Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Reservoir)

Buggs Island Lake is about 48,900 acres at full pool and has one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the country. Surveys on largemouth bass indicate high rates of reproduction and growth. Largemouth bass in the 2-4 pound range are typical, however, trophy bass greater than eight pounds are rare. The best fishing is on the upper end of the lake and the lower end creek arms. Structure is important, and water levels affect how much structure is available. When water levels rise into the willow and sweet gum trees in spring, anglers should be sure to fish the backs of coves and the points. Channel catfish have traditionally been the most sought after catfish at Buggs Island; however, flathead and blue catfish have become popular as well.

The striped bass population is in fair condition and should be similar to the last couple of years. During spring, striped bass may be found in the upper end of the lake and in the river above the lake as fish travel upstream to spawn. During summer, habitat (combination of temperature and dissolved oxygen) forces striped bass to be found in the lower end of the lake (the dam to about Buoy 9 and in the mouth of Nutbush Creek). Fishing during the fall and winter is typically best from Goat Island to the Clarksville Bridge, although fish may be found throughout the lake. Striped bass caught during the summer suffer high mortality rates when released (approximately 75 percent). Therefore, we removed the size limit restriction during the summer months (June – September) and ask that anglers halt striper fishing when they catch their legal limit of four striped bass per day rather than continue to catch fish and cull smaller individuals. During the cooler months (October-May), striped bass are less stressed and do not suffer high catch-and-release mortality.

Buggs Island Lake is also one of Virginia’s best places to catch crappie. Fishing for crappie is typically best from February through April (pre-spawn and spawn); however, many anglers enjoy high catch rates year-round. Buffalo, Grassy, Bluestone, and Butcher Creeks are very productive for crappie. White bass used to be a real favorite at Buggs Island Lake. However, white bass populations are down in many Virginia reservoirs. White perch have recently become established in the lake and may have contributed to the decline of white bass. White perch are quickly becoming popular with anglers because they are abundant and can reach weights of nearly two pounds.

Maps & Directions

A portion of Buggs Island Lake is located in North Carolina, but Virginia fishing licenses are legal lake-wide. Disabled anglers are encouraged to visit the North Bend Park pier, which is designed especially for their needs. The end of the pier is located over 17 feet of water. Fish attractors, constructed of discarded Christmas trees, have been installed around the pier to enhance the fisheries habitat. Buggs Island Lake is located on the border of North Carolina, mainly in Mecklenburg County, and has numerous campgrounds, boat ramps, and recreation areas around it.

Biologist Reports

Regulations

Black Bass (Largemouth, Smallmouth & Spotted)

  • 5 per day in aggregate
  • Only 2 of 5 bass less than 14 inches can be kept

Striped Bass
October 1 to May 31

  • 2 per day
  • No Striped Bass less than 24 inches

June 1 to September 30

  • 4 per day
  • No length limit

Crappie

  • No daily limit
  • No length limit

Bluegill/Sunfish

  • No daily limit
  • No length limit

Catfish

  • 20 per day
  • Only 1 Blue Catfish longer than 32 inches

Kite Tubing Ban

“Kite Tubes” are prohibited on John H. Kerr (Buggs Island) Lake and Philpott Lake. The manufacturer, Sportsstuff, Inc., has issued a nationwide recall of the Wego Kite Tube. See the USCPSC press release below for more information.

See also:

News

Regulation change for January 1, 2013

Posted: November 19, 2012

The winter size limit for striped bass will be reduced from 26 to 24 inches. The 2 fish/day creel limit will remain unchanged. The summer creel limit will also remain unchanged.

Largemouth bass virus found in Buggs Island Lake

Posted: March 22, 2011

Largemouth bass virus (LMBV) is a disease that impacts several fish species but only appears to cause death in some largemouth bass. In fact it is the only known virus to cause mortality in largemouth bass. LMBV was first discovered in Florida in 1991 in Lake Weir and the first reported fish kill occurred four years later at Santee Cooper Reservoir, South Carolina. LMBV spread throughout the southern United States and was responsible for other largemouth bass deaths in the late 1990’s. However, in many reservoirs LMBV only led to a decrease in survival and growth rates and did not result in significant mortality events. When those declines occur, anglers catch fewer quality-size largemouth bass – bass greater than three pounds. The good news is that impacts from the virus outbreak are normally short lived and largemouth bass fisheries recover in about three years.

