Claytor Lake

Claytor Lake, a 4,475-acre impoundment of the New River, stretches northeastward across the Pulaski County countryside for 21 miles. Possible catches from Claytor Lake range from bass to carp. Smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass (collectively called “black bass”) are the “bread and butter” fishes of this lake. About 50 percent of the anglers at Claytor Lake fish for “black bass.” The three black bass species in Claytor Lake are regulated by a 12 inch minimum size limit and anglers may harvest five per day (all three species combined). Anglers are encouraged to practice catch-and-release of trophy-size bass from the lake. Claytor’s steep and rocky shorelines make it particularly good for smallmouth bass. In 2016, Claytor Lake produced 8 smallmouth bass certificates (more than five pounds or over 20 inches).

Maps & Directions

Access Points:

Allisonia
Rt. 693 Map

Dublin
Southeast on Rt. 660 of Dublin Map

Harry DeHaven Park
Map

Fishing Opportunities

Claytor Lake holds fewer largemouth bass than other Virginia lakes, and they grow slowly in this mountain reservoir. Claytor Lake’s largemouth bass populations appear to be increasing based on catch rates in fisheries biologists’ electrofishing samples. During the last Claytor Lake electrofishing sample in spring 2015, 46% of the largemouth bass collected over 8 inches long were over 15 inches long.  Anglers can find largemouth bass in coves throughout the lake, but the best places to fish are Peak Creek, Clapboard Hollow, and large coves in the lower lake area. The Claytor Lake record for largemouth bass was a 14- pound, 6-ounce giant caught in June 1991.

Spotted bass in Claytor are generally smaller than the other black basses. Spotted bass in Claytor Lake do not grow as large as largemouth and smallmouth bass, rarely reaching 2 pounds in size, although the state record 4-pound, 7 ounce spotted bass was caught at Claytor Lake in March 2012.  In 2016, Claytor Lake produced 8 smallmouth bass trophy award certificates (more than 5 pounds or over 20 inches), ranking Claytor Lake as the second-best large Virginia reservoir for trophy smallmouth bass.

Anglers fishing for black bass in the lake can use information collected on bass food habits during a recent study at Claytor Lake to select lures and techniques for these species. Smallmouth bass and spotted bass have very similar diets, with both relying mostly on crayfish. Techniques and lures that mimic crayfish are most likely to be successful in producing catches of these fish. Both of these bass species eat a lot of bluegill as well as some alewife and gizzard shad, so they may also hit lures that imitate fish. Largemouth bass diets are quite different than smallmouth and spotted bass diets, which may be one reason they are doing so well in the lake. Largemouth bass eat bluegill, alewife, gizzard shad, and crayfish, depending on the season of the year and whether these prey are abundant in a given year. Lures that imitate fish are the best choice for largemouth bass, but they may also hit crayfish imitations.

 

Striped bass and hybrid striped bass are the second biggest fishery at Claytor Lake, with nearly 20% of anglers fishing for these 2 species.  Poor habitat conditions (low dissolved oxygen levels at their preferred temperature at depth) for striped bass in summer 2016 caused a striper kill, but recent angler reports indicate that this event was nowhere near a complete population die-off.  Claytor Lake bait populations (alewife and gizzard shad) are high, so stripers are feeding well since fall 2016, so anglers are reporting some fat and happy stripers!  Water temperatures below 70 degrees produce the best striper and hybrid striper fishing.  While most anglers troll or float live gizzard shad and alewife for stripers and hybrids, many are taken with topwater baits (Redfins, Rapalas, etc.) and bucktails in the spring and fall. Trolling bucktails and umbrella rigs in 20-60 feet of water can produce good catches. Since they can tolerate higher water temperatures, hybrids often chase schools of shad at the lake’s surface at night in the summer months.  Claytor Lake is the top destination for hybrids in Virginia, producing 13 trophy award certificate size hybrids (more than 8 pounds or 24 inches) in 2016 and setting a new state record with a hybrid weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces caught by local angler Don Jessie on March 16, 2016.

Anglers should keep in mind that the harvest of stripers and hybrids is limited to 4 fish per day (the two species combined), all of which must be longer than 20 inches. White bass are regulated by a creel limit of five per day, with no size limit. Anglers should study the differences between these fish carefully. Helpful identification information is available on the Department website.

