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Fishing West Virginia

Hot Spots for West Virginia Fishing in 2012

by Bruce Ingram   |  February 2nd, 2012 1

In a dream world, one could spend the year fishing across West Virginia. Actually, so many quality bodies of water exist, that those dreams can come true. Here are three dozen choices for you to consider.

JANUARY
Stonewall Jackson
Muskellunge:
West Virginia anglers often have to endure some frigid weather in January, but the muskiest at 2,650-acre Stonewall Jackson in Lewis County can heat up even a cold day. Unlike riverine impoundments like Bluestone or extremely deep ones like Summersville, Stonewall features relatively shallow water in the rolling hill country of the central part of the state. If a few days have air temperatures in the 40s — a real possibility — look for muskies to go on the prowl here.

The best action often takes place in areas with standing or fallen timber. The Little Skin Creek area is one of the best locales of that nature.

For more information call Stonewall Jackson Resort at 1-888-278-8150 or visit www.stonewallresort.com.

Other Options:
In keeping with the “big teeth” theme, Jennings Randolph Lake features a northern pike fishery, and the Buchanan River in Upshur County has a special regulations section for muskiest.

FEBRUARY
Anthony Creek
Rainbow Trout:
One of the best, stocked trout streams in the Mountain State is Anthony Creek in Greenbrier County. This Southern West Virginia stream flows through both public and private land and offers easy access in a number of places. State Route 92 runs near or parallel and roadside pull-offs are fairly common.

Anthony receives one stocking in January and two more in February, so there should be solid numbers of trout this month. From my experiences, the best fishing is often a hundred or so yards away from SR 92, but quality trout seem to pop up everywhere along this creek.

Guide Craig Miller, who operates Serenity Now Outfitters in Lewisburg, said Anthony’s good fishing continues all the way through May, as the stream receives weekly stockings then.

You can contact Miller at 1-877-WVFISHN or visit his Web site at www.serenitynowoutfitters.com.

Other Options:
Middle Island Creek in Tyler County boasts a 6-mile special regulation section for muskiest, and the Little Kanawha River sauger can turn on this month.

MARCH
New River
Smallmouths:
Guide Britt Stoudenmire, who operates the New River Outdoor Company, said March can bring some of the best trophy smallmouth bass fishing of the year, especially on the section of the river above Bluestone Lake.

Two floats are available on this section: from Glen Lyn, Va. to Shanklins Ferry, covering 11 miles, or 6 miles from Shanklins Ferry to Indian Creek.

The Glen Lyn junket requires that West Virginians purchase a Virginia license, but because anglers need licenses from two states to work this water, fishing pressure is very light. Be aware that Class III-plus rapids dot these 17 miles of the river.

For more details, contact Britt Stoudenmire at (540) 921-7438 or check out the Web site www.icanoethenew.com

Other Options:
The Kanawha Falls on the New River has a reputation for producing some enticing March walleye sport.

Also, fly-fishing fans may enjoy fishing for trout in the special regulation section of Thorn Creek in Pendleton County.

APRIL
Blackwater River
Rainbow Trout:
One of Northern West Virginia’s most fascinating trout fisheries is the Blackwater River in Tucker County as it flows through Blackwater Falls State Park. This is a true hike-in fishery, as anglers have to descend into a canyon and pick their way past huge rocks and through rhododendron shrouded mountainsides just to reach the stream.

But once there, you can expect quality action for rainbows and browns and majestic natural beauty, given the boulders, rapids, and heavily vegetated stream banks. A 3 1/2-mile section is catch-and-release from the County Route 29/1 bridge to the mouth of the North Fork.

Be aware, though, that you must be in good physical condition to attempt accessing this fishery.

For additional details visit www.blackwaterfalls.com, or call (304) 259-5216.

Other Options:
April is also a fine time to check out the largemouth bass action on the Kanawha River, or the channel cats on Mount Storm Lake.

Best bets for May, June, July and August can be found on page two!

