Want to do some fishing with the family? Here’s where to go find kid-friendly angling.
A summer family-fishing outing can be big fun, if you plan well. Just remember that not all your favorite fishing spots are necessarily good options for trips with the whole family. To help in the planning process, we’ve selected various locations, all in different parts of Virginia, that offer easy access to fishing and a high likelihood of success, making them great destinations for family fishing trips.
TIDEWATER — BEAVERDAM SWAMP RESERVOIR
Beaverdam Swamp Reservoir (635 acres) in Gloucester is a gorgeous, family-friendly destination. The reservoir has good populations of largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, bluegill, and redear sunfish. There are two boat ramps that can be used. The Rt. 616 ramp is the main ramp located near the park entrance. If you want to fish the upper end of the reservoir use the Rt. 606 ramp, but be sure to get the annual launch pass. Boat and equipment rental, bait, and snacks are available at the concession area near the main gate. There is a fishing pier, picnic areas and play areas for small children too.
The bass population is in great shape here and some large fish are present. This is probably a better venue for older kids that have more patience. Let the kids choose their own lures as something different is more likely to entice strikes. There are numerous bass tournaments held here, so the fish are wise to common lure presentations. Fish the weedlines and points for bass early and late.
Other good angling opportunities at Beaverdam include black crappie. These fish have retreated to the deeper waters on structure by May, but can be caught by experienced youth dipping minnows on splitshot or live lining them along treetops, logs and other structure. Look for yellow perch to hit the minnows too, particularly if the bait is near the bottom. The numbers of yellow perch have increased quite a bit in recent years. Call the reservoir at (804) 693-2107 for more information.
Along the Way: Following up on the older kids activities, The Swamp Paintball Park is at 2735 George Washington Memorial Highway Hayes, Virginia 23072 or call 804-642-8778. Take your kids down a notch with a game of paintball and show them who still has it in them to dominate the field. Fun for the family and cooling off can be had at Water Country USA at 176 Water Country Parkway, Williamsburg, VA 23185. There are rides, slides and pools to enjoy after fishing in the sun. www.watercountryusa.com
SOUTHERN PIEDMONT — TWIN LAKES STATE PARK
Twin Lakes State Park (548 acres) has two lakes, Prince Edward (36 acres) and Goodwin Lake (15 acres) that have sunfish, largemouth bass, crappie and channel catfish in them. A valid freshwater fishing license is required for ages 16 and over.
Prince Edward has a boat ramp on the west side of the lake. There is good bank access around much of the lake, too. Goodwin Lake has a gravel ramp on the east side of the upper end of the lake with some bank access. Both lakes have numbers of largemouth bass that will take typical lures such as poppers, jerkbaits, small cranks and live bait. Prince Edward’s bass population has responded to ongoing management efforts with more fish averaging around 10 to 12 inches with some fish up to 23 inches reported. On Goodwin, most bass are smaller but numerous. There is a slot limit (12 to 16 inches) with a five-fish per day creel. Anglers are encouraged to take the smaller fish and enjoy the great opportunities for fishing for the numbers of bass. This is a great place for a young bass angler to fish. There are also hundreds of small bluegill in the lakes to keep the youngest anglers happy. Using live bait for either species is a good bet. For largemouth, let some of the worm dangle off the hook and cast to woody structure. The bluegill will gobble up the smallest pieces on small hooks. There are a few nice crappie to be caught in both lakes and they are found near stumps, logs and other debris.
Watch The Video Gallery Above To Help you Improve Your Family Fishing Fun!
Electric motors are permitted and rowboats and canoes can be rented. Paddleboards can be rented in the summer as can kayaks.
Along the Way: Sandy River Outdoor Adventure Zip Line Park is a tree-top adventure park where you can take on obstacles 25 to 50 feet up in the trees. There are 17 zip lines, rope bridges, logs, cargo nets, swings and ladders. This is in Rice, Virginia at 147 Monroe Church Road. www.sandyriveroutdooradventures.com/categories/the-adventure-park. Families can also visit a working mine at Morefield Gem Mine 30 minutes away in Amelia. Visitors will find various gems and minerals and learn how a mine works. Kids can take a bucket of gems that they dig up home with them! www.morefieldgemmine.com/index.html
SOUTHERN MOUNTAIN —THE NEW RIVER
New River Trail State Park has a 39-mile hiking trail along the New River. What kid would pass up seeing what is around the next bend in the river? Especially when a wide variety of fish species —smallmouth, walleye, musky, catfish, bream or striped bass — are ready to inhale a bait or lure? Most adults I know won’t pass that up, which is why this is a perfect getaway for any active family. There are boat ramps at Allisonia, Foster Falls and Austinville.
Casting plastics on jigs and working crayfish-type crankbaits is a good start on this river. However, live minnows, night crawlers, crayfish and insects work well too. Fish breaks in the current, log jams and other structures to get your stringer filled.
