2018 Walleye Fishing Forecast

Sport Fish Restoration LogoIn March of 2017 fisheries biologists and hatchery production staff collected adult walleye from the New River, Pigg River, Staunton River and South Holston Reservoir for the production of fingerling walleye to stock in selected lakes and rivers in Virginia.

Walleye were spawned or hatched at Vic Thomas, Front Royal, King and Queen and Buller Fish Cultural Stations, raised in ponds until they are about 1.5 inches long, when they are stocked in locations across the state.

Walleye eggs held in MacDonald jars at a DGIF hatchery.

In 2017, DGIF stocked 830,000 fingerling walleye.  The following report offers walleye sampling results and fishing forecasts on those waters that are stocked with walleye fingerlings.

Anglers who want to catch walleye should fish one of the locations in this forecast.

South West Virginia

Upper New River

Walleye fishing on the Upper New River from Buck Dam downstream to Allisonia will improve in 2018 from annual stocking since 2014.  The 2014 and 2016 stockings were limited to Allisonia due to poor survival in hatchery ponds.  The 2016 Allisonia stocking resulted in good numbers of walleye from13 to 17 inches in fall 2017 Claytor Lake sampling.  In 2015 and 2017, walleye were stocked at multiple sites from Allisonia to Fries.  Walleye fishing from Fries Dam to Byllesby Reservoir will not produce as many walleye due to a lack of stocking in 2012 to 2014 and 2016, but the 2015 and 2017 stockings will provide walleye for anglers in this area in 2018 and beyond.

Anglers catch most walleye in the Upper New River from February to April, but walleye are also caught throughout the year.  Crankbaits, jigs, and live minnows work well for catching them during the late winter and spring season.  Ivanhoe, Foster Falls, and Allisonia are all good areas to fish.  During spring 2016 walleye sampling downstream from Buck Dam, 22% of the walleye collected were under 14 inches, 55% were between 14 and 19 inches and 22% were between 19 and 28 inches.  While anglers will have to return 19 to 28 inch walleye under the spring season size limit (explained below) they should catch plenty of walleye under 19 inches.

When you fish for walleye on the Upper New River, follow these size and creel limits:

  1. From Buck Dam downstream to Claytor Lake Dam: From February 1 through May 31: All walleye 19 to 28 inches caught must be released unharmed. Anglers may keep 2 walleye per day less than 19 inches or over 28 inches.  From June 1 through January 31: A 20-inch minimum length limit with a five per day creel limit is in effect.This regulation allows anglers to harvest a few smaller male walleyes (typically less than 19 inches) or a trophy female walleye (typically greater than 28 inches) while protecting the best spawning-size walleyes during the spring months.
  2. From Fries Dam downstream to Buck Dam: A 20-inch minimum length limit for walleye, with a 5 per day creel limit is in effect year-round.  This regulation is designed to protect the walleye population stocked in Byllesby Reservoir that runs upstream to Fries Dam.

Biologists tagged walleyes in the Upper New River from 2008 to 2012 as part of a statewide walleye research project. A cash reward of 20 dollars will still be offered for the return of these tags with catch information. Anglers can remove the tag by cutting through the monofilament attachment with scissors or a knife. The fish can then be released or harvested (the length limits listed above apply). Return the tag and catch information to the address printed on the tag. Catch information includes: date, time and general location of catch, “Was the fish harvested or released?”, “Were you fishing for walleyes?”, and “Did you catch other walleyes on this fishing trip?”

South Holston Reservoir

South Holston should provide excellent walleye fishing in 2018.  Sampling during 2017, including both electrofishing and gillnetting, documented an exceptional size structure with most walleye collected during the fall gillnetting in excess of 18 inches.  Electrofishing catch rates during April 2017 were below average (1/hr) due to unusually high lake levels, however; the 2017 gillnet catch rate of 19 fish per net was well above average (12/net night).

Anglers can expect good catches during the spring spawning “run” on the South Fork Holston River.  Anglers congregate near the community of Alvarado from February through April to catch walleyes on the spring spawning “run”.  During May and June anglers find walleyes feeding along the shorelines of the lake.  The post spawn top water bite in the lower lake will yield the best walleye fishing Virginia has to offer. When walleyes move deeper during the summer months, successful anglers troll crawler harnesses on lead core line or use jigging spoons to reach the depths.  Fall and winter fishing call for jigging spoons or jigs and live minnows.

