Top Spots for Virginia Fishing in 2012
February 22, 2012
During the past few years I have really enjoyed putting together this article, which runs each February. The challenge is to limit the fishing picks each month to three. Our sources are a great help and we feel confident that you will find these choices well worth a day on the water this year.
Lake Moomaw is located in a remote but beautiful portion of Virginia. With its beauty comes some great fishing. If the lake is not iced over in January, the brown trout fishing can be fantastic, according to VDGIF fisheries biologist Paul Bugas. Anglers itching to get out of the house or wet a line will find that the brown trout are feeding on alewives at approximately 20 feet at this time of year. A good fish finder will show the bait balls and fish feeding. Anglers can take two fish 16 inches or longer, per day. Local ice and lake conditions can be had from the Army Corps of Engineers at 540-965-4117.
February can be a fickle month but often brings with it a few days of warmer weather. On a string of warm days, urban anglers that desire to wet a line without suffering too much will find very productive fishing in the urban lakes near Richmond, Fredericksburg, in the Tidewater region and in Northern Virginia. VDGIF stocks a number of small lakes and ponds located near urban areas with a variety of trout, including rainbow, brown and sometimes golden trout.
A light- or medium-action rod and some brightly colored spinners, spoons and even small jigs will put fish in the bucket. Popular baits include Berkley Power Bait in the trout formula, salmon eggs or red wigglers. Sometimes shiners will work too. See http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/trout/urban/ for a list of waters near you. This is an easy to fish destination that can be done from the bank.
The New River
This first month of spring is a hot time for prespawn smallmouth action on the New River below Claytor Lake according to John Copeland, fisheries biologist working the southwestern area of Virginia.
"At this time of year the fish are still in the deeper, slower water but are concentrated in holes with structure prior to the spawn. Anglers need to be aware that the water levels tend to fluctuate in this section of the river," Copeland advised.
He went on to say that the possibility of catching a quality bronzeback was quite good. Some fish stretching over 20 inches are available thanks to a record 2004-2005 year class and spawn.
"There was little competition for food with the 2006 year class. But the 2007 year class was the third best and those fish should be in the 8- to 11-inch range now," he added.
The 2010 spawn here was the second highest recorded. The future bodes well for smallie anglers on the New River.
A float trip from Eggleston to Pembroke should be productive. Work eddies and ledges with tube baits in a very slow drag or hop fashion to sink a hook in a nice fish. Soft plastics may also be worked the same way. For bait fishermen, jumbo minnows and crayfish will rarely disappoint. Take pictures of the largest fish and release them when possible for another day and another angler.
Briery Creek Lake
Briery Creek Lake pops up as a good destination many months in this publication and for good reason. The trophy largemouth fishing in this impoundment is arguably the best in the state. During April the largemouth will be spawning so look for fish in less than five feet of water. Given all the standing timber they can be found anywhere so no certain portion of the lake will be much better than the other.
Vic DiCenzo, fisheries biologist, highly recommends using soft plastic baits or jigs with a subtle approach when fishing the spawn. The largest fish will spawn in early to mid April so the potential for a trophy is quite good. A slot of 14 to 24 inches is in effect. Remember to take your camera with you!
Find the top spots for Virginia Fishing in 2012 for May, June, July, and August on page two!
If I had to choose only one destination for fishing the month of May I would locate the nearest pond and go bream fishing. The bream are on the beds and the weather is ripe to take a kid fishing or introduce a spouse or friend to fast action on the water. Any farm pond or millpond will hold bream. This month, the largest fish can be found in the shallows aggressively guarding their nests.
One of the simplest and most fun ways to catch these feisty panfish is to get a tube of crickets from your local bait shop and arm yourself with an ultralight spinning or spin cast rod and reel. Pinch a small piece of splitshot on the line above a number 4 hook and weave a cricket or grasshopper on the hook. Wire hooks with long shanks work well and can be pulled free of snags and rebent to get back in the action quickly. Red wigglers and nightcrawlers will also work.
Upper Rappahanock River
One specie/location we have not featured is the redbreast sunfishing opportunity on the upper Rappahannock. Typically the upper Rapp is known for its amazing numbers of smallmouth. However, the redbreast sunfish fishery has been a well-kept secret. The sunfish have done exceedingly well on this stretch of the river and are not only feisty but fat as well. John Odenkirk reports that the redbreast have been average to above average in size on the Rapp for a number of years.
Float fishing and stopping to wade fish is the ideal method. Anglers can put canoes in the water from any of the VDGIF canoe launches on the river or the Rappahannock River Campground near the Rapidan and Rappahannock confluence. The trip from Kelly's Ford to the campground is an easy day trip as is the trip from Motts Landing down to Fredericksburg. Both sections are full of sunfish.
Toss Beetle Spins and small jigs with curly tail grubs on them into eddies and especially near fallen woody structure in deeper water. Don't overlook the sandy pits and channels in the middle of the river either. Live bait is always a good choice for a heavy stringer too!
If I had to go fish in July and wanted to be sure I got consistent fishing I would take a trip to Back Bay for white perch. Typically we think of white perch as a spring fish or even a fall fish. However, Chad Boyce, VDGIF fisheries biologist, shared with me the outstanding bite during the middle of the summer.
"Fish with Beetle spins or fresh shrimp near the channel and along cut banks on marsh islands or grassy points. A light action rod is great fun with these fish. The fish tend to be a half pound or larger."
Make casts to water less than 3 feet deep. Don't be surprised to catch dozens of perch. If you don't get a bite after a half dozen casts, then move on. There are two state owned ramps. One is on Mill Landing Road and the other is off Back Bay Landing Rd. Private ramps are available too.
The middle of the summer is a hot time to be on the water. Many anglers have found that the croaker fishing has really gotten to its peak by August
and the fish are fat and busy putting on weight for their fall spawning run down to the Virginia Beach area and off the North Carolina coast.
Favorite hotspots include the lower Rappahannock River, lower Potomac, Gloucester Point and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Fish the brackish reaches of the tidal rivers up until late August for a consistent bite. Once the first tropical storm arrives, the fish tend to start heading to the lower bay.
Fishing over oyster beds like the ones found near Tappahannock on the Rapp and around the mouths of rivers such as at Gloucester Point are very productive. Rental boats can be had out of Garrett's Marina near Tappahannock on the Rapp and at Aqua Land on the Maryland side of the Rt. 301 bridge on the Potomac River. Pier fishing at Gloucester and even down at Virginia Beach is worth a trip. Shrimp has become a new favorite of these hard fighting fish, with clam snouts, squid and Fish Bites working almost as well. Use a #4 or #2 hook and just enough weigh to keep the bait on the bottom.
Find the best bets for Virginia Fishing in 2012 for September, October, November, and December on page three!
September is a transition month as the weather begins to cool and tropical systems have changed up the salinity of many waters. However, the first part of the month is red hot for the largest bluefish of the year in the Chesapeake Bay. These toothy predators roam the channel areas of the Chesapeake chasing menhaden and other small baitfish. They are effective at finding and ringing the dinner bell and leaving a frothy chumslick in their wake as they chow down. Diving birds often mark the location of a good feed.
Begin your search for the larger bluefish in deeper water of the channel, but near structure too. The Target Ship off Point Lookout is a good location. Further down the bay the channel near Tangier and then off Windmill Point at the mouth of the Rappahannock is usually a productive spot. Other good bets include Bluefish Rock off Poquoson and the CBBT where the bay is funneled through several channels between the islands, creating quite a current and chokepoint for baitfish.
Anglers usually troll for these toothy fish with spoons or large, colorful surgical eels. Change up your colors to find which one the fish favor on that particular day. Put out multiple rods on planers to get the baits down to various depths. Once the fish begin hitting change over your baits to that particular color and depth.
Laurel Bed Lake
Laurel Bed Lake is located in beautiful southwest Virginia and is home to some of the year's best smallmouth action. The lake sits atop Clinch Mountain WMA and is 330 acres in size. George Palmer, VDGIF fisheries biologist was willing to share some facts about the fishing there.
"Anglers will find smallmouth all over the lake but the dam and the left side facing the dam seems to be popular. Focus on wood structure."
Rock bass were unwelcome fish in the reservoir and smallmouth were stocked to help keep their population in check. For this reason the smallmouth fishing is catch and release only. Although the size of fish that anglers catch varies, landing a trophy fish over 17 inches is not uncommon. Take a camera and enjoy the fall scenery that surrounds you when you photograph your smallie catch.
Come Thanksgiving most outdoorsmen are in the woods with a gun in hand. However, who venture out to the James River find the trophy blue catfish action to be turning on in a big way. In fact, once the weather gets consistently cool the fish can be found in deep holes or near ledges that are located in conjunction with structure. The best stretch of river seems to be the Dutch Gap area to Richmond, but any stretch of the river can produce giant