West Virginia Bass Fishing Outlook 2018
March 19, 2018
Anglers can find great West Virginia bass fishing in all manner of waters, from flowing streams to impoundments.
April escorts in a wide host of angling opportunities in the Mountain State, and black bass fishing rates high on the list for many, as the state has a wide variety of venues from which to choose.
West Virginia contains free-flowing streams and rivers to reservoirs of many size, all of which play host to all three black bass species, which are managed by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.
In general, black bass are a species that pretty much takes care of itself. Unlike trout, walleyes and muskies, which in some cases need a boost in the form of stocking, bass populations tend to be self-sustaining. Exceptions to this include situations where bass numbers are being reintroduced, perhaps in waters where pollution decimated the fishery.
This doesn't mean that the resource managers responsible for the state's bass fisheries coast. During the past several years, the WVDNR has been involved in several programs that directly affect (or examine) the bass fishing.
One of these projects was a largemouth bass tagging study. The object of the effort was, according to WVDNR, to determine the percent of largemouth bass caught and/or harvested annually, the influence of catch and harvest, and the influence of regulations on harvest.
During a three-year span, more than 4,000 largemouth bass were tagged by fisheries personnel. This took place in 14 reservoirs ranging in size from 30 to over 1,500 acres. During subsequent years, anglers have reported catching 36 percent of these fish.
In lakes were harvest was allowed, an average of seven percent of bass were kept. Taking the data into consideration, the agency concluded that despite fairly high angler catch rates, harvest was extremely low, an indication of acceptance of catch-and-release ethics.
The Ohio River presents an interesting situation, both for anglers and fishery managers. Due to its size, it provides an important recreational resource. A few years back, the WVDNR formulated an extensive plan regarding this highly industrialized river, one that called for extensive stocking of several species, smallmouth and largemouth bass included. These stockings should have helped bolster bass numbers, and should now be up in the size range desirable for anglers. The Ohio River currently is under special regulations for bass. All fish less than 12 inches in length must be released.
Another bass-related issue of interest is that of Dunkard Creek. This northern West Virginia stream — a tributary to the Monongahela River — was an important fishing resource for that area of the state, particularly for smallmouth bass and muskies. In September of 2009, it experienced a significant fish kill caused by toxic golden algae. The event had a devastating effect on Dunkard Creek's fish community, as well as its mussels.
Most of the limelight on the state's bass fishing picture falls on the bigger reservoirs, which are for the most part U.S. Corps of Engineers lakes established primarily for flood control purposes. In general, these are the places where big boats and big motors can run.
Throughout much of West Virginia there are smaller, easy-to-wade streams that harbor bass populations that rarely see a lure or bait. Oftentimes these are the lower ends of trout streams, where the water becomes too warm for trout, but just right for bass.
Smallmouth bass are most common, but largemouth bass can be caught, particularly in areas just upstream of smaller impoundments.
These are places that might take a bit of exploring to discover (something easy to do with resources like Google Maps, and the GIS mapping programs available at www.wvdnr.gov), but are worth the effort. When found, anglers tend to guard the spots with the same secrecy afforded grouse cover and wild brook trout streams.
LARGER IMPOUNDED RIVERS
In addition to reservoirs of various sizes, and free-flowing streams and smaller rivers that harbor bass, there are also options provided by larger impounded rivers, like the Ohio and Monongahela.
The Ohio River has been a focus of the WVDNR, one aimed at increasing fish populations. And not just bass, but walleyes and blue catfish are also getting attention.
Big rivers such as the Ohio are hybrids, part river, part reservoir, thanks to the navigational lock and dam systems. Thanks to the inundated river channel — and the resultant loss of natural habitat — most of the bass fishing is concentrated in specific areas. The tailwater sections bellow dams are most obvious, and attract the most anglers.
The more upriver dams — Hannibal, Pike Island and New Cumberland — feature a fair number of smallmouth bass, though largemouths and spotted bass are both present. As one moves downriver to the Willow Island L&D and below, the latter become the dominant bass species.
Like the Ohio, the entire Mon River is included by locks and dams. Once one of the country's more polluted rivers, the Mon now supports a good fishery, one that includes bass. Though smallmouths make up most of the mix, there are some largemouths, including some big ones.
Lock and dams along the West Virginia portion of the Mon include the Opekiska, Hildebrand and Morgantown facilities. Boat access is found at Uffington, Star City and Morgantown.
Besides the tailrace areas on both the Ohio and Mon, bass anglers should concentrate on incoming streams, and "city structure," such as bridge piers, pilings, docks and moored barges.
There are, of course, many other places to fish for bass in the Mountain State, especially since bass populations overall are doing quite well.