Walleye growth is outstanding, so anglers should find plenty of fish larger than the minimum size of 18 inches.  Most walleye exceed 10 inches in their first year and measure 15 to 18 inches in their second year.  Walleye generally reach 20 inches by their third year.  Walleye growth slows after age four and males seldom exceed 24 or 25 inches in length, while females may reach lengths of 30 inches or more.

Sampling catch rates for walleye in South Holston Reservoir 1999-2017. Blue columns represent spring electrofishing catch rates (fish per hour) and yellow columns represent fall gillnet catch rates (fish per net).

A summary of length at age data for walleyes in South Holston Reservoir, based on fall gillnet data from 2017. Each diamond represents an individual walleye. For example, at age 2 some walleyes are only 17 inches long and others are more than 21 inches long. Walleye are legally harvestable at 457mm (18 inches).

Flannagan Reservoir

Flannagan Reservoir should provide good opportunities for walleye and saugeye fishing in 2018.  Although the combined catch rate for these two species in late 2017 was down slightly from the previous year, there should be a good number of legally harvestable fish in spring-summer 2018 (see figure below).   Walleye in Flannagan Reservoir typically reach the 18-inch minimum length limit between their second and third year.  Relatively strong year classes of walleye stocked in 2014 and 2015 should account for the majority of fish available for harvest.  However, the cohort of saugeye stocked in 2013 is still contributing to the fishery with most of these being of legal size.  Overall, approximately 46% of the walleye/saugeye in the 2017 sample were 18 inches in length or greater.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will be conducting a third year of walleye tagging on Flannagan Reservoir in 2018.   This will be part of an ongoing study aimed at evaluating the level of angler exploitation directed toward this fishery.  Anglers catching tagged fish are encouraged to report them to DGIF to claim a $20 reward for each tag.

Clinch River

Walleye are native to the Clinch River and are available in low densities throughout most of the river.  Walleye numbers were down in the 2017 spring electrofishing sample and were about 50% lower than that observed in 2016.  Walleye collected in the 2017 sample ranged from 14 to 22 inches.  Notable in the 2017 sample and similar to 2016 was the absence of young walleye in the 9-10 inch range.

The Clinch River was not stocked with walleye in 2016 or 2017 due to lower than expected hatchery production statewide.  This would account the lack of year-old fish in the samples since natural reproduction appears to be relatively low.  Despite this, there is currently a good number of harvestable-sized walleye with the areas of Clinchport , Fort Blackmore, and Dungannon holding higher concentrations.  Late winter and early spring time is the best time to target walleye.  Walleyes often congregate in pools just below significant ledges and shoals during daylight hours, and then move into shallow water at dusk.  Another good location to find walleye is where a creek enters the river.

Hungry Mother Lake

This 108-acre lake provides anglers with a great opportunity to catch walleyes in a small lake setting. Located in Hungry Mother State Park, the lake is also a great destination for families. The walleye population is stable or slightly increasing. There are good numbers of fish up to 20 inches and just enough larger ones to cause anglers to lose some sleep this summer. Walleyes up to 28 inches in length have been landed in recent years. April, May, and June are the three best months, with night fishing generally being more productive. Most anglers use artificial lures, but live shad, minnows, and night crawlers are also very effective.

South Central Virginia

Leesville Reservoir

The 2018 fishing season for walleye/saugeye at Leesville Reservoir will be very good, especially when comparing to years before 2015. Fishing has historically been challenging due to sporadic stocking and poor survival of stocked walleye. This fishery has contained a limited number of primarily larger fish, but the overall numbers of walleye has been very low compared to other Virginia walleye lakes. Since 2013, Leesville Reservoir has been receiving consistent stockings, which have done very well and have produced the highest numbers for walleye/saugeye species ever collected in DGIF sampling at Leesville Reservoir. Saugeye were stocked in 2013 – 2015 and most are larger than the 18 inch minimum size limit. Physical differences between walleye and saugeye will not be noticeable for most anglers and habits for the two are very similar.

The bulk of the walleye/saugeye population is currently over the 18 inch minimum size limit with a few walleye in the 5-7 pound range. Walleye/saugeye at Leesville have excellent growth rates and typically reach 18 inches between ages two and three. Approximately 74% of the walleye/saugeye population in the fall of 2017 was over 18 inches in length and about 22% of the population was over 22 inches. The following chart shows the sizes and numbers of walleye and saugeye biologists collected in 2017.

