Skip to main content

Seven Great West Virginia Fishing Destinations

Hit the road and tap into some of the greatest fishing found in West Virginia.

Seven Great West Virginia Fishing Destinations

These seven destinations make for great angling road trips this summer. (Shutterstock image)

The summer signals the beginning of what many West Virginia anglers consider as the best fishing of the year.

And that, of course, means it’s time for a road trip around the Mountain State to experience this high quality sport. Here are some of the most enticing destinations.

NATIONAL FORESTS: NATIVE BROOK TROUT

One of the best things about fishing for native brook trout in West Virginia is that the Monongahela and George Washington national forests (which together sprawl over much of southwestern, southern, and the eastern part of the state) sport numerous highland creeks that host these fish. Patrick Skeen, who operates the fly shop at Elk Springs Resort in Monterville, relishes his time in the backcountry of the Mon.

“I’m having more and more clients requesting to go into the Monongahela,” he said. “Now, these brook trout aren’t large, most are 5 or 6 inches long and really nice ones are 8 to 10 inches. But for myself and other people, the experience is what draws me to the national forest. You’re going after the state’s only native trout in a harsh environment where they have survived for thousands of years.


“And you have to stalk these fish because they’re so easy to spook. That’s especially true later in the spring and all summer when the water is low. Casting those little Size 12 and 14 dry flies is also a challenge because you’re fishing in such tight quarters.”


If You Go

Ethically, listing the names of tiny brook trout streams for publication is questionable because such small water can’t take concentrated pressure. But anglers can gain insight on where to go by contacting individual ranger districts of the two public lands: www.fs.usda.gov. For lodging and guided trips: www.elkspringswv.com, 1-877-ELK-SPRINGS.

OHIO RIVER: LARGEMOUTH BASS

Northern West Virginia’s Ohio River ranks as the best largemouth bass fishery in that part of the state and draws anglers from across the Mid-Atlantic. Dave Maurice operates Venom Lures and calls the Ohio his home waterway.

“In May and the summer months, the two pools to concentrate on are Willow Island and Belleville,” he said. “And the three types of places to zero in on in both pools are backwaters, grass beds, and barge docks. The backwaters and barge docks are the most consistent places to fish.


“Backwaters will draw largemouths during the pre-spawn period in May and on through the summer. Barge docks create current breaks and really draw bass. Weed beds come into play in May if we’ve had a moderate winter and runoff has not caused the Ohio to have long stretches of being high and muddy.”

Even if spring has been late in arriving, weed beds will eventually form sometime during the summer and become a major part of bass patterns. For all these locales, Maurice likes to work finesse plastics such as a Texas-rigged 4-inch ringworm or Venom Super-Do, a tube-bait. Other choices are 1/8 and 1/4-ounce buzzbaits and 3/16 and 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits. Keep the color selection simple, says the lure manufacturer — black skirts on cloudy days and white on sunny ones.

If You Go


Huntington makes for a convenient base for fishing the Ohio: visithuntingtonwv.org, 800-635-6329. The Huntington CVB can provide information on lodging, dining, and more.

POTOMAC RIVER: CHANNEL CATFISH

Herschel Finch, a national pro staffer for Jackson Kayak and a volunteer for the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, raves about the excellent channel catfish sport on the Potomac in the Eastern Panhandle.

“I like to go to the ramp at Shepherdstown and fish upstream and down from there,” he said. “You don’t need a shuttle, and you can find plenty of good places to fish.”

Above Shepherdstown, those places to fish include numerous rock ledges and riffles along with outside bends choked with woody debris. Near the Shepherdstown ramp, you’ll also spot other targets of opportunity: the James Rumsey Bridge, the remains of another bridge, and a railroad bridge. The first mile downstream from Shepherdstown offers sycamore and box elder shrouded shorelines, scattered riffles, and a bounteous amount of underwater rocks and woody debris.

Any place where sycamores have fallen into the river is also worth working, says Finch. No major rapids exist in the 2 miles above or below the town, so paddling upstream shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, standard stinkbaits will produce channels, but Finch offers a lure, too.

“The white miller mayfly hatch is a big thing for channel catfish and other gamefish from late spring through summer here,” he said. “When the mayflies are coming off, I use a 1/16-ounce Mepps spinner with a white skirt, and the channel cats really smack it.”

If You Go

For lodging and accommodations, www.shepherdstown.info, 304-876-2786. At Shepherdstown, the ramp is off Princess Street and concrete; limited parking is available in the adjacent lot.

