JANUARY – TROUT: MIDDLE FORK HOLSTON RIVER
Trout are stocked in the Middle Fork Holston River eight times from October through May. Anglers can access the river in Marion along the River Walk Greenway and fish from the bank for stocked trout. There are also some wild trout in the river. Most of the rainbows average 10 to 12 inches, but some will grow to 2 pounds. Try typical trout baits such as spinners, spoons, Trout Power Bait, crickets and red wigglers. Fly-rodders will also take their share by using streamers or nymphs. There is a universally accessible pier in Marion. However, there are no boat launches for anglers to use. Fish must be 7 inches and a limit of six fish per angler applies.
Other Options: Lake Cohoon Chain Pickerel: This is the month to catch a trophy chain pickerel while casting spoons and spinners. James River Blue Catfish: The blue catfish are eating herring and shad cut in strips above Richmond.
FEBRUARY – YELLOW PERCH: NORTHWEST RIVER
The Northwest River seems to be one of the first rivers to awaken from its winter slumber. In late January during warm years, yellow perch start making a run up the river to spawn and stage in deeper water. By February they are beginning their turns towards the banks where they will spawn in structure such as Cypress knees, logs, or other underwater debris. Anglers find fish ranging in size from 8-12 inches but there are fish over 14 inches that can be caught. Minnows, small jigs with curly tail grubs, or Beetle Spins are great choices.
Other Options: Briery Creek Lake Largemouth: Briery’s largemouth bass will be hitting plastics near standing timber in deeper water. Buggs Island Crappie: Fish the larger tributaries in deeper water over structure to find schools.
MARCH – WALLEYE: UPPER NEW RIVER
Walleye are making their spawning run in the Upper New River and activity peaks at Foster Falls mid-month. The fish concentrate there due to the steep falls. The area is part of the New River Trail Park, so access is good. Fishing is best early and late and on overcast days. Throw flukes, crankbaits or stick baits. Anglers will find success drifting minnows along the bottom. The slot limit requires that all fish 19-28 inches be released. A spinning outfit with 10- to 12-pound test would be perfect for the outing. Be sure to dress warmly as the weather in March can be cold, particularly near the falls.
Other Options: Sandy River Reservoir Largemouth: Largemouth will be hitting plastics during the beginning of the spawn near cover. Nottoway River Hickory Shad: These acrobatic fish are snapping small spoons, bright jigs and darts this month.
APRIL – LARGEMOUTH BASS: LAKE ANNA
Lake Anna consistently produces healthy bass that can push 8 pounds. In April the willow grass found from mid- to up-lake is a favorite cover to fish because it is where many of these fish spawn. White spinnerbaits or the ever-popular local favorite, Tiger Shad color spinnerbait sold at Fish Tales right on the lake, are often spring go-to baits. The Tiger Shad color has purple flecks in it that tend to mimic spawning crappie. Chris Craft, a local fishing guide, and his tournament partner, Scott Taylor (who also works at Fish Tales), use this spinnerbait regularly to haul in nice bass. When the pair fishes mid- to down-lake, they like to use flukes made by Double D Custom Jigs in a shad color. Head to Fish Tales right on the water just off Rt. 208 at Anna Point Lane for tips.
Other Options: Lake Orange Crappie: Minnows fished off brushpiles, particularly in low light or at night, will catch big crappie. Buggs Island Largemouth: Fish the coves and points around structure in the tributaries for spawning bass this month.
MAY – STRIPED BASS: CHESAPEAKE BAY
Although the trophy striped bass season starts at the beginning of the month, often the better striped bass action comes later in the month when the fish are headed back down the rivers to the bay after spawning. The bay season typically begins mid-May and goes through mid-June, with a two-fish limit of fish over 20 inches but under 28 inches (except one may be a trophy over 36 inches). Most anglers are trolling parachute rigs with bucktail jigs in a variety of colors until they find one that works best. Some anglers will drag umbrellas with sassy shads. The fish can be found closer to the surface sometimes, so an inline sinker may be all that is needed. Planer boards are great and allow multiple lines to be spread far out from the boat.
Other Options: Laurel Bed Lake Brook Trout: Brook trout 12 to 15 inches provide consistent catches on typical trout baits. Lake Anna Striped Bass: Striped bass are hitting herring and shad in the upper portion of the lake.
JUNE – TUNA: OFFSHORE VIRGINIA BEACH
If you want to engage in some fine blue-water fishing with big game fish that not only fight hard but taste so good you will never eat canned tuna again, you should try a tuna charter trip offshore from Virginia Beach in June. Captain Ryan Rogers of The Midnight Sun Charters (www.fishmidnightsun.com) says that June provides the best shot at tuna offshore because of the warm eddies from the Gulf Stream produce temperature breaks — a key to finding fish. Rogers uses sea witches rigged with dead ballyhoo, spreader bars or his personal favorite, a rigged green machine on a 50-pound-class rod/reel set up with 60-pound test of mono. Look for birds, bait, whales and fish marks to find tuna. A six-fish day is a good catch.
