September 29, 2010
Read on to discover 36 select waters where you can wet your line right now and throughout the entire new year in our state. (February 2006)
It's that time of the year when West Virginia Game & Fish magazine comes through with 36 prime places to fish for each month of the year. So take a gander at our choices to see if some fine angling is near you. It may be cold outside, but that doesn't mean the fish aren't biting.
Kanawha Falls Walleyes
Come January, savvy West Virginia anglers will be looking for trophy-sized walleyes in the area of the Kanawha Falls on the Kanawha River in Fayette County. According to West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) personnel, the stretch downstream from the New and Gauley rivers is the place to start. Even better is the immediate area below the falls.
Generally, good water flow, deep pools, high oxygen content and plenty of big, fat walleyes characterize this area. Under normal weather conditions most of the good fish -- 5 pounds and better -- will be found in the holes, resting and waiting for spring to launch them on their spawning journey.
Some of the best deepwater spots are near the falls. The fishing can be extraordinary. It can also be dangerous if you're not highly experienced. If you lack the necessary experience to fish deep, swift water, go with someone who does before you try it on your own.
If the weather warms a bit, try the right side of the river just below the falls. This area is especially productive when the sun is bright and the rocks and gravel are picking up heat.
There's a ramp just below the falls, where the area is handicapped accessible, and there are plenty of shore-fishing opportunities from the bank.
Williams River Trout
In February, give Williams River trout an honest effort. You'll be glad you did. This Webster and Pocahontas counties venue is popular, so you're likely to meet other anglers on your trip despite the time of year. Regardless, it's worth the effort.
Thanks largely to an excellent stocking program by the DNR, the fishing can be intense. The river is stocked from the site of the old Coal Tipple below Laurel Run, upstream 22 miles to the low-water bridge above the Day Run Campground.
A long stretch of this water is catch-and-release only, so you'll want to pay attention to where you fish, especially if you intend to keep a couple of trout for dinner. The restricted stretch runs two miles downstream from Tea Creek. The area is well marked, so you shouldn't have any trouble spotting it.
Special hook regulations apply. Anglers can fish with one barbed hook or with multiple barbless hooks only.
The trout might be found almost anywhere. The habitat here is extraordinary. Riffles, reasonably deep holes, undercut banks and laydowns characterize most of the Williams River. Try to drift your bait or lure naturally with the water flow. Approach your fishing spot with care. Williams River trout are wary and skittish.
Ohio River Saugeyes
As the weather starts to break, take a close look at Ohio River saugers and saugeyes. They're plentiful throughout the river and are usually willing to bite a minnow or flashy jig.
They can be caught below any of the dams on the river and at nearly any inflow along the river's path. If you fish the fast water below the dams, look for places where the current swirls or eddies move in an unusual pattern. At the inflows, pay particular attention to deep scour holes, washouts and debris piles.
Some of the best spots on the river are near the mouth of the Kanawha River at Point Pleasant and upstream from there for three or four miles. Pay particular attention to the small creeks that flow into the river from the West Virginia bank. This area supports heavy commercial barge traffic, so be careful and pay attention to what's going on around you.
No matter where you choose to fish, keep in mind that saugers and saugeyes are notoriously depth sensitive. One day, they may hold at 16 feet, but the next day, it may be 20 feet. They'll not move very far up or down to take your bait. Savvy anglers will test lots of places at different depths until they find active fish.
Bluestone Lake Hybrid Stripers
Early spring -- April to be exact -- brings us to Bluestone Lake in search of hybrid striped bass. Our search won't take long, most days anyway. Bluestone is a priority lake to the DNR and they stock it heavily.
This lake can run a bit murky if local rains are heavy, but it doesn't stay that way for long. And even if it's a little muddy when your trip is scheduled, you can always fish below the dam in the New River all the way down to the Kanawha. Or you can work your way up the lake and into the inflow from the New River. Either way you'll have plenty of opportunities to catch a bunch of good ones.
Hybrids are school fish and they tend to do it by size. Therefore, spend your scouting time looking for surface action and move from spot to spot until you find the better fish. If they aren't working on top, look for areas along the outside edge of inflowing tributaries where there's a deep hole or a sharp break nearby. That's where they'll be most days. Some of the best inflows are near the headwaters of the lake.