MAY
Gauley River
Smallmouths:
Former West Virginia Division of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Kevin Yokum maintains that the upper Gauley above Summersville Lake is an overlooked smallmouth fishery.

“The Gauley is very underrated for smallmouth fishing,” he confirmed. “The river offers good habitat and excellent rock structure.

“The Gauley around the Camden on Gauley area and from the mouth of the Cherry to the head of Summerville Lake are quality floats with good smallie fishing, but again not for novice floaters.”

A wise precaution for taking this float would be to hire a professional outfitter, or at least go with someone who is an expert at navigating a raft through major rapids.

Also be sure to check water levels on this Central West Virginia waterway before you go, as spring runoff can make the river unfishable.

That said, once on the river you can expect plenty of 10- to 15-inch smallies with the occasional bigger fish.

For guide services checkout www.mountainstateanglers.com or call 1-877-359-8463.

For water levels go online to www.waterdata.usgs.gov/wv/nwis/rt.

Other Options:
Cheat Lake hosts a solid yellow perch contingent with a generous daily limit of 15.

Woodrum Lake and its 240 acres feature a catch-and-release black bass fishery in intimate surroundings in Jackson County.

JUNE
Chief Logan Lake
Bluegills:
If your family is looking for a dandy place for a fishing vacation this summer, consider Chief Logan State Park in Logan County. This state park in the southwestern part of the state features a 3-acre impoundment, appropriately named Chief Logan Lake.

The park’s Michael Ward said kids should find the bluegills easy to catch, and the mini-impoundment also hosts largemouth bass and channel catfish.

Additionally, the lake receives trout stockings in the winter and spring, but don’t count on many of those fish being available by summer.

Adding to the lake’s appeal is a foot trail that surrounds the entire body of water. Picnic shelters, restaurant, swimming pool, hiking trails, and a playground are just a few of the other attractions.

More information is available at www.chiefloganstatepark.com or contact (304) 792-7125.

Other Options:
If you’re a trout enthusiast looking to extend the season, consider 25-acre Spruce Knob Lake in Randolph County. This highland impoundment rests at 3,840 feet.

The McClintic ponds on their namesake Wildlife Management Area in Mason County host plenty of largemouth bass.

JULY
Plum Orchard Lake
Bluegills:
Hands down, the best West Virginia impoundment I have ever visited for bluegills is Plum Orchard Lake. It’s located in Fayette County on the 3,201-acre WMA of the same name.

This is a fishing lake. Swimming, water skiing, and personal watercraft are prohibited on the 202-acre impoundment.

Be assured that plenty of bull-sized ‘gills haunt the deeper areas of the lake throughout the summer. The impoundment is known for its grass beds and drop-offs that exist just off the edge of the vegetation. That’s where the bigger bluegills hold during the summer.

For more information visit www.plumorchardlakewma.com, or call (304) 469-9905.

Other Options:
The Ohio River in the northern reaches of the state features some of the best lowland river largemouth action in the state.

Late evenings on Stonecoal Lake in the central part of the Mountain State can see muskiest become feisty this month.

AUGUST
Potomac River
Channel Catfish:
Guide James “Catfish” Apperson comes by his name honestly, as he spends much of the summer seeking out channel catfish on the Potomac River in

Photo by Bruce Ingram

the Eastern Panhandle. The Harpers Ferry resident said channels often top 20 inches, especially if anglers go after them during low light conditions or at night.

“Last summer channel cats were an everyday catch with the average fish being around 4 to 5 pounds, with some being caught that went over 10 pounds and 30 inches,” Apperson explained.

Some of the best action can occur on the 4 1/2-mile float from Taylors Landing to Snyders Landing, 4 miles from Snyders Landing to Shepherdstown, or the 8 miles from Shepherdstown to Dargan Bend. The last of the trio features the most deep water.

But, don’t be surprised also to find fish in pools below riffles. None of these excursions contain major rapids.

For more information, visit www.bassriveroutfitters.com or call James Apperson at (304) 724-7373.