GUYANDOTTE RIVER SPOTTED BASS

The Guyandotte River is one of the least-known bodies of water in the Mountain State, and the spotted bass certainly can be considered as the least popular member of the three black bass species (largemouths and smallmouths, of course, are the other two) that fin our state’s waters. So it may be surprising to some that David Stafford, a clerk at Twin Falls Resort State Park in Mullens, ranks the spot fishery there as worth a road trip. In fact, he thinks this river in the southwestern reaches of the state holds 5-pound-plus spots — and if he’s right, fishing here could give you a chance the state record, which currently is 4.77 pounds and came from R. D. Bailey Lake, which has as its major tributary the Guyandotte.

Stafford adds that the river also holds plenty of spots in the 10- to 15-inch range; enough, in fact, to keep any angler satisfied.

The best section for these bass is from below the R.D. Bailey Dam to Pineville. A number of float trips exist on this stretch and all have potential.

Spots prefer more slack water than smallmouths, and more of a flow than largemouths, which helps explain why they do so well in this section. Riffles are much more common than rapids and deep pools with a consistent though not brisk flow are major haunts. As for bait, simple is sometimes best.

“Live earthworms are my favorite bait for big spots,” says Stafford. “Just drift worms along with the current.”

If You Go

Twin Falls Resort State Park offers camping, cabins, a lodge, and restaurant, 1-833-WV-PARKS. For a map of the Guyandotte along with potential trips and their lengths, www.guyandottewatertrail.com.

WEST FORK OF THE GREENBRIER RAINBOWS

Dave Carpenter of Anglers Xstream in Parkersburg has angled for trout over much of West Virginia. He says a stream high in the mountains of the east central part of the state is one of his favorites for rainbow trout.

“The West Fork of the Greenbrier from Durbin to where the Little River enters has some of the best rainbow fishing in West Virginia,” he said. “The Greenbrier River Trail provides access. People can hike, horseback ride, and camp along the trail — it’s just a perfect setting with great access. You could probably fish much of this 5- or 6-mile section over the course of a weekend.

“The West Fork has a lot of typical trout cover: riffles and pools, pocket water and runs. Rhododendron, speckled alders, and river birches provide cover. And there are both stocked rainbows and carryover ones.”

Carpenter says that Size 16 Stonefly nymphs are excellent late spring and summer patterns, as are Size 14 Adams parachutes as they “look a little like just about every bug that comes off the river.” Brook trout sometimes make their way into the river from highland tributaries and brown trout can be part of the experience, too.

If You Go

Carpenter says that Anglers Xstream can supply info, patterns, and gear for trout fishing in much of the state, 877-909-6911. For trip planning and lodging, contact the Pocahontas County CVB, 800-336-7009. For maps, www.greenbrierrivertrail.com.

NEW RIVER MUSKIES

Do you want a chance at some super-sized muskies? Tommy Cundiff of River Monster Guide Service has just the river and just the trip. The guide says the New River from below Bluestone Dam in Hinton to Brooks Falls (7 miles) is ideal for “regular anglers.”

“The vast majority of the New in West Virginia is best float fished in a raft or dory,” Cundiff said. “All those Class III, IV, and above rapids make fishing in a canoe, kayak, or jet boat unsafe. But the Bluestone Dam float only has one Class II, the Tug Creek Rapid, so it’s a much more accessible section.

“Another great thing about the Bluestone trip is the muskie cover is pretty easy to identify. Lots of water willow beds hold muskies, and a series of islands at the beginning of the float concentrate these fish, too. Target the ends of the islands and also concentrate on any fallen trees along the sides. There’s riprap at the start of the trip and bridges, too – just lots of good muskie cover.”

Regarding lures, two of the guide’s favorites are in the 7- to 8-inch long range: Size 12 Rapala X-Raps and 1/2-ounce inline bucktail spinners. For topwater action, he relies on the Whopper Plopper 130.

If You Go

For guided trips, contact Cundiff at 844-LUV-2-Fish. For lodging, nearby Bluestone State Park offers cabins and campgrounds, 304-466-2805. Wade fishing is possible below Bluestone Dam. Be sure to wear a life jacket as drop-offs exist.

STONEWALL JACKSON LAKE CRAPPIE

What would summer road trips be without one of them including an excursion to Central West Virginia’s Stonewall Jackson Lake?

