in bear sightings and reports of bear damage has lead VDGIF to produce a new video called Living with Black Bears in Virginia. The agency has completed production and is rolling the video out now to schools, localities, libraries, parks, and public television stations. The general public can watch the video on the Department's Web site.

Wildlife Center Receives 2007 National Conservation Achievement Award

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, the nation's leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, received the National Wildlife Federation's 2007 National Conservation Achievement Award for exemplary leadership in conserving wildlife and connecting people with nature. The award was accepted on November 1, 2007, by Ed Clark, President and Co-Founder of the Wildlife Center. "This is the equivalent of the Academy Award in the field of conservation. Clark said. " This recognition is the result of the contributions of literally thousands of individuals, including those who have generously shared their time, resources, and talents with the Wildlife Center over the years." The NWF award comes as the Wildlife Center marks its 25th anniversary. Founded in a horse stable in Waynesboro in 1982, the Wildlife Center has treated almost 50, 000 wild animals;, presented compelling, life-changing programs to more than 1.4 million children and adults and introduced these audiences to feathered, furred, and scaled representatives of Virginia's wildlife. The Center has trained a generation of wildlife health-care professionals across the United States and around the world. Additional information on the Wildlife Center of Virginia and its veterinary and educational work is available online at

Be Safe... Have Fun!

Drivers, Use Caution to Avoid Hitting Deer

With shorter days, many motorists will be commuting in the dark, increasing the likelihood of their vehicle colliding with a deer. The VDGIF is encouraging Virginia's drivers to be more cautious as they travel the Commonwealth's highways this season.

Fall is the breeding season for deer, and consequently, deer are more active now than any other time of the year. One-half to two-thirds of all deer/vehicle collisions occur in the months of October, November and December. While less than 1 percent of vehicle fatalities and injuries involve deer collisions in Virginia, hitting a deer can cause considerable damage to both people and property.

VDGIF estimates the population of white-tailed deer in the Commonwealth at this time of year to be approximately one million animals. Each year, hunters in Virginia harvest over 210,000 deer. The population has been stabilized at between 800,000 and one million animals for almost 10 years. Without hunting, white-tailed deer, due to their reproduction rate, could double their population within five years.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommends the following tips to drivers to avoid hitting a deer.

  1. When driving, particularly at dusk and dawn, slow down and be attentive. If you see one deer, likely there will be others. If one deer crosses the road as you approach, others may follow.
  2. Deer habitually travel the same areas; therefore deer crossing signs have been installed by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Use caution when you see these signs.
  3. Drivers should apply brakes, even stop if necessary, to avoid hitting a deer, but should never swerve out of the lane to miss a deer. A collision with another vehicle, tree or other object is likely to be more serious than hitting a deer.
  4. Rely on your caution and your own senses, not deer whistles you can buy for your car. These devices have not been shown to be effective.
  5. Any person who is involved in a collision with a deer or bear while driving a motor vehicle, thereby killing the animal, should immediately report the accident to the Conservation Police Officer or other law enforcement officer in the county or city where the accident occurred.
  6. Drivers who collide with a deer or bear, thereby killing the animal, may keep it for their own use provided that they report the accident to a law enforcement officer where the accident occurred and the officer views the animal and gives the person a possession certificate.

If you have questions about white-tailed deer or deer behavior, please visit the Department's Web site:

Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

The "Virginia Conservation Police Notebook" provides an overview of the variety of activities encountered by our officers, previously called game wardens, who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. The Notebook entries are listed by Region.

Region 1 - Tidewater

Alcohol, pot, and bait - bad combo... Early into the 2007 archery season, Conservation Police Officer Frank Spuchesi received information from the King George County Sheriff's Office about a baited ground blind behind a residence. The Sheriff's Office had recently served a search warrant at the residence for cultivating marijuana in the basement of the home. The Sheriff's Office also advised Officer Spuchesi that they found many trophy class deer antlers during the search. Officer Spuchesi was familiar with the owner of the property. He was arrested by Officer Spuchesi several years earlier for spotlighting and shooting a decoy deer with a .22 cal rifle. The suspect's hunting privileges were revoked by the court from this arrest until February of 2008. Officer Spuchesi located a ground blind and found the immediate area to be baited with a feeder filled with corn, apples and a mineral block. On the evening of October 27, 2007, Officer Spuchesi entered the property, found the owner inside the baited blind and in possession of a loaded .22 cal rifle. The suspect had recently consumed a beer and smoked marijuana. Found in the blind were a bottle of doe in heat scent lure, an empty beer can, a plastic baggie containing marijuana with a lighter and smoking device. The suspect was charged with hunting deer during the closed season, hunting deer with a rifle less than .23 cal., hunting in a baited area, hunting while revoked, hunting under the influence and possession of marijuana. It was also determined that the suspect had purchased hunting licenses during the past two hunting seasons. For more information contact Lt. Ken Conger (804) 829-6580.