Anglers will also find schools of walleye in Claytor Lake.  In 2016, anglers reported 6 trophy award certificate walleye (more than 5 pounds or 25 inches) caught from Claytor Lake.  During fall, winter, and summer months, look for schools of these fish in the same areas where stripers hang out.  During the spring spawning run, look for walleye where the New River enters the lake near Allisonia. From February 1 to May 31, from Claytor Lake Dam upstream to Buck Dam on the New River in Carroll County, no walleye 19 to 28 inches may be kept and anglers are limited to 2 walleye per day. From June 1 to January 31, walleye in Claytor Lake and the New River upstream from the lake are regulated by a 20 inch minimum size limit and a 5 per day creel limit. This seasonal slot limit is designed to protect large female spawning walleye in the New River, while allowing some harvest of the more abundant male walleye.

In 2016, anglers reported 11 trophy award certificate size yellow perch (more than 1 pound, 4 ounces or 12 inches).  The black crappie population is not large compared to other lakes, but they average a little less than a pound in size.  Bluegill are numerous throughout the lake, providing fishing action when other species are not biting.  Flathead and channel catfish up to 20 pounds can also be caught from the lake. With catches of 20 to 30 pound carp possible, anglers from as far away as England come to fish for them at Claytor. For more fishing information, consult the most recent Claytor Lake biologist report.

Biologist Reports

Regulations

Black Bass (Smallmouth, Largemouth & Spotted)

  • 5 per day in aggregate
  • No Bass less than 12 inches

Striped Bass/Hybrid Striped Bass

  • 4 per day in aggregate
  • No fish less than 20 inches

White Bass

  • 5 per day
  • No length limits

Bluegill/Sunfish

  • 50 per day in aggregate
  • No length limits

Crappie

  • 25 per day
  • No length limits

Walleye

Claytor Lake and the New River upstream of Claytor Lake Dam to Buck Dam in Carroll County:

  • February 1 to May 31: 2 walleye per day; no walleye 19 to 28 inches
  • June 1 to January 31: 5 walleye per day; no walleye less than 20 inches

Musky

  • 1 per day
  • No Musky less than 42 inches

Catfish

  • 20 per day
  • No length limits

All Other Species

  • Consult Creel & Length Limit Table in Regulations

Facilities

Claytor Lake State Park, located on the north side of the lake, provides 497 acres of park with camping, cabins, picnic areas, and a swimming beach, as well as a marina. For more information on the park, call (540) 643-2500.

Boat access to the lake is available for a small fee at private ramps at Claytor Lake State Park, Lighthouse Bridge, and at Conrad Brothers and Rockhouse Marinas on the Peak Creek arm of the lake. The Department maintains no-fee ramps at Allisonia (in the upper lake area) and near the entrance to the state park (Dublin Ramp). Harry’s Point boat ramp, a no-fee ramp located in the mid-lake area within Pulaski County’s Harry DeHaven Park, has a double ramp and courtesy piers. Harry’s Point also has a handicapped-accessible fishing pier, where many of the lake’s species can be caught throughout the year. During the fall and winter months, anglers are likely to catch striped bass and hybrid striped bass swimming near the pier.

The easiest way to get to Harry’s Point from I-81 is to take the Route 605 exit (near the south end of Radford), and then follow the brown trailblazer signs to Harry DeHaven Park. From the I-81 exit ramp, take Route 605 (Little River Dam Road). Follow Route 605 until you reach Route 663 (Owens Road), go right on 663, then look for signs marking the park when you get near the lake.

News

During 2015 and 2016, Department fisheries biologists worked with multiple partners to further enhance fish habitat in Claytor Lake at multiple sites, including adding over 500 tons of rock riprap and old concrete pieces from a local dam, Mossback fish attractors along the Claytor Lake State Park shoreline, and felled and cabled trees along several shoreline areas.  More information and a map of the rock/concrete sites are available from: http://www.focl.org/programs/claytor-lake-fish-habitat-projects/.

Department fisheries biologists continue to enhance fish habitat at sites along the Claytor Lake State Park shoreline area. The maps below show the location of these sites and the type or types of fish attractor devices installed at each one. Three of the sites are accessible by boat anglers. Three of the sites are inside a “No Boats” cove, where they are only accessible by bank anglers. The boat accessible sites have 3 types of fish attractors, including dumbos (installed in December 2001), Christmas trees (added annually since 2006), and spider blocks (added in August 2007). The bank accessible sites have only spider blocks. All of these fish attractors are places where anglers can find bass, sunfish, and crappie. In early spring and fall, walleye and hybrid striped bass may use them as well.

More Information

If you have fishing questions about Claytor Lake, call the VDGIF Blacksburg office at (540) 961-8304.