Other Options:
Watoga Lake in Pocahontas County is a dandy little 11-acre hot spot that offers good summertime action for largemouths.

Late on summertime evenings, rainbow trout action can pick up on the upper Elk River.

Check out where to go for West Virginia Fishing for the months of September, October, November and December on page three!

SEPTEMBER
R.D. Bailey
Spotted Bass:
In the Mid-Atlantic region, West Virginia probably has more bodies of water that contain spotted bass than any other state. Certainly one of the most popular destinations for spots is R.D. Bailey Lake in the southwestern reaches of the state.

This 600-acre impoundment in Wyoming County features clay points and rocky drop offs. In September, at least at the start of the month, expect those deeper environs to still hold most of the spots, or Kentuckies as they are often called locally.

The only drawback to angling for spots is that many of them are less than 10 inches long, although R.D. Bailey probably has more 12-inch-plus fish than the vast majority of West Virginia lakes and rivers. Still, anglers shouldn’t feel too guilty if they keep an occasional smallish spot for the pan.

For more details on the lake check out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Web site at www.lrh.usace.army.mil or call (304) 664-9587.

Other Options:
Northern Panhandle sportsmen should check out the largemouth action on Marshall County’s Turkey Run Lake this month.

Over on the Cacapon River in the eastern reaches of the state, it’s time for some quality early fall action for rock bass.

OCTOBER
Greenbrier River
Rainbow Trout:
Although during some autumns water levels can be a problem, if sufficient rainfall has occurred, October can bring some fine trout fishing on the West Fork of the Greenbrier in Pocahontas County. The stream receives fall stockings twice this month, once during the week in which Columbus Day falls and the second the following week. Additionally, some holdover fish should still be in the stream, left over from the January through May stockings.

A really neat aspect of fishing the river is that the West Fork Trail winds along 26 miles of the stream. One of my favorite ways to hit the best spots is to walk along the trail and look for likely areas to access the stream. Those likely areas are in riffles, runs, and eddies.

Be aware that rhododendron, mountain laurel, alder, and other vegetation envelope the West Fork. That’s great for the trout, but not so great for the imprecise caster.

Motorized traffic is not allowed on the trail, but some folks use bikes or just hike in.

Other Options:
Northern West Virginia trout anglers should consider the tailwaters of Tygart Lake this month after the fall stockings.

October typically sees the start of some cool season hybrid striper action on East Lynn Lake, particularly during low light conditions.

NOVEMBER
Summersville Lake
Walleyes:
During the summer, the extreme water depths of Summersville Lake make walleyes exceptionally hard to locate. Quite frankly, I despise trying to catch fish here in the summer. This Nicholas County impoundment is the most popular destination in the entire state for scuba divers and a Mecca for pleasure boaters.

But once the water and weather cool, which typically has taken place by early November, and other users have gone home, anglers can once again claim the lake as their own.

Even then, the marble-eyes are not pushovers. You have to be adept at deepwater fishing and use your sonar to locate sunken points and humps. But the reward can very well be the best tasting fish that live in the Mountain State.

Other Options:
The muskie fishing on the lower New River can be outstanding, particularly in the deep pools near access points.

In Northern West Virginia, 30-acre Conaway Run Lake provides solid fall action for largemouth bass.

DECEMBER
Elk River
Smallmouths:
I confess that smallmouth bass are my favorite game fish, and, in my opinion, the Elk River is the most underrated river in the state for smallies. December sees this central West Virginia waterway receive virtually no fishing pressure, yet the shoals, deep pools, and outside bends continue to harbor quality size fish and a few trophies. That would be a bronzeback that tops 20 inches.

Still, the main attraction of the Elk is the solid number of 10- to 15-inch smallmouths, and plenty of fish that size should be available.

Check out the WVDNR’s Web site at www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/ for access points.

Other Options:
Hybrid bass action on Beech Fork Lake is an under publicized fishery this month.

In the Eastern Panhandle, Opequon Creek receives fall stockings of trout.

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