It certainly is a favorite destination for Cundiff, especially if the goal is to catch some nice crappie.

“Stonewall is certainly one of the best crappie lakes in the state,” he said. “There’s still a lot of woody cover left over from when the lake was created. No wake zones and brush piles just add to the fishing experience. There’s also really good wood cover in Skin Creek, one of the best tributaries.

“In late spring and summer, the crappie go deep after the spawn, maybe as deep as 20 to 30 feet. So I like to drop 1/16-ounce hair jigs down to the fish. When the day starts, I always start with white jigs, but you’d better bring jigs in a wide variety of colors.”

A good-size warm-season crappie at the lake is 12 inches, but Cundiff says that excellent numbers of fish 8 to 11 inches long are available, too.

If You Go

For current fishing information, contact the Marina at Stonewall Resort, 304-269-8895. Pontoon rentals are available. For lodging (cottages and a lodge), contact Stonewall Jackson Resort, www.stonewallresort.com, 304-269-7400. A variety of dining experiences are available.

So there you have your West Virginia road trip list of destinations. With glamor species such as muskies, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass, underrated fish like spotted bass, backcountry fish like brook trout, and fine-tasting fish such as crappie and channel catfish, the choices are numerous.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021, here's a look at the new Rage Trypan NC, Nockturnal Shift Nock, Carbon Express Maxima RED Contour and D-Stroyer PileDRIVER arrows.

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

ATA 2021 NeDuring this video from the Archery Trade Association's New Product Premiere showcase, Bowhunter's TV Mike Carney visited with Evan Williams, pro staff manager for Hoyt Archery, to learn about the new RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum and Ventum 33 bows.w Product - Hoyt

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

After a fall of testing new 2021 Mathews products on the road as he filmed new episodes for Bowhunter Magazine's television program, editor Curt Wells had an exciting visit with Mark Hayes, Mathews design engineer, as the pair looked at the new V3 27 and V3 31 bows.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

With its innovative gas system and shooter-friendly features, the Savage Renegauge semiauto shotgun ushers in a new era of American firearm design and function.Savage Renegauge Shotgun Review: A Fast-Shooting, Smooth-Cycling Semiauto SHOT Show

Savage Renegauge Shotgun Review: A Fast-Shooting, Smooth-Cycling Semiauto

Scott Haugen - November 16, 2020

With its innovative gas system and shooter-friendly features, the Savage Renegauge semiauto...

The Havoc RS440 XERO, Havoc RS440 and Siege RS410 bring cutting-edge tech to your hunt.New for 2021 from TenPoint Crossbows Crossbows

New for 2021 from TenPoint Crossbows

Game and Fish Staff - December 29, 2020

The Havoc RS440 XERO, Havoc RS440 and Siege RS410 bring cutting-edge tech to your hunt.

Get ready to braise ground venison with all the traditional chili ingredients, directly on the grill, for a smokin' hot take on this comfort food classic.Smoked Venison Chili Recipe Wild Game

Smoked Venison Chili Recipe

Eva Shockey - October 16, 2020

Get ready to braise ground venison with all the traditional chili ingredients, directly on the...

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing

If you're seeking a trophy salmon this summer, here's where to go.Point to Point for Chinook on Lower Lake Michigan Trout & Salmon

Point to Point for Chinook on Lower Lake Michigan

Mike Gnatkowski - August 06, 2020

If you're seeking a trophy salmon this summer, here's where to go.

Try Rainy River, Lake of the Woods, for a mid-summer dream trip.Summer Family Fishing in Midwest: A Minnesota Mixed Bag Playbook

Summer Family Fishing in Midwest: A Minnesota Mixed Bag

Mike Pehanich - July 27, 2020

Try Rainy River, Lake of the Woods, for a mid-summer dream trip.

Summer is fast approaching and the fish—from trout and bass to panfish and salmon—are biting. Here's a look at some of the West's hottest bites in the months to come.West's Hottest Summer Fishing Destinations Playbook

West's Hottest Summer Fishing Destinations

Scott Haugen

Summer is fast approaching and the fish—from trout and bass to panfish and salmon—are biting....

When the weather turns sultry, these Midwest locales offer prime action for channel catfish.Midwest Hotspots for Channel Catfish Catfish

Midwest Hotspots for Channel Catfish

Keith Sutton - July 14, 2020

When the weather turns sultry, these Midwest locales offer prime action for channel catfish.

See More Fishing

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now