Other Options: Back Bay White Perch: White perch are busy hitting shrimp and red wigglers in Back Bay. James River Smallmouth: The smallies are hitting jointed cranks, flukes and tubes in eddies and riffles.
JULY – TROUT: SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
The Shenandoah National Park has numerous branches, streams, and small rivers stretching from the mountains of Northern Virginia down to Charlottesville. The streams in the northern portion of the park are within an easy drive of folks living in the metro area for a day trip and offer good fishing for wild trout. These streams do require some hiking to reach them. Anglers would need a small fly rod or ultralight spinning outfit and an array of flies to match the hatch. The waters are generally clear and offer concentrated fish populations in the deeper pools. Obviously the more isolated areas and furthest hikes will produce better fishing. Stealthy approaches and long casts will pay off for anglers.
Other Options: Chesapeake Bay Spadefish: Spadefish are busy taking clam around structure in the bay under chum slicks. Motts Run Channel Catfish: Channel catfish are eagerly taking chicken liver all around the reservoir this month.
AUGUST – RED DRUM: CHESAPEAKE BAY
Anglers who enjoy trophy catch-and-release fishing (only fish 18-26 inches may be creeled) should have red drum on their bucket list. These huge fish can measure over 4 feet long. They cruise the bay looking to gorge themselves on menhaden, crabs and other forage and are a thrill to sight-cast to. They travel in schools. These fish will take a live croaker, spot, or menhaden but will also inhale bucktail jigs that are cast in front of them and jigged back to the boat. Trollers can run the largest Drone spoons they can find on a planner or inline sinker and score as well. Be sure to use a quality rod with good line or you’ll be risking a break off.
Other Options: Rappahannock Snakehead: Numbers are up in the river below Port Royal in tidal creeks. Kill every one of these invasive, but tasty, fish that you catch and cook them for dinner. Potomac River Croaker: Catch croaker by drifting shrimp on the lower river over shoals and oyster beds.
SEPTEMBER – SMALLMOUTH: LAUREL BED LAKE
Laurel Bed Lake (330 acres) sits atop Clinch Mountain. The smallmouth fishing is incredible. This catch-and-release fishery produces fish that sometimes exceed 5 pounds. Smallmouth were stocked to prey on the rockbass that were hurting the trout fishery. The smallmouth also have the stocked fingerling trout on their menu, so throwing lures with those color patterns will often produce for anglers. Flukes and crankbaits are good choices. The regulations do allow up to a 9.9 horsepower motor. Do not just fish the bank; fish the entire lake for any structure to cast to.
Other Options: Chesapeake Bay Spanish Mackerel: Spanish mackerel are chasing spoons at the beginning of the month before heading south. Potomac River Largemouth: Bass will be found on the edges of weed mats and will hit jigs and plastic combos.
OCTOBER – FLATHEAD CATFISH: JAMES RIVER
The James River has been well known for its flathead catfish for years, but they are often eclipsed by the river’s large blue catfish. Although flatheads can be caught year around, October is often a great month to target them because the river traffic slows down. There tends to be more feeding activity once the water cools slightly as well. Fish deeper holes near woody cover. Use a live bluegill, perch or jumbo minnow to entice strikes. Do expect some hang ups. Use the appropriate size rod, reel and line to be able to horse fish out of cover. If a bait does not get any attention in 15 to 20 minutes, move to the next structure.
Other Options: Shenandoah River Largemouth: The deep pools of the Shenandoah River have a number of chunky largemouth near woody structure. In the Upper Potomac Smallmouth: These fish are active around boulders and eddies this month in the upper river.
NOVEMBER – TROUT RIVERS: NORTHERN VIRGINIA
Northern Virginia, west of the I-95 corridor, has several small trout rivers that are category A waters (they get stocked with catchable rainbow and sometimes brown trout). Some of the better waters include the Rose, Robinson and Hughes rivers. All three rivers have some wild trout in them. Flies or typical spinning gear will get the job done. Some hiking will be required to get to the rivers and to better spots that have not been fished hard. There is a six-fish-per-day and 7-inch minimum size limit in place. Small spinners (add a tiny split shot if necessary), tiny spoons, drifted nightcrawlers and Trout Powerbait can be productive.
Other Options: Chesapeake Bay Stripers: Trophy stripers are moving into the bay numbers, hitting trolled parachute rigs. Accotink Creek/Holmes Run Trout: These tributaries are stocked well with rainbows and are perfect for Northern Virginia anglers.
DECEMBER – BLUE CATFISH: POTOMAC RIVER
The population of giant blue catfish has exploded over the last decade on the Potomac River. Shad, herring, white perch or other panfish are key menu items. December is a good month to try for a monster because the river is devoid of most boat traffic and the cooler temperatures concentrate fish. Use a fish finder and look for bait stacked near dropoffs adjacent to shallow flats where fish can find sun-warmed water on a string of warm days. Mouths of the tributaries in the middle stretch of the river are good spots.
Other Options: Claytor Lake Stripers: Find alewives and shad to locate feeding stripers, and then and cast flukes or spoons to them. Chesapeake Bay Tautog: Drift wrecks and other structure in the lower bay or ocean for these tasty fish.