Along the Way: Want to cool off? Call Foster Falls Boat and Bike Livery at 276-699-1034 to rent tubes and float the river. If horses are your thing, guided trail rides are available April through October (trails are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Call Foster Falls Horse Livery, 276-699-2460. Nearby in Wythe County there is Wolf Creek Indian Village, a reconstructed rendition of the Eastern Woodland Indians. Learn the history of the area and about how Native Americans lived and about the things they did, including pottery, basket and pottery making, hunting, and cooking. www.indianvillage.org/
Cave Mountain Lake is part of the Glenwood and Pedlar Ranger District of the USNF. Located at 811 Cave Mountain Lake Rd. at Natural Bridge Station in Rockbridge County, the lake is 7 acres in size. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will stock the lake three times between April and June. Only youth 15 years of age and younger may participate in the fishing, although adults assisting youth 12 and under can help bait hooks, cast, and remove fish from the lines. Three trout can be kept. With stocked trout, fishing with corn, Berkley Power Bait, salmon eggs, flashy spoons and spinners and bright jigs will do the trick. There is plenty of bank access and campsites (no hook ups) to reserve at $15 a night. There is also a swimming area. Keep in mind bears are in the area, so keep food locked up! Phone the Ranger Station for more details at 540-291-2188.
Also in Rockbridge County is Lake Roberson at 31 acres. This lake has an improving bass fishery. While the lake is deep and clear, anglers with some experience can readily catch them on diving crankbaits, plastics and live bait. May is an excellent month to fish for bass along the weedlines. Five bass over 12 inches may be creeled.
Don’t overlook the numbers of bluegill and channel catfish. Both enjoy nightcrawlers and are fairly easy to entice. The limit is five catfish over 20 inches; there is no size limit on the bluegill though there is a creel limit of 25. The lake has a concrete launch, handicap pier, dock, and fish cleaning station, concession with boat rentals, campground, swimming pool, and various other activities available. See the website for details. www.co.rockbridge.va.us/270/Lake-A-Willis-Robertson.
Along the Way: In nearby Lexington there is the Lexington Ghost Tour for the older kids in your family. Stonewall Jackson’s Grave is a focal point and nearby there is also the Dinosaur Kingdom II attraction! www.lexingtonvaghosttour.com/
Catch a movie under the stars at Hull’s Drive-In Theatre. Show the kids what the old-time version of taking a movie in was like. No worries about sneaking food in this theatre! This open air venue has been operating for 65 years. 2367 N. Lee Hwy., Lexington, VA 24450 (540) 463-2621, (540) 463-2618
Silver Lake in Prince William County offers families a short drive from Northern Virginia to a 25-acre pond that has 4 miles of multipurpose trails shared by hikers and equestrians. There are also picnic areas, grills and restrooms at the park. Only electric motors are permitted. The pond has great bass, crappie, sunfish and catfish angling along the ample shoreline. The impoundment can be easily fished by kayak, canoe or even a small johnboat. Cast plastics to structure along the shoreline and vary retrieves. Small crankbaits work well as do spinnerbaits. Live bait anglers won’t go wrong to use worms, hoppers, crickets or minnows here either. The park is open sunrise to sunset.
Along the Way: Take a tour of the national battlefields at Bull Run in Manassas where the two battles of Bull Run were fought. Visit at 6511 Sudley Road Manassas, VA 20109 or call (703) 361-1339. Over in Gainesville, there is a new Cabelas that opened up offering air conditioned shopping, and a place to stock up on fishing gear and clothing too. Nearby Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and offers visitors plenty of wildlife watching and photography opportunities and environmental education. 13950 Dawson Beach Road Woodbridge, VA 22191
Kiptopeke State Park at 562 acres is on the southern end of the Eastern Shore, just 3 miles from the end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Captain John Smith explored the area in 1608 and the Chesapeake Bay is your playground and fishing grounds here. For the family, there are onsite accommodations with two- and three-bedroom cabins, six-bedroom lodges as well as RV and tent camping. Some of the best fishing in the region can be had from the lighted fishing pier, which also has picnic tables. No license is required to fish from the pier either. Concrete ships are near the waterfront of the park and provide great fish attractors. Fishing from the pier in May should yield croaker action, possible bluefish, rockfish, spot and maybe even red drum or flounder. Squid or bloodworms on bottom rigs will keep the kids busy and casting spoons or plastics such as GULP, will entice larger gamefish and keep experienced anglers busy. There is good crabbing with trotlines, personal traps or even fishing lines. Chicken necks or wings are great for this. Take a crab net and catch your supper!
When fishing from the shore, a valid saltwater license and FIP number from VMRC is required of anyone over 16. To fish on the pier, there is a $3 a day charge for adults and $1 for kids, but no fishing license required (FIP number is required for anglers 16 and over). According to park staff, the south beach has good surf fishing opportunities. The boat launch has a good ramp and parking for up to 70 trailers ($3). Kayak anglers can launch from the south beach or kayak launch only. These may also be rented.
Along the Way: Families that want to go shopping and see the aquarium at Virginia Beach will find it just over the CBBT within 45 minutes (and a toll). Another great side trip would be the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge Center about 3 miles south. (Free). There are numerous waterfront towns and fishing villages where shops offer gifts you will not find in the chain stores of Virginia Beach or other resort areas — and don’t forget to get on the ferry to Tangier Island to see how life on the island has not caught up with the modern times. There are great restaurants on Tangier and the people are super friendly. You can rent a bike or golf cart and see the whole island to include the museum or take a water tour while there.
This May, take time away from the hustle and bustle of life and enjoy your families. Get the kids outside and away from the electronics for a while and enjoy some fun fishing. Make some memories and be sure to get some photos.