The most productive walleye/saugeye fishing is typically between Leesville Dam and mile marker 6. Night fishing in May and June, with floating or shallow running plugs cast to the shoreline, should not be overlooked. These fish often frequent water less than 2 feet deep during the dark spring and early summer hours. During daylight hours in the spring, fish the shoreline contour, targeting depths of 10-20 ft., then move deeper if those depths are unproductive. Walleye/saugeye are very light sensitive and prefer dark or shaded habitat; consequently, these fish will frequent shallower depths if the water is shaded or stained, but will remain deeper during the day if the water is clear. Rock cliffs and steeper shorelines should be the most productive, with some coves also holding fish. As water temperatures increase in late spring and throughout the summer, fish continue moving deeper, seeking cooler water, and become most active during nighttime hours.

Leesville can be a challenge due to extreme daily water fluctuations, but anglers who spend time learning productive walleye/saugeye angling techniques for Leesville and concentrate on habitats that hold walleye, may encounter a number of these elusive fish. Leesville Reservoir experiences very light fishing pressure and can provide solitude for anglers looking to avoid crowds and boating traffic.

Philpott Reservoir

Walleye are plentiful in Philpott Reservoir, and being one of the better walleye populations in Virginia, walleye fishing will be good in 2018.  Fish population surveys from 2017 showed an abundance of walleye in the 16-21 inch range.  The following chart shows the sizes and numbers of walleye and saugeye biologists collected in 2017.  The red bars on the chart indicate legal size (18”) fish.

This fishery has been stable and consistent for the past ten years, but fishing pressure for walleye has increased and when walleye of legal size are caught, they are going home.  Walleye reach 18 inches at about 3 years of age and most male walleye grow very slowly after reaching this size. Female walleye typically grow well for another few years, with some achieving larger sizes.  Analysis of growth data shows a slight decrease in the growth rates of walleye, which could be contributing to anglers catching greater numbers of fish below 18 inches.  Efforts are underway to improve growth rates.

Angler fishing reports from Philpott in 2017 indicated an abundance of walleye under the 18 inch minimum size limit, but very few over the 18 inch limit, were being caught.  Anglers, who spend time learning effective techniques for walleye and find areas that are productive, should have successful fishing trips. Top-water night fishing is very popular and productive in May and June, during the alewife spawn. By late June, walleye start moving into deeper water and are caught on nightcrawler harnesses and plugs trolled in deeper water. As water temperatures increase throughout the summer, walleye continue to move deeper seeking cooler water. Anglers must fish deeper throughout the summer or fish at night to capitalize on this fishery. Catching a few walleye per outing is considered good and many anglers in 2017 reported catching more than 10 walleye per trip.

Northern Virginia

Shenandoah River

Currently walleye can be found in the Shenandoah River from Warren Dam in Front Royal downstream beyond the Virginia / West Virginia Stateline.   Although they are not as numerous in the Shenandoah as they are in other rivers they seem to be increasing in number and can reach lengths exceeding 25 inches.  The main source of the population prior to the annual stocking program came from stocking 285,000 fry in 2007.

In the spring 2014 DGIF began an annual stocking program of walleye fry in the Shenandoah River to supplement the natural population and increase the number of walleye present for anglers to target.  Recent sampling indicated survival of the 2014 and 2015 stockings.

However, walleye were not stocked in 2016 or 2017 in due to an unfortunate lack of production in hatcheries.   Anglers should still see an increase in catch rates during the 2018 fishing season compared to the early 2010’s.  Average size of the 62 walleye collected in January of 2018 was approximately 20 inches.  The largest was 27.6 inches.  Most fish sampled were of legal harvest size or greater.

Future annual stockings are planned for the Shenandoah River which should further increase the population numbers to offer an acceptable walleye fishery.  Anglers fishing for walleye on the Shenandoah River should focus their efforts in the deeper pools during the daylight hours.  Walleye will move out of the deeper pools into shallow bedrock ledge areas to feed during night hours.

Lake Brittle

Lake Brittle continues to be one of the best places in the northern Virginia piedmont to catch a walleye.  Anglers targeting walleye report good success at this small impoundment, with most fish caught in the 2 to 3 pound range, and the occasional fish up to 8 pounds.  Spring 2017 surveys resulted in 28% of walleye being harvestable with a 17” average.  Recent data from the ongoing tagging study has shown that angler catch and harvest rates for walleye are higher than previously thought and, as a result, an 18-inch minimum/5 per day limit was put into effect in 2009.  Angler success seems to be the highest during the late spring and early summer.