LMBV has been classified to belong to the family Iridoviridae of the genus Ranavirus. The only noticeable behavior that might be expressed by infected bass is a loss of equilibrium and fish floating on the surface of the water unable to submerge due to an over inflation of the swim bladder. No other external cues are obvious in fish infected with the virus. Disease outbreaks are most common in August through October.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) tested several reservoirs in 2001 with most either having no occurrence of LMBV or very slight infection rates. Recent virus testing coordinated by VDGIF in the summer of 2010 revealed that about 40% of largemouth bass had been exposed to LMBV at John H. Kerr Reservoir/Buggs Island Lake and the disease is likely responsible for the recent decline in the bass fishery. Largemouth bass from Briery Creek Lake and Sandy River Reservoir located just outside of Farmville in Prince Edward County were also tested and the virus was detected and confirmed. A small largemouth bass mortality event which occurred at Briery Creek Lake in late June, 2010 was most likely the result of LMBV in the population. No impacts to the fishery have been detected at Briery Creek Lake or Sandy River Reservoir.

Due to the popularity of the largemouth bass fishery at Buggs Island Lake, anglers have expressed concerns about the LMBV spreading to other area reservoirs. As mentioned, it is likely that other area lakes do have LMBV present in the population but it is unclear currently what infestation rates might be in other lakes. While LMBV is present in other lakes, it is still very important for anglers to use every precaution available to help prevent the spread to those waters that may not be infected. Responsible care and handling of all largemouth bass is vital to maintaining healthy populations regardless of the presence of disease. VDGIF maintains that this type of precaution is responsible stewardship even when fish populations are healthy. When LMBV is present in a lake, one of the best things that anglers can do for the fishery is to limit largemouth bass tournaments during the warmest months. Stress on largemouth bass is greatest when water temperatures are high and with the additional stress of disease entered into the equation, mortality rates can be very high during summer fishing trips. Tournament organizers tend to do a good job about avoiding tournaments during the heat of summer but we can always do better.

The following are several concerns that anglers have expressed to us and other agencies concerning the impacts of LMBV. These are some of the most commonly asked questions that we encounter.

Can we cure the disease? No, the virus will have to run its course and hopefully the fish will build up immunity to LMBV. So far, lakes affected by the disease in the southern U.S. have not experienced additional large LMBV outbreaks since the initial ones in the late 1990’s.

Are there any risks to humans from the virus? No, fish are safe to eat and the water is safe for drinking water supply and recreation. This virus cannot be passed to humans.

What causes an outbreak of the virus? It is not fully understood what causes an outbreak of LMBV. It is likely that stressful conditions such as low reservoir levels, high water temperatures, or increased handling time make bass more susceptible to LMBV.

How can you tell if a largemouth bass that you’ve caught has the disease? There are very few external cues that the bass might have the disease. Fish that are very sick from the virus may appear bloated and swim erratically due to the impacts of the virus on the swim bladder.

How does the disease spread? Fish that come in close contact (like in a livewell) can easily infect one another. Transmission through the water and eating infected prey are also ways that the disease is spread.

If you have questions or concerns about any fishery in Virginia please feel free to contact any of the VDGIF offices located throughout the state.

Video about Largemouth Bass Virus from the Concerned Bass Anglers of Virginia

Kite Tubing Ban

“Kite Tubes” are prohibited on John H. Kerr (Buggs Island) Lake and Philpott Lake. The manufacturer, Sportsstuff, Inc., has issued a nationwide recall of the Wego Kite Tube. See the USCPSC press release below for more information.

See also:

More Information

For facilities information, call (804) 738-6143 or visit kerrlake.com.

For information on lake levels, contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 804-738-6371.