Region 2 - Southside

Braggin' can get you in trouble... Conservation Police Officer Gavin Fariss received word of a black bear being harvested on opening morning of the archery bear season in Prince Edward County. After checking the bear, the "lucky" hunter had decided to show it off at a local fire department near the property he hunted. On October 18, Officer Fariss thoroughly patrolled this property and located a climbing treestand and two piles of "bait" located within 25 yards of the stand. The bait consisted of "Buckola" deer food and corn. Beside one of the bait piles was blood consistent with an archery wound. Officer Fariss followed the trail for approximately 50 yards and found where the bear had expired. After finding this evidence, Officer Fariss interviewed the suspect that evening and obtained a full confession to killing the bear over bait and killing the bear on October 12, the day before the season officially opened. Further information revealed that the hunter was generously assisted by the landowner in loading, transporting, and concealing the bear in his shop until opening morning. Charges are pending on both men: Kill Bear over Bait, Kill Bear during Closed Season, Conspiracy, and possession of illegally taken game. For more information contact Lt. Tony Fisher (434) 525-7522.

Region 3 - Southwest

Decoy nabs two at one time... Sergeant Naff and Senior Conservation Police Officers Pease and Billings conducted a special decoy deer operation in a remote section of National Forest in Wythe County. At about 7:30 pm an older model Chevy pickup stopped in the roadway and fired a 12 gauge shotgun from the driver's side window at the decoy deer. Senior Officer Billings was the ground observer at the scene and radioed to Senior Officer Pease that the suspect vehicle had left the scene and was traveling in his direction. Just seconds after radioing the vehicle information to Senior Officer Pease, another vehicle approached the decoy deer from the opposite direction. Senior Officer Billings observed the passenger attempting to exit the Dodge pickup before the vehicle came to a stop. The vehicle finally slowed enough so the passenger could clear the doorpost with his compound bow in hand and quickly fire a shot at the decoy deer. Both vehicles and occupants were successfully apprehended after the violations. Charges were placed for attempting to take deer after legal hours, shooting from the roadway, and attempting to take deer during the closed season (gun during bow season). Two firearms and a bow were seized as evidence. For more information contact Lt. Rex Hill at (276) 783-4860.

Region 4 - Mountain & Valley

Wasted deer costly to vineyard... Conservation Police Officer F. G. Mundy received information that the owner of a vineyard in Rockingham County had been killing deer during the closed deer hunting season on his property without a kill permit. Officer Mundy found as the investigation unfolded that a number of dead deer had been found by landowners surrounding the vineyard. In the course of the investigation, Mundy discovered that a total of nine deer had been killed in September of 2007. The landowner had requested and received a kill permit allowing him to harvest deer damaging the vineyard during the previous year of 2006, but had not requested a crop damage inspection by a conservation police officer in 2007. When interviewed, the landowner was candid and honest about his actions, yet could not give a valid reason for not getting a kill permit from the VDGIF in 2007. So instead, he just killed the deer that he saw in his vineyard without a kill permit. As a result, he faces charges of killing nine deer during the closed season for hunting deer and for wanton waste of the deer carcasses that he killed. Damage/kill permits are a valuable wildlife management tool that allows a landowner or his designees to waive certain wildlife laws as set by the conditions on the permit such as seasons, hours and bag limits without any penalties. For more information Contact Lt. Kevin Clarke (540) 248-9360.

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Tip helps catch bear poacher... Conservation Police Officer Jon Simmons, acting on a tip of an illegal bait site, coordinated with Sgt. Kenny Dove and teamed up with Conservation Police Officer and Hunter Education Specialist Phil Townley for a closer look. The tip was related to an active baiting site in the Rixeyville area of Culpeper County as the location where a suspect had shot a bear with a bow. On October 27, officers carefully checked the area on foot patrol. Officer Simmons located a suspect occupying a tree stand with a nocked arrow in his bow. The suspect was overlooking a fifty-five gallon electric drum feeder which had been hosted up by chain, cable and pulleys between two trees. The area beneath the feeder was covered in yellow corn, salt and "Buck Rub." The area was also under surveillance by an active digital game trail camera which could capture any activity. The suspect first denied ever seeing a bear in the area but was soon to change his story. Officer Simmons' interview of the suspect uncovered the suspect admitting he had recently shot a bear from one of his other bait sites with a bow and arrow. The second bait site also had a similar set-up like the first. Several salt rocks and salt blocks were distributed in the area along with an active digital game trail camera. The suspect was released on a summons for hunting a baited area. The bow, arrows, cameras, electric drum feeders, salt, and a sample of the "bait" were collected as evidence. Officer Simmons' investigation is continuing and it is believed additional charges will be placed against the suspect for unlawfully killing or attempting to kill bear, as well as unlawfully killing or attempting to kill deer. For more information contact Lt. John Cobb (540) 899-4169.

