Holston River – Middle Fork

The headwaters of the Middle Fork Holston River are located near the Smyth-Wythe County line in Southwest Virginia. The river flows approximately 56 miles through Smyth and Washington counties and connects with the South Fork Holston River to form South Holston Reservoir. The river has many different sport fish species for all types of anglers. In the upper sections of the river near the towns of Atkins and Marion there are two designated stocked trout areas. Near the town of Atkins there is a Class “B” stocked trout section that is stocked five times from October through May. The Class “A” stocked trout water in the town of Marion is stocked with trout eight times from October through May. The area is posted with signs designating the stocked portion and anglers are required to have a trout license in addition to a statewide freshwater fishing license in order to fish this stocked section between October 1st and June 15. Within the town limits of Marion is a universally accessible fishing pier.

Below the stocked section, fishing opportunities are limited because the river flows through private land with little to no public access. By regulation, the Middle Fork Holston River is classified as navigable from the confluence with the South Fork Holston River upstream to Route 11 at Seven Mile Ford. There is approximately 32 miles of navigable water in this section. With landowner permission, the river can be accessed and fished from the bank or can be easily floated in a canoe or float tube.

Maps & Directions

Float 1:

In summer 2004, fisheries biologists floated a section of the Middle Fork Holston River from the town of Chilhowie at the bridge crossing on Route 763 (Smyth County) to the bridge crossing on Route 714 (Washington County). This section is approximately 5.8 river miles in length and consists of runs and long pools. The river flows through farms, pastures, and woodlands that are all in private ownership with no public access. The river is moderately narrow with widths ranging of approximately 60-90 feet. The channel is easy to navigate with little challenge for canoeist, however several locations require dragging through riffles if flows are low. Fishing remained constant throughout the float. Catch consisted mainly of rock bass, smallmouth bass, redbreast sunfish and bluegills. The average river flow for the summer months ranges from 80 to 130 cubic feet per second, (CFS). This year (2004) flows were above normal due to frequent rains. When flows are low this float will require dragging through shallow areas and riffles. The USGS river gage located at Seven Mile Ford can be accessed at the following website http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/uv?dd_cd=01&dd_cd=03&format=gif&period=31&site_no=03474000 . It is recommended that this float be attempted during the late spring and early summer periods to take advantage of higher seasonal flows. Permission to access the river and launch canoes should be obtained from landowners.

Float 2:
In summer 2004, fisheries biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries floated a section of the Middle Fork Holston River from Route 706 to the bridge crossing on Route 58 (Washington County). This section is approximately 6.4 river miles in length and consists of runs and long pools. The river flows through farms and pastures all in private ownership. This section of river is wider than sections higher upstream with widths ranging from approximately 90-150 feet. The channel is easy to navigate with little challenge for canoeist and much of the float is flat and requires some paddling. There are several locations that require dragging through riffles if flows are low. Fishing was good throughout the float. Catch consisted mainly of rock bass, smallmouth bass, redbreast sunfish and bluegills. The average river flow for the summer months ranges from 100 to 200 cubic feet per second, (CFS). This year (2004) flows were above normal due to frequent rains. When flows are low this float will require dragging through shallow areas and riffles. The USGS river gage located at Meadowview, Virginia can be accessed at the following website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/uv/?site_no=03475000&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,62620,00062 . It is recommended that this float be attempted during the late spring and early summer periods to take advantage of higher seasonal flows. Permission to access the river and launch canoes should be obtained from landowners.

Fishing Opportunities

Smallmouth Bass River Fishing Forecast

The Middle Fork Holston River offers a variety of good fishing opportunities. The river has good numbers of redbreast sunfish, rock bass and bluegills located throughout the 32-mile navigable section in Smyth and Washington Counties. Smallmouth bass are abundant and can grow to decent size, up to 16-18 inches. Walleye making spawning runs out of South Holston Lake concentrate below ledges in the lower section of the Middle Fork in March and April. Because the Middle Fork is typically a few degrees warmer than the South Fork, spawning fish often enter the Middle Fork first. Anglers may also catch a few largemouth bass, black crappie, channel catfish and pumpkinseed sunfish.

Biologist Reports

Regulations

Fishing in the stocked trout waters near Atkins and Marion require anglers to have a trout license in addition to a statewide freshwater fishing license from October 1 to June 15th. All other sections of the Middle Fork Holston require a statewide freshwater fishing license and statewide creel limits apply by species.

Facilities

Within the town limits of Marion there is a universally accessible fishing pier on the stocked trout section located on the River Walk. There are no public boat or canoe ramps on the navigable sections of the river.

More Information

For more information on this river, contact the Marion Regional Office of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at 276-783-4860.