March 18, 2011
From the Ohio River to the Virginia border, the Mountain State holds a wealth of fishing options. Here's a look at three dozen of the best.
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Like a solid game plan formulated for the Mountaineers football attack, anglers hoping to take full advantage of the state's ample fishing options should have a strategy in place. Consider the following one, which scopes out 12 months of outstanding angling opportunities!
Gauley River - Walleyes
Few species bite as well during the winter months as do walleyes, particularly river dwelling walleyes. The Gauley River, the portion located between Summersville Dam and the river's merger with the New River near Gauley Bridge, is worth investigating for winter river walleyes.
The Gauley plays host to a good walleye fishery, including fish of trophy proportions. The Summersville Lake tailwaters represents one of the better areas on the Gauley.
One of the biggest factors with the Gauley River is getting to the water. Access is good in the Summersville tailrace area. Below the tailrace the river flows swiftly through a remote canyon -- the Gauley River National Recreation Area-- where access is limited, as is good walleye habitat.
The lower portion of the Gauley is a slower moving water, and provides the better walleye water. Check out the river section from Swiss down to where it joins the New to form the Kanawha River at K & M Junction.
Public access areas are found at Persinger Creek in Nicholas County and Jodie in Fayette County.
Another similar January angling option is to hit the tailwaters below R.D. Bailey Lake for walleyes.
Also, check out the white bass action on the Ohio River. Small in-line spinners are always good for these fish.
Stonecoal Lake - Rainbow Trout
West Virginia's aggressive trout stocking program provides outstanding recreation on many rivers and creeks. But reservoirs such as Stonecoal Lake are part of the program, too. Still-water environments are particularly attractive when the streams are running high, or for folks that can't -- or don't care to -- hike along the rugged trails often found along trout streams.
Currently Stonecoal Lake is the holder of two state trout records; the length records for both golden rainbow and rainbow trout.
The lake is located in the Stonecoal WMA. The deep, cold impoundment covers 550 surface acres. Two concrete boat ramps are provided, as is fishing access for the handicapped. Boats are limited to 10-horsepower outboards.
Stonecoal Lake is found in Lewis and Upshur counties near the towns of Weston and Buckhannon. It is a short distance off of Interstate 79.
For more cold-water action, try targeting muskellunge on the Little Kanawha River.
The rainbow trout should be stirring on White Day Creek as well.
Kanawha River - Hybrid Bass
Hard fighting hybrid bass can provide a good way of shrugging off the early spring cold. The Kanawha River provides one of the state's better hybrid fisheries.
Focus your hybrid attention on the lower portion of the Kanawha, where the lock and dam system creates navigation pools. Three dams are found there, structures that attract both fish and fisherman. They are located at London, Marmet, and Winfield.
Shore anglers find good access and facilities below the dams. Boat anglers can cash in on the action, but need to stay below the buoy line that marks the restricted area.
Another key for fishermen and boating anglers in particular, is the presence of a warm water discharge into the river. Such discharges are common at industrial sites such as power plants and attract baitfish as well as hybrids.
For some big-water angling action this month head to the Hannibal tailwater on the Ohio River for sauger.
Crappie on Sutton Lake are in a pre-spawn mood and hungry right now. In the cold waters of March your best bet is to offer the slabs a live minnow.
South Branch Potomac River - Rainbow Trout
Come April there's no better place to be than on one of the state's blue ribbon trout streams, which would have to include the South Branch of the Potomac River.
The state manages the South Branch as three distinct areas -- the Franklin, Smoke Hole and Catch-and-Release sections. Between the three there is something to meet the needs of pretty much any trout angler.
The Franklin section is stocked from about 1/2 mile from the Virginia line downstream past Franklin to about 2 miles south of the Upper Tract near the old Poor Farm. U.S. Highway 220 provides good access to most of this stretch.
The Franklin section is stocked every week from March through May. It also receives a stocking in January and two in February.
The Smoke Hole section runs from the U.S. 220 bridge downstream to the U.S. Forest Service Big Bend Recreation Area. Forest Service Road 74 provides access to a portion of this stretch, as does State Secondary Road 2.
The Smoke Hole section is stocked on the same schedule as the Franklin section.
Located within the Smoke Hole section is a 1-mile stretch managed as catch-and-release waters. This stretch begins about 2 miles below the U.S. 220 bridge. The area is stocked once in April.
The South Branch is located in Pendleton County.
For another rainbow trout destination this month head over to the Upper Elk River.
The Belleville Pool on the Ohio River offers some possibilities for hybrid bass in April.
New River - Smallmouth Bass
Warming waters mean smallmouth bass are getting more aggressive. It's time to take advantage of one of the state's best angling opportunities in the form of river smallies. The New River provides one of the best places to pursue these fish.
ontrary to its name, the New River is one of the world's oldest rivers, and plays host to outstanding fishing opportunities. The 53 miles designated as the New River Gorge National River contains some of the best smallie fishing, including a 12-mile catch-and-release section.
The New provides a blend of pools and fast water. Access is limited. It may be wise to make use of an outfitter. Float trips are available that run from as little as half-a-day to overnight trips. The lack of access, coupled with a strong catch-and-release ethic, means New River anglers can expect a good chance at a lunker bass.
River access is available in Fayette County at Hawks Nest Lake, McKendree and Stone Cliff. Raleigh County access areas are Glade Creek, McCreery and Sandstone Falls. Summers County offers several additional access points.
The catch-and-release area runs from the Interstate 64 bridge down to the National Park Service's Sandbar access area near Quinnimont. You can access the area from either State Route 20 or SR 41.
Rainbow trout fishing is at its best on the Shavers Fork this month.
May is also a good time for targeting muskies on Buckhorn River.
Stonewall Jackson Lake - Largemouth Bass
Stonewall Jackson Lake was developed with a more "enhanced" plan in mind than older Corps of Engineers flood control lakes. Unlike most state reservoirs, there is plenty of cover in Stonewall Jackson Lake. Anglers continue to benefit from this, and largemouth anglers in particular.
Flooded timber is present in many of this 2,650-acre lake's bays and coves and is one of the cover options you want to investigate as you search out post-spawn bass. The 26 miles of shoreline ensure you will have to do a bit of searching.
Catch and release regulations on black bass have been in place since the lake was first opened and provide the potential for lunker-sized largemouths.
Stonewall Jackson, by West Virginia standards, is somewhat wide and shallow. About a 20 percent of the lake is under a no-wake restriction. There is no horsepower restriction.
The reservoir is located in Lewis County, near Weston, just off of I-79.
Being a flood control lake that's subject to changing levels, it's wise to check on conditions before embarking on a trip there. Daily lake and recreation information on Stonewall Jackson can be obtained by calling (304) 269-7463.
Smallmouth bass are feeding in the Tygart Valley River this month.
For some June rainbow trout action head to the Williams River.
Burnsville Lake - Channel Catfish
West Virginian's take their catfishing seriously, which is not surprising when you consider the numbers of rivers and lakes that hold good catfish populations. Burnsville Lake is one of these waters, and a good place to key in on for some mid summer channel catfish action.
An impoundment of the Little Kanawha River, Burnsville Lake covers less than 1,000 acres. Not so typical of the state's flood control impoundments, the reservoir is relatively shallow. It has a length just shy of 10 miles.
Both channel and flathead catfish are found in Burnsville Lake. No horsepower restrictions are in place. Launch ramps are located at the Riffle Run Day Use Area, Bulltown Day Use Area and the Bulltown Camping Area.
Call (304) 853-2398 for a recorded message providing updated information on lake and tailwater conditions, precipitation, launch ramps, and fishing. The Bulltown Campground can be reached at (304) 452-8006.
For some hot-weather largemouth bass action, July is the month to try Cheat Lake.
Or, you might want to sample largemouth fishing on Elk Fork Lake.
Tygart Lake - Bluegills
Given the many choices one has in regard to species and locations, it's easy to overlook fun-filled options like panfishing. When late summer comes around, and thing get a bit tough for the "glamour" species, the time is right to step back and do a little low-stress bream fishing. Tygart Lake is a good place to gather up the kids for a trip aimed at bluegills.
Also known as Grafton Dam, due to its proximity to that town, this impoundment is situated on the Tygart Valley River.
Tygart Lake State Park is located on the lake, and provides a camping option as well as a four-lane launch ramp. The city of Grafton also has a campground. There is no horsepower restriction on the lake, which is also visited by recreational boaters and water skiers.
Call (304) 265-5953 for daily updated information on lake conditions and recreational information.
Summertime action for channel catfish is at its peak on the Monogahela River.
For a real change of pace, try fishing dough balls for some big carp on the Kanawha River.
Mountwood Lake - Tiger Muskellunge
With all the attention going to quality muskie waters like the Buckhannon River and Stonewall Jackson Lake, it's easy to overlook the action on lesser-known waters. Mountwood Lake, which contains a viable tiger muskie population, is such a water.
September brings cooler and shorter days, equating to dropping water temperatures. This can play in favor of muskie anglers.
With hunting seasons beginning to open, generally one finds less competition on the water. You just might find you have these muskie waters to yourself on some days.
Mountwood Lake covers about 50 acres with a maximum depth of 48 feet. Despite it's small size, it is capable of producing big fish. The state record tiger muskie, which is a cross between a muskellunge and northern pike, was taken from Mountwood in 1994. That fish measured 49 1/4 inches and weighed 36 1/2 pounds.
Located in a Wood County park, Mountwood is limited to electric motors only. A camping area, handicapped-accessible fishing pier and concrete ramp are provided. It is accessible off of U.S. 50 by way of Woods CR 5.
The Greenbrier River offers some good late summer smallmouth bass fishing in September.
For another muskellunge option this month, try the Hughes River.
South Branch Potomac River - Smallmouth Bass
The turning of the leaves sparks the desire for some fall action in most outdoorsmen. If only the month could have a few extra days?
One outing anglers must pursue in October is river smallmouth fishing, with the South Branch of the Potomac River providing a quality venue.
Hardy and Hampshire counties play host to some excellent river smallie fishing on the South Branch, including two catch-and-release areas.
Catch and Release Area 1 covers eight miles of the South Branch. It starts three miles east of Petersburg at the Petersburg Gap Bridge. This section extends downstream to the Fisher Bridge on CR 13.
The second area, which takes in 9 1/2 miles, runs from the Romney Bridge down to the Blue Beach Bridge on SR 28.All bass taken from these two sections must be returned to the water.
Access is good on the South Branch. Hardy County access areas include Fisher Bridge, McNeil and Old Fields Bridge. Hampshire County adds no less than 13 additional access sites.
The muskies are feeling the cooler weather and feeding on the Mud River.
For some fall rainbow trout fishing, try the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River.
Cranberry River - Rainbow Trout
Many of the state's better trout streams receive stockings in mid October. Fishing pressure is light during the fall, so most these fish are still around come November. The Cranberry River is a good place to get your fill of some of this late season trout action.
A 16 1/2-mile section of the Cranberry is stocked with trout. In addition to the mid October stockings just mentioned, the river receives a stocking in January, two in February and is stocked weekly March through May. It's not uncommon to hook holdovers from earlier released.
The stocked section runs from the Woodbine Recreation Area upstream to the mouth of Dogway Fork. A catch-and-release area is located upstream of Dogway Fork. This section entails 4.3 miles and extends up to the confluence of the North and South branches of the Cranberry.
The Cranberry River flows through Pocahontas County, mostly on national forest land.
Walleyes are moving shallow to feed in the cooler weather of fall on Summersville Lake.
Crappie are also bunching up on Tygart Lake this month.
Elk River - Muskellunge
Muskies are present in the entire stretch of the Elk River from Sutton Dam down to its merger with the Kanawha River. But the best habitat lies in the portions that flow through Braxton and Clay counties.
As water temperatures drop, river muskies concentrate in the deeper, slower pools. Higher water flows, common in the fall, further collect muskies in such spots. The presence of wood -- shoreline deadfalls and logs imbedded in the river bottom -- also adds to the likelihood muskies are holding in the pool.
Access spots are numerous along this stretch of the Elk. In Clay County, there are Camp Associates sites 1 and 2, Duck, King Shoals, Mary Chilton Roadside Park, Procious and Queen Shoals. Braxton County access is limited to a small boat landing at the Frametown Bridge and the one at the Sutton Dam tailwaters.
Now's the time to try for some walleyes in the Monongahela River.
Or you can target some sauger on the Kanawha River.