The dam is in Hinton in Summers County. Access is available off interstates 77 and 64. The lake offers a good ramp, lots of parking and is handicapped accessible.
Stonewall Jackson Lake
By the time May rolls around, spring is going full bore and that means largemouth fishing. There's no better place in West Virginia to do it than at Stonewall Jackson Lake. This 2,650-acre Lewis County body of water is full of good-sized bass. Fish up to 4 and 5 pounds are common.
Unlike many other flood-control reservoirs, Stonewall Jackson benefits from a relatively mild drawdown, no more than 6 feet in most years. This offers plenty of stable, shallow-water spawning flats that the fish can use year after year.
Assuming normal weather, most of the largemouths will be in the late pre-spawn mode by May. That means they'll be feeding voraciously in any shallow, weedy and stump-filled bays, cuts and backwater areas where they can get ready for their spawn.
For the most part, bass can be caught almost anywhere around the lake, but areas adjacent to standing timber will often produce the best fish. (There's a ton of timber in the water, so it won't be hard to find
.) Experienced local anglers work their way around the lake, fishing one spot and then the next, knowing that largemouths at this time of year are scattered.
Stonewall Jackson offers anglers good access, a fair amount of shore- fishing opportunities and a really nice state park. There's also handicapped access.
This is a catch-and-release venue. Don't even think about keeping one for dinner!
Burnsville Lake Catfishing
As spring turns to summer, West Virginia anglers should look toward Burnsville Lake to do a little catfishing. Best known as a channel catfish lake, the lake's flathead fishing is often overlooked. That's a shame because it's one of the best trophy flathead lakes in the state.
At 968 acres, it's not hard to fish either. Your best bet for a big flathead is along the drops and deeper holes scattered around the lake. Several good spots are near the marina and are especially active after dark.
If you're looking for a few channels to eat, fish the shallow-water cuts and sloughs along the inflows and tributaries. For a mess of eating-sized ones, it's hard to beat one of the commercially prepared stink baits that are available at nearly any tackle shop.
Burnsville is in Braxton County and is accessible from I-79. Take Exit 79 and then state Route 5 to the dam. From there, you can launch your boat and buy tackle as well as other necessities. The lake is handicapped accessible.
New River Smallmouths
In July, when the weather is hot, sultry and downright miserable, try fishing the legendary New River for smallmouth bass. Home to the state record -- a giant of a fish that weighed over 8 pounds -- the New River seems to keep getting better and better each passing season.
It's hard to overstate the quality of smallmouth habitat and smallmouth fishing in this river. Its course ranges from narrow, swift-water sections to long, deep pools. Interspersed in all this will be riffles, turns, cuts, twists, undercut banks and laydowns. Fish them all, even in the heat of summer. An increasing water flow will usually trigger the best bites when the weather is hot.
You can float the upper section if you have some experience. If not, better hire a guide. If you like to wade, try fishing the section below Bluestone Lake. There are plenty of opportunities in this stretch. It's especially popular with fly-anglers and ultralight spin-fishermen. Don't let that fool you, though; the smallies here can go up to 20 inches and weigh a solid 4 pounds.
Access is usually not a problem, but if the water level is down, some points may be dry. Pick the stretch you want to fish and then contact the DNR for detailed information about the local area.
A long stretch of this water is catch-and-release only, so you'll want to pay attention to where you fish, especially if you intend to keep a couple of trout for dinner.
Ohio River Flatheads
August means Ohio River flathead fishing -- after dark, of course.
In general terms, most of the really big ones -- those over 50 pounds -- are caught on bends and turns in the river below the tailrace water of the dams. Darn near all the dams and pools have bragging rights of some sort or another to a good fish.
Still, some spots are more popular than others. There are a couple of great bends in the Byrd Pool. One is at mile 272, downstream about three miles from Gallipolis Island. The other is at mile 250 near the town of Mason.
Both are long, wide-sweeping turns with plenty of holes, drops and cuts to target. Work your way along them, moving at least every 30 or 40 minutes if you don't get a bite. And never, not ever, pass over a stump, log or snag. Huge flatheads love 'em.
This is a congested area. Don't fish it after dark if you lack experience.
There are numerous public launch ramps in this area. Once you decide where you're going to fish, get a good map and locate a ramp in the vicinity.
Little Kanawha River Muskies
Early fall means muskie fishing in the Mountain State and muskie fishing means the Little Kanawha River. It's a tributary of the Ohio River and enters the river near Parkersburg.
The Little Kanawha can get muddy at times, especially after a hard rain, so plan your trip around the weather if at all possible. But even if you can't, all is not lost. This is a native muskie river -- really closer to a stream -- and so the fish will bite even if the water is a bit turbid. And the river tends to clear quickly during periods of high water flow.
For the most part, the river is floatable and can be fished effectively from a johnboat. Some of the best areas are in the sections above Elizabeth in Calhoun County. Fish the undercut banks, deeper holes and any laydowns you can find. Pay particular attention to any large rocks in the water. The bigger muskies will use them as ambush points.
Access is not especially good to the Little Kanawha. Contact the DNR for up-to-the-minute information. If you launch from private property, make sure you have permission to do so.
Greenbrier River Smallmouths
If you're looking for an October trip, consider the Greenbrier River. The smallmouth fishing here can be fantastic and there's no better season to experience it than fall.
You'll need to be careful, however. Fall often brings periods of low-water flow to this river and that can make fishing difficult. If you fish from a small boat or canoe, make sure you're capable of portaging it across relatively long distances.
The pools in the upper stretches can be very productive at this time of year if the water stays high enough to float the river.
If you're looking for a safer bet, give the stretch below Caldwell down to the mouth a shot. The riffles are shorter and the pools longer and deeper. As such, it's a little easier to fish.
No matter where you fish along the Greenbrier, give the heads and tails of the pools your undivided attention. Most of the bigger smallies will lie in these areas looking for an easy meal. Approach them with care. The water's clear at this time of year and big fish don't get big by accident. They'll disappear at the slightest hint of trouble.
No matter where you fish along the Greenbrier, give the heads and tails of the pools your undivided attention. Most of the bigger smallies will lie in these areas looking for an easy me
Smoke Hole Trout
November is an excellent time to try for a few Smoke Hole trout. The Smoke Hole is a mist-covered stretch of the South Branch of the Potomac River, which runs through a deep and awesomely beautiful gorge.
The Smoke Hole is very flow dependent. When the flow is good, it's really good, when it's bad, it's really bad.
It is also very remote and rugged in places. The stretches below Big Bend are tough and can be dangerous for the inexperienced. That's not to say the trout fishing isn't good in those areas, however. When conditions are right, it's one of the best winter venues in the state.
The stretch from the Upper Tract down to Big Bend is more hospitable. There's a fairly good road that runs parallel to the water. It offers great shore access and even better shore- fishing. This stretch is especially popular with fly-anglers.
There's a special catch-and-release section that anglers should be aware of when planning their trip. It's in Pendleton County about two miles below state Route 220 at Eagle Rock. It runs downstream about a mile.
You can access Smoke Hole from U.S. Forest Service Road 74 or from West Virginia secondary Route 2.
Elk River Trout
After Thanksgiving and before the New Year, you should be able to fish the Elk River for trout. It's regularly stocked from Rose Run downstream about 18 miles to Webster Springs.
The section from Whitaker Falls to Webster Springs is your best bet at this time of year. There's usually a good water flow and plenty of fish through this stretch. The habitat is good -- maybe even great -- and the water is well oxygenated. The stretch is full of shallow riffles, deep pools, undercut banks and big rocks.
Fish it all. During normal weather patterns, fish the deep pools and undercut banks. If the sun shines for a few days and everything starts to warm, try the slack-water spots around the rock. The warming trend will trigger a feeding response in the fish and they'll move toward shallow-water current breaks. Take advantage of the warmth that the rocks provide.
There's access to the Elk from West Virginia secondary routes 26 and 26/1.
The upper end of the Elk River is catch-and-release only. The specific stretch is well marked. Make sure you know where you're at before you keep a fish.
OK, there you have it, a list of great places to fish in the Mountain State all year 'round. All excuses are off. Go for it!
For more detailed information about these places, contact the West Virginia DNR at
www.wvdnr.gov or call them at (304) 558-2771.