If you suspect or witness a violation, report it to the Wildlife Crimeline at 1-800-237-5712.

Don't let the actions of a few outlaws tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen!

2007 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife

The VDGIF 2007 Collector's knife has been customized by Buck Knives. This classic model 110 folding knife is 8-½" long when fully opened and has a distinctive, natural woodgrain handle with gold lettering. Each knife is individually serial numbered and has a mirror polished blade engraved with a fox. Our custom knife comes in a solid cherry box with a collage of foxes engraved on the box cover.

Fishin' Report

Anglers throughout Virginia and neighboring states want to know "how are the fish bitin'?" To provide some answers, more than 25 license agents, marinas, fishing guides and bait shops have volunteered to serve as contacts for information on recent fishing conditions for primary rivers and lakes throughout the state. Sarah White, outdoor writer and regular contributor to Virginia Wildlife magazine, prepares this Fishin' Report from interviews with these contacts the week prior to publication of the Outdoor Report.

The Fishin' Report is only available as part of your free subscription to the Outdoor Report.

The rivers and lakes featured in the Fishin' Report are listed by VDGIF Administrative Regions so you can quickly locate the area in which you are most interested. Consult the regional location map to find the major river or lake you want to know about.

For regulations and conditions on saltwater fishing, visit the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) Web site.

Region 1 - Tidewater

Chickahominy Lake: Tina Vallard at Eagle's Landing reports that the rain has helped improve the fishing conditions. The crappie are hitting well. The lake is cooling and clear.

Chickahominy River: Charlie Brown tells us that the bass are being cooperative, as are the cats. A recent catch and release tournament netted a 58 lb. blue cats. The crappie are also biting, but not as well. The river is cooling and clear.

Little Creek Reservoir: Due to low water the boat ramp and pier are closed. The first peninsula is still open.

Norfolk Lakes: Drew Dixon of Dashiels' Show Room says that although there are not a lot of anglers working the lakes, the fishing is good. The crappie are hitting, so are the bass and cats. Drew credits the recent rain for improving the fishing. The lakes are cooling somewhat and clear.

North Landing River and Back Bay: Dewey Mullins told me that there is plenty of good striper fishing in the area. The bass are also being brought in, with Ken Testroff landing a 5 ½ lb. lunker. The crappie are starting to come in and rise to the bait. The bluegills are active. Cat fishing has been good, with a customer bringing in a 12 lb. and 14 lb. channel cat. The water is in the high 60's and murky.

Region 2 - Southside

Leesville Reservoir: Tri County Marina is closed for the winter. They will reopen on April, 15, 2008. The ramp, however, is still open, although the store is closed. You can still get gas, but you must call ahead first. The number is (434) 369-5126.

Region 3 - Southwest

Claytor Lake: Andrew Bentley of Rock House Mariana let me know that the fishing is good for cats, stripers and hybrids. An angler recently brought in a 31 ½ lb. flathead cat. The crappie are not responding well. The lake is cooling and clear.

Flannagan Reservoir: Flanagan Marina is closed for the season and will reopen on April 1, 2008.

Lower New River: John Zienius of Big Z's says that there is now more water in the river, due to the recent rain. This has improved the angling a lot. Smallmouth bass are being especially cooperative, going for Pig & Jigs. Some stripers are biting. All in all, the rain has proved to be "a real blessing" for the river's anglers. The river is cooling and clear.

North Fork of the Holston River: Jamie Lamie of the Sportsman's Den reports that the water is low and the fishing has slowed down accordingly. The smallmouths and other fish are heading for the bottom. The best tactic is to fish deep with a slower retrieval. The water is cooling and clear.

New River and Claytor Lake: Sportsman's Supply's Victor Billings told me that the smallmouths and stripers are really hitting in the lake, especially above the bridge and in Dublin Hollow. It is best to fish the bass deep, on plastics. The stripers are going for live gizzard shad and bucktail lures. The walleye are biting in Austenville. The cat fishing has slowed. The waters are clear and cooling.

