Summer is a great time to be outside with the family, and West Virginia has some resorts that provide a lot more than just fishing, though the fishing is pretty good.
Those dreaming of hitting the river or lake should pack up up the family, the rods and the reels, the iron skillet and tent and go fishing, as West Virginia certainly has a surplus of destinations. The only question left is which way to go?
WATOGA STATE PARK
“Watoga State Park, located between Hillsboro and Huntersville in Southern Pocahontas County, is a family fishing paradise,” said Mark Wylie, superintendent of Watoga State Park.
Its western boundary is the Greenbrier River, which offers excellent fishing for smallmouth bass, rock bass, and even trout during the spring of the year. Located in the center of the park is 11-acre Watoga Lake, which is stocked with trout from January to Memorial Day. Watoga Lake also holds largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish.
Start out at Watoga Lake and give bluegills and bass a try. Standard tactics will work, with small spinners and crankbaits for bluegills. Those who want to simplify things cannot go wrong with the traditional half a nightcrawler and a bobber. Most kids are not picky and neither are the bluegills. For stocked channel catfish try the deeper parts of the lake first. Fish on the bottom with the nightcrawler rigged on a No. 6 bait hook, or try chicken livers or any of the dozens of stink baits available.
Trout are stocked in Watoga Lake by the WVDNR once in January and February and weekly March through May. This adds up to a lot of trout in a small impoundment. Traditional trout offerings — salmon eggs, cheese and power bait — will work, as well as small spinners.
The park boasts 34 rental cabins, 10 of which are open year ’round, and three campgrounds with 100 total campsites. The most popular campground, Riverside, is located on the banks of the Greenbrier River, and is open from April 1 to November 1 each year. Of Riverside’s
50 campsites, 38 have
electric hookups. Half of Riverside’s sites are available for advanced reservations for the period between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day. The other 25 sites are open on a “first-come-first-served” basis, as are all 50 sites before Memorial Day Weekend and after Labor Day.
The Greenbrier River is a treasure for the state of West Virginia and very popular for fishing. At most water levels angers can have a very productive afternoon while wade fishing. Children should be supervised for this and a life jacket is highly recommended for the whole family. Considering using the same gear as Watoga, along with small artificials. Smallmouth bass and Redeyes (Rock bass) are the main target here but there is the occasional trout in the Greenbrier in the spring.
Along The Way
For those tired of fishing, Watoga offers more than 40 miles of hiking trails, from very easy to the pretty strenuous. Favorite trails in the park include the Honeymoon Trail, the Jesse’s Cove Trail, the Bear Pen Trail and the three trails in the Brooks Memorial Arboretum — Honeybee, Buckhorn and Dragon Draft.
From Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day, the park offers many recreational activities for non-fishing people. The park’s pool is open Tuesdays through Sundays for most of the summer, as is the Rec Hall, which has both indoor and outdoor games to keep folks occupied. The park also has a naturalist, who offers guided nature hikes, campfire programs and other activities.
A few miles up from Watoga is Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Plan on spending a day riding in railroad cars pulled by authentic Shay locomotives. The railroad goes to the top of Bald Knob; second highest point in the state.
Also found near Watoga are many wonderful attractions such as the Edray Trout Hatchery, Cranberry Glades and the Cranberry Visitors Center, the Highlands Scenic Highway, and Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park and Beartown State Park. Across the Greenbrier River from Watoga is the Greenbrier River Trail, an 80-mile-long trail, very popular with bicyclists, which runs from Cass to Caldwell, in Greenbrier County.
BLUESTONE STATE PARK
The New River flows from Blowing Rock, N.C., to Gauley Bridge, W. Va. Near the small town of Hinton, the Bluestone and the Greenbrier River add their waters to the New. Three major rivers and two state parks make this a destination for both fishing and families.
Bluestone State Park has much to offer families or individuals seeking an outdoor recreation experience, especially fishing. Bluestone encompasses more than 2,100 acres of rugged, forested, mountainous terrain, and provides a wide variety of activities for visitors. The park has 26 modern cabins, 125 campsites in four different types of campgrounds, a swimming pool, more than 8 miles of trails, game courts and summer nature programs in close proximity to many local attractions.
Bluestone Lake is the main attraction here and this 2,000-acre Corps of Engineers lake is surrounded by the vast Bluestone Wildlife Management Area. Bluestone offers good populations of large and smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish and bluegills.
“Bluestone Lake could possibly be the best crappie lake in West Virginia,” said Mark Scott, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources fisheries biologist. “Anglers routinely catch crappie 12 inches and larger throughout the year.”
Spring is the best time to target this species because they come into shallow water to spawn. Anglers find them stacked up around downed trees and brush piles typically in April. Successful anglers use live minnows and also small jigs on light to ultra-light tackle. Bluestone Lake can be fairly clear so lighter line, or even fluorocarbon. is the best option.
For a late May early June fishing trip on Bluestone, consider channel catfish, which are spawning at this time and can be taken by fishing near the shoreline. Rig tackle with a medium bait hook, a couple split shot and a bobber about 3 feet up the line.
Along The Way
In addition to the fishing opportunities that Bluestone Lake provides, other attractions in the area include Pipestem Resort State Park, which has a myriad of activities and facilities, Sandstone Falls, Bluestone Wildlife Management Area, Camp Creek State Park, Little Beaver State Park, Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, and Organ and Seneca Caves.
PIPESTEM STATE PARK
Pipestem State Park is considered the crown jewel of the West Virginia state park system, with good reason. Two golf courses, a nature center, hiking and biking trails, two lodges, 24 cabins, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and an aerial tramway that shows the rugged Bluestone river gorge is just the short list of all the amenities offered at this park. For anglers, the crown jewels at Pipestem are Long Branch Lake and the Bluestone River.
Long Branch Lake is a 16-acre impoundment located within walking distance of the main housing facility at Pipestem, McKeever Lodge. This small lake is stocked with trout once a month February through May. Long Branch also holds good populations of largemouth bass, catfish and bluegills.
For bait salmon eggs, powerbait, spinners and trout magnets should work for the brookies, browns and rainbows stocked in this lake. Remember that large brood-size trout are often stocked and these fish can easily go over 5 pounds.
Set aside one day to ride the 3,600-foot aerial tramway that goes down into the Bluestone River gorge. The Bluestone is an extremely picturesque and fertile little river. Smallmouth bass, rock bass, creek chubs and catfish are the main targets.
Any smallmouth bass gear will work; Rebel Crawfish, flukes and motor-oil colored grubs on an 1/8-ounce jig head can be deadly. Live bait is another option and sometimes catching that bait is as much fun as the fishing. Kids can enjoy wading and catching crayfish, hellgrammites and other bait while others fish and everyone is happy. Again, PFDs should be worn when wade fishing.
Along The Way
There are too many activities and attractions at Pipestem to list, but check out the swimming pools, Nature Center, golf courses and tramway. Just down Rt. 20 is Bluestone Dam — which often has great fishing in the spillway — and downstream a few miles from Bluestone Dam is Sandstone Falls. This site has excellent park facilities.
Moncove Lake State Park and Wildlife Management Area are off the radar for most people; those that frequent and fish this little jewel like it that way. Located in Monroe County, just a few miles from Gap Mills, this is not exactly a booming metropolis, which is precisely why most love it.
“Moncove Lake State Park is great for a family fishing trip,” said Holly Norris, superintendent at Moncove Lake.
The lake is 144 acres in size, so there is room for fishing along the shore and from a boat. Visitors are welcome to bring a boat and motor, providing the motor is less than 5 hp. Rowboats, paddleboats and kayaks can be rented from the park. The campground store also sells tackle and bait.
Typical catches at Moncove include bluegill, largemouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie and occasional walleye. Night fishing for catfish is popular with campers and locals alike. Spring is a prime time for bass angling and provides the greatest opportunity for catching large fish. The lake and all facilities are in walking distance of the campground; kids can run and ride bikes to their hearts content.
Along The Way
Aside from fishing, Moncove Lake State Park also offers a swimming pool, three playgrounds, a basketball court, a volleyball court and a softball/baseball field. Be sure to check out some of the natural beauty at Moncove by hiking the five trails that meander through the park and WMA. While hiking, be on the lookout for white-tailed deer, turkey, fox, bobcat, coyote, squirrels, chipmunks and beaver.
If the family is interested in longer trails, visit the Allegheny Trail on Peter’s Mountain, which runs the length of the state; the southern terminus connects to the Appalachian Trail. Also, Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory is located on Peter’s Mountain in the Jefferson National Forest and is a popular hiking destination for the excellent views.
Greenbrier State Forest is only 25 minutes away, so folks can leave campsites at Moncove and visit 13 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails at Greenbrier for the day. The Greenbrier River Trail is approximately 35 minutes away in Caldwell, and offers 78 miles of rail trail.
Remember that fishing, like any outdoor endeavor should be fun, especially when kids are involved. Children, especially small children probably do not see the fishing trip in the same light older folks. Every excursion does not have to be a quest for a trophy largemouth to put on the wall. Kids just want to have fun. Be flexible and go with the flow.
Have a blast on your next West Virginia family fishing trip!