Spring may be the time when the best action for West Virginia’s trophy fish takes place, and fall may be the best time aesthetically to wet a line. But for all round angling pleasure and the overwhelming joy of being outdoors, summer is the premier period to sample the Mountain State’s diverse waters. For this summer, numerous possible destinations exist.
Several years ago, then West Virginia Division of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Kevin Yokum extolled the virtues of the lower Gauley.
“Floating on the Gauley below Summerville Dam can be rough and even dangerous for the initial 5-mile stretch below the dam,” Yokum said. “Due to the steep gradient, most of the fishing is done by clients in the company of commercial guides.”
Nevertheless, a big “but” emerged from the conversation — the wade fishing for trout in that section can be fantastic, even during the summer. I kept those comments by Yokum on file. On a hot summer day last year, Brian Hager, a guide for Mountain State Anglers in Fayette County, and I journeyed to the waterway in the south central part of the state.
“The water coming out of the dam is quite cold, so the trout fishing remains good all summer,” Hager said. “Lots of major rapids are in the first few miles below the dam, and fishermen, unless they are truly whitewater experts, would need a professional outfitter to take them floating down the river.
“But fishermen can also catch a lot of trout by hiking along the river’s banks, looking for openings in the vegetation, walking down an incline to the stream, and wade fishing. Some of the outfitters stock this section by using helicopters. So some really large trout live below the dam.”
A flat, grassy pathway runs along the river right side of the Gauley below the dam, so Brian and I, joined by Scott Wilson of Ansted, ambled down the travel way until we encountered one of those breaks in the riparian zone.
“Some of the fly fishermen like to use streamers and sizes 12 and 14 topwater patterns,” Wilson said. “Spin fishermen can do really well with Berkley Powerbait and live minnows. Minnows and nightcrawlers drifted through the deep pools are great baits.”
Indeed, they are as on our excursion using the above game plan, Wilson quickly caught his six-trout limit. Hager employed spinners and landed several chunky rainbows, while I hurled jerkbaits and ingloriously struck out. By the time I realized my mistake of using too large a lure, the morning action had ended.
Both Wilson and Hager agree that the best time during the summer to visit this part of the Gauley is between dawn and 10:00 a.m. and again during the evening after 5:00.
If you go, avoid wading in areas of major rapids and keep in mind that huge boulders pock both sides of the river. Take your time making your way along the river and always go with a friend.
MONCOVE LAKE LARGEMOUTHS & BLUEGILLS
Another superlative summertime destination is 144-acre Moncove Lake in Monroe County. Southern West Virginia sports a number of small impoundments that host largemouths and bluegills, and this is certainly one of the better ones.
On my most recent trip, my son-in-law David Reynolds and I deployed one of the rowboats available for rent and immediately headed for a patches of vegetation that rim the impoundment.
On my first cast, I caught a 16-inch largemouth on a Texas-rigged plastic worm. Over the course of the day, David and I dueled with a number of fish between 12 and 16 inches — all caught within or parallel to the numerous aquatic vegetation fields.
Later I used a fly rod to catch quite a few bluegills on a popping bug. The DNR also has stocked channel catfish in Moncove, and many folks visit the lake on summertime evenings to take advantage of this fishery.
Jesse Anderson, superintendent of Moncove Lake State Park, believes the fishing should be quite good this July and August.
“Last summer, we had several sizeable bass caught and released that I got to see and that were in the 6- to 8-pound range,” he said. “My wife and I did a good bit of fishing with our kids June through August in the evenings and we caught lots of crappie, bullheads, perch, and bluegills as big as your hand. We also had some really good runs of crappie fishing and saw folks filling stringers or buckets.
“For kid-friendly fishing, 2011 was the best summer in years for catching panfish. A dozen worms kept my kids and myself busy most of the evening, as I was baiting hooks and removing fish. The walleye fishing seemed quieter in 2011, but it may be that I didn’t happen to talk to the right folks or use the right baits. Topwater fishing at dusk was the most exciting time with crappie and bass both hitting lures.”
Adding to the locale’s appeal is that Moncove Lake State Park surrounds the body of water. The park features 47 tent/trailer sites, a swimming pool, picnic areas, and five hiking trails. Additionally, the 500-acre Moncove Lake WMA encompasses the state park.
For more information visit www.moncovelakestatepark.com or call (304) 772-3450.