Region 4 - Mountain & Valley

Lake Robertson: Wayne Nicely reports that although the recent rains have helped, there is not much fishing to be had at the lake. Some anglers are having fair luck with largemouth bass. Cats, walleyes and bluegills are playing hard to get. Wayne expects the fishing to be slow until spring. The water is 69 degrees and clear.

Lake Moomaw: Larry Andrews of The Bait Place says that the recent rains didn't do much good for the lake, which is 22 ½ feet down, an increase since the last report. The bass fishing is still good, but that is about all anglers are landing. The fishing should pick up soon with winter feeding. The water is 58 degrees and clear.

North Fork of the Shenandoah River: Harry Murray reports that the smallmouth fishing in both the North and South forks of the river is still good. It is best to use deep running flies, such as Murray's Mad Tom and Murray's Heavy Hellgrammite. The best areas are near Edinburg in the North fork and Luray in the South fork. The waters there are 50 degrees and clear. The trout streams in the valley are still good, as many streams have been stocked. The best areas are Big Stony Creek and Passage Creek. Good flys for these areas are the Betsy Streamer and Pearl Marauder at 10 and 12. The waters in this area are 46 degrees and clear. The mountain streams should not be fished now, as the brookies are spawning.

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Tidal James: Mike Ostrander told me that the blue cats are really hitting well. Three youngsters, Andrew Venzke, Rollo Samuel and Jimmy Venskus, all from Northern Virginia went out and landed 15 blue cats, a few flathead cats and one striped bass. Rollo caught the biggest fish - a 53 lb. blue cat. So the big ones are out there, and fishing in general has improved. The water is cooling and clear.

Got Tips?
Got Tricks?
Adventure Stories?
The one that got away?
The one that didn't?

email your material to
and it might get used in the Fishin' Report!

In Case You Missed It...

Editor's note: With numerous new subscribers each issue, we realize that some of the seasonal features are important and timely enough to bear repeating. So readers can easily review these seasonal items, we have retained the headlines and information links in this section "In case you missed it..."

We hope you enjoy the new, electronic Outdoor Report and invite you to share this information with your friends and colleagues. Simply visit the Department's Web site and click on the Outdoor Report link to subscribe. New editions are sent directly to your email address the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Stay informed on issues and opportunities about Virginia's outdoors!

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for:

  • Winterize Your Boat
  • New Wild Turkey Video
  • Holiday Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts
American eel. Artwork copyright Spike Knuth.

American Eel
(Anguilla rostrata)
by Spike Knuth

The American eel is one of the most abundant, yet mysterious fish of Virginia waters. Despite its snake-like appearance it is a true fish with an elongated, round body, and long ribbon-like fins running the length of it body. Females reach up to 5 feet in length while the males grow to about 2 feet.

Eels are catadromous as opposed to anadromous, meaning they migrate down river to the sea to spawn rather than from the sea or lake up the rivers. This event takes place every autumn as adult females migrate thousands of miles from as far inland as the upper Mississippi River drainage, and the Great Lakes, to a two million square mile area in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Bahamas known as the Sargasso Sea.

As migration time nears, adult “yellow eels" undergo several physiological changes. Their color changes to a metallic bronze-black. They put on weight; their eyes get larger and undergo a change that enables them to see in the deeper ocean waters. Their swim bladders increase in size, digestive tract degenerates and they discontinue feeding. Their ovaries grow to fill the entire body cavity to prepare for the production of eggs. Their whole purpose is to spawn. How and exactly where is still a mystery. It is thought that they spawn between February and July in about 1,500 feet of water below floating masses of sargassum weed. After that, they die!

The eggs hatch into tiny, transparent larvae called Leptocephalae. They drift on ocean currents for 9 to 12 months until they reach coastal estuaries. Here another transformation takes place and they begin to change into miniature, transparent eels called “glass eels.” The glass eels begin to gain color as they feed and become small black eels called "elvers."

Males apparently remain in salt and brackish waters while the females continue on further upstream, becoming “yellow eels." Migrating eels overcome a variety of obstacles and are capable of crawling or slithering over land over and around dams, spillways, rip-rapping, and even through wet grass. They are most active at night and will prey on minnows, frogs, crayfish, leeches, worms, and insects. Eel stay and live in fresh or brackish water from 5 to 24 years before making a spawning migration.

American eels are found along the east coast from Greenland to the Gulf of Mexico; up the Mississippi River and to the Great Lakes. European eels also migrate similarly from Europe to the Sargasso Sea with young returning to the western coast of Europe. They are more treasured as a food source in Europe, while those harvested from the Chesapeake Bay are used mostly as bait for crab pots.

The biggest threat to eels has been contaminants in bottom sediments where they feed, and blockage of habitats by dams and other obstructions. In Virginia, many dams have been breached or made passable to allow eels easier access to their traditional river habitations.

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This section of each issue of the Outdoor Report features one of the 925 animals that have been identified in Virginia's Wildlife Action Plan whose existence is at risk.

Think you can't make a difference? You can! Be wild and work with your local officials and in your local communities to conserve Virginia's wildlife resources. Find out how you can help and join our team!

The artwork used to enhance this publication is produced by award-winning Virginia artist Carl "Spike" Knuth. He is currently retired from VDGIF and continues to be active in numerous activities contributing to wildlife conservation, information and education through his artwork and writing. We appreciate his continued service and support through his exceptional talent for both illustrations and writing. Spike's artwork can be seen at the Jager Gallery, 6939 Lakeside Avenue, in Richmond.

November 2007
22 Thanksgiving - note one day turkey season (most counties - see Regulations for details)
December 2007
1 Basic Fly Fishing (PDF), Chesapeake. Contact Bill Campbell at (757) 635-6522 or
8 Educational Rabbit Hunting Workshop, Bedford. Contact Jimmy Mootz at (804) 367-0656.
29 Educational Youth Waterfowl Hunting Workshop, Essex. Contact Jimmy Mootz at (804) 367-0656 or
We have opportunities for the public to join us as volunteers in our Complementary Work Force Program. If you are interested in devoting your time and talents, apply here.

Opportunities will be posted regularly providing descriptions of available volunteer positions.

The Department offers numerous hunting, fishing, and outdoor education programs designed for families, women, beginners and seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.
Visit Find Game, the Department's award-winning online public hunting lands locator!

For persons with disabilities: a calendar of hunting, fishing, and skill-building events, as well as areas designed for access to persons with disabilities can be found on the Department's online events calendar, accessible fishing areas page, as well as the VANWTF site.

Find out where to fish, fishing access, and much more at the Department's Web site.


The following is a partial list of upcoming seasons starting in September and October for the more popular species. For a complete list and regulations consult the 2007-08 Hunting & Trapping Regulations and Information.

Beginning in September 2007
Crow: through March 15 Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday only.
Squirrel: Sept. 1 - Jan. 31
Rail: Sept. 10 - Nov. 17
Beginning in October 2007
Deer: Oct. 6 - Nov. 16
Snipe: Oct. 22 - Jan. 31
Duck, Merganser, Coot, Gallinules, & Moorhen: Oct. 4 - 8
Opossum: Oct. 15 - Mar. 10
Raccoon: Oct. 15 - Mar. 10
Grouse: Oct. 27 - Feb. 9 West of Interstate 95 only.
Beginning in November 2007
East of Blue Ridge - Nov. 3 - 16
West of Blue Ridge - Nov. 10 - 16
Bear: Nov. 13 - 16 certain counties, see regulations
Bobcat: Nov. 1 - Feb. 29
Fox: Nov. 1 - Feb. 29 certain counties, see regulations
Snow Goose: Nov. 1 - Dec. 1
Rabbit: Nov. 3 - Feb. 29 (new regulation enacted by Board of Game & Inland Fisheries)
Nov. 5 - Jan. 5 certain counties, see regulations
Nov. 26 - Jan. 5 certain counties, see regulations
Quail & Pheasant: Nov. 10 - Jan. 31
Nov. 17 - Dec. 1 certain counties, see regulations
Nov. 17 - Jan. 5 certain counties, see regulations
Duck, Merganser, Coot, Gallinules, Moorhen, & Canada Goose: Nov. 17 - Dec. 1
Atlantic Brant: Nov. 24 - Dec. 1
Please contribute to Hunters for the Hungry through the $2 check-off when purchasing a license, or at any time through our online Outdoor Catalog.
To report a wildlife violation, call 1-800-237-5712, or email

FOR AN EMERGENCY SITUATION, contact the local conservation police officer immediately through the local sheriff's office or police department.

Don't allow the actions of a few to tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen and sportswomen!

  • If you would like to become a regular subscriber to Virginia Wildlife magazine, visit the Department's Web site, call 1-800-710-9369, or mail a check payable to "Treasurer of Virginia" and send it to Virginia Wildlife Magazine, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 23230-1104. A one-year subscription or 12 issues is only $12.95. Let Virginia Wildlife magazine be your guide to the best in hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife information.


The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall afford to all persons an equal access to Department Programs and facilities without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sex or age. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any program, activity or facility, please write to: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 4010 West Broad Street, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 23230-1104.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia 23230
(804) 367-1000 -