Biologists will continue tagging walleyes at Lake Brittle again in 2018 as part of an ongoing tagging study to evaluate stocking densities in small impoundments.  Lake Brittle is currently being stocked at 100 fish/acre (7,700) annually.  A cash reward of $20 is offered for the return of the tag and catch information.  Anglers can remove the tag by cutting through the monofilament attachment with a knife or scissors.  The fish can then be released or harvested.  Return the tag and catch information to the address printed on the tag.  Catch information includes: date; general location of catch; “Was the fish harvested or released?”; “Were you fishing for walleyes?” and “Did you catch any other walleyes on this fishing trip?”

Burke Lake

Burke Lake is located in Fairfax County-a stone’s throw from Washington D.C.  Anglers in pursuit of walleye can expect to find most fish in the 2 to 3 pound range, with some fish as large as 8 pounds.  Spring 2017 surveys resulted in 26% of walleye being harvestable with a 16” average.  An 18-inch minimum/5 per day limit is in place at Burke.

Burke Lake is included in an ongoing tagging study that began in 2014, to evaluate stocking densities in small impoundments.  Burke Lake is currently being stocked at 150 fish/acre (32,700) annually. A cash reward of $20 is offered for the return of the tag and catch information.  Anglers can remove the tag by cutting through the monofilament attachment with a knife or scissors.  The fish can then be released or harvested.  Return the tag and catch information to the address printed on the tag.  Catch information includes: date; general location of catch; “Was the fish harvested or released?”; “Were you fishing for walleyes?” and “Did you catch any other walleyes on this fishing trip?”

Lake Orange

Anglers hoping to catch decent walleye, while fishing for multiple species, should look no further than Lake Orange.  Walleye have been stocked into this northern piedmont impoundment for years and current management includes annual stockings of walleye fingerlings.  Spring 2017 surveys resulted in 27% of walleye being harvestable with a 16” average.  Anglers occasionally catch walleye in the 5 pound range.  Most walleyes are caught during the late spring and early summer by anglers fishing Lake Orange for bass, although a few anglers do specifically fish for walleyes at this location.  Anglers should also be aware that an 18-inch minimum/5 per day limit exists at Lake Orange.

Again in 2018, Lake Orange is included in the walleye tagging study to evaluate stocking densities in small impoundments.  Lake Orange is currently being stocked at 200 fish/acre (24,800) annually. A cash reward of $20 is offered for the return of the tag and catch information.  Anglers can remove the tag by cutting through the monofilament attachment with a knife or scissors.  The fish can then be released or harvested.  Return the tag and catch information to the address printed on the tag.  Catch information includes: date; general location of catch; “Was the fish harvested or released?”; “Were you fishing for walleyes?” and “Did you catch any other walleyes on this fishing trip?”

Eastern Virginia

Little Creek Reservoir

Little Creek Reservoir is a 947-acre water supply impoundment for the City of Newport News located within James City County. The reservoir provides a great opportunity for anglers to try their luck at catching walleye and saugeye. The walleye population continues to show signs of improvement with anglers catching quality fish in the 4 to 8 pound range during 2017. Little Creek Reservoir typically receives 94,700 walleye fingerlings each May, with fish stocked in a pelagic manner to allow for greater dispersal.  The 2014 stocking consisted of 97,000 saugeye fingerlings, which are a hybrid between a male sauger and a female walleye. The saugeye stocking has provided anglers with some exceptional results over the last couple of years. Angler reports from the summer of 2015 detailed the catch of saugeye in the 13 to 14 inch range. Those reports have now transitioned to catches of saugeye in the 20 to 25 inch range.

Some of the best action has come from anglers that slow troll their baits in the 17 to 20 foot depth range within the western half of the reservoir. Dedicated anglers will catch their fair share of walleye surprisingly during the summer months if they are able to keep their baits in the walleye strike zone. The saugeye action during the months of May and June has also been very productive.

One of the keys to fishing on Little Creek Reservoir is to concentrate on the deeper edges in and around the numerous points that line the shoreline. Anglers that fish Little Creek Reservoir for the first time should be aware that the reservoir is trolling motor use only. Early season saugeye action has found schools of fish holding tight in water 5 to 6 feet deep. With the increase in summer water temperature comes the transition of fish to deeper water. Anglers must adapt to the clear water conditions in order to find walleye holding in deep water habitat most times of the year. Some anglers have caught walleye by jigging 2 ounce lures in 42 feet of water.

Walleyes will congregate along the southern shoreline of the reservoir in their classic pre-spawn pattern from early March to early April. There are no large tributaries that flow into Little Creek Reservoir, so the walleye will target various rock shelves in their attempt to spawn. The 2017 spring electrofishing survey yielded 122 walleyes and 65 saugeyes. The collected walleye ranged from 11 to 26 inches with a large proportion of fish in the 20 to 23 inch range. The largest collected walleye was a female that measured 26.5 inches and weighed an impressive 7.64 pounds.

The walleye and saugeye populations feed heavily upon the schools of blueback herring. The typical blueback herring consumed will be in the 5 to 6 inch range. Anglers should try to use deep-diving crank baits and swim baits that closely match the forage base. Relative weight values showed an increase when compared to past surveys.

DGIF biologists continue to tag walleye and saugeye collected from Little Creek Reservoir as part of the state wide tagging study. Anglers that catch a reward tag can receive a $20 reward after the tag is returned to the Region 1 DGIF office with some catch information. The 2017 spring tagging surveys revealed a high percentage (68%) of newly tagged fish to be saugeye. Plans are in the works to hopefully conduct a spilt stocking of walleye and saugeye fingerlings in 2018.

Lake Chesdin

The walleye and saugeye populations within Lake Chesdin continue to show improvements. Recent surveys have revealed the trophy potential associated with the stocked saugeye. Lake Chesdin is listed as a Diversity Water on the DGIF Walleye Management Plan.

The lake receives stockings of walleye and saugeye when there is a surplus of produced fish within the DGIF hatchery system. Conditions were favorable in 2013 and 2014 to allow for the stocking of both saugeye and walleye fingerlings.

The 2015 stocking consisted of a full allocation of walleye fingerlings. The requisition of 125,000 fingerlings was actually surpassed when the hatchery brought 144,661 walleye fingerlings to the lake.  These consecutive stocking efforts along with additional stockings conducted prior to 2013 have created a respectable fishery.

Pelagic stockings of the walleye and saugeye fingerlings have been successful in spreading the fish out in this 3,100 acre impoundment.

The gizzard shad population within Lake Chesdin is extremely abundant. The forage base of 5 to 8 inch shad is consumed by the larger walleye and saugeye on regular basis.

DGIF fall surveys from 2015 to 2017 revealed the saugeye population to be in great health and the walleye population has shown decent growth potential from the 2015 year class. The 2017 survey collected saugeye that measured 18 to 25 inches in total length with collected walleye in the 18 to 21 inch range. The 2015 year class of walleye revealed an average length of 19.3 inches with an average weight of 2.76 pounds.

The average saugeye weighed 3.74 pounds, with a high percentage of fish from the 2014 stocking observed. DGIF biologists began tagging collected walleye and saugeye from Lake Chesdin in 2015 as part of the state wide tagging program. Anglers that are able to catch a walleye or saugeye should inspect the fish to see if there is a reward tag located just below the dorsal fin. Anglers should contact the DGIF Region 1 office to report collected reward tags if they would like to receive a $20 reward check.

The largest saugeye ever collected from Lake Chesdin was a 25.5 inch female fish that weighed 7.32 pounds. This fish has the reward tag #96 if anybody is interested in seeing her one day. Walleye and saugeye schools will center their movements on the gizzard shad schools. Spring movements have shown a large proportion of the population migrating up toward the upper reaches of the lake along the old river channel. Late fall into early winter has the majority of the walleye and saugeye congregating toward the lower third of the lake as they follow the schools of shad.

More Information

For more information, contact the following offices:

Waterbody Contact
Leesville and Philpott Reservoirs Forest Office: (434) 525-7522
Lakes Orange, Burke, and Brittle Fredericksburg Office: (540) 889-4169
Little Creek Reservoir and Chesdin Charles City Office: (804) 829-6580
Upper New River and Clinch River,
South Holston Reservoir,
Flannagan Reservoir,
Hungry Mother Lake
Marion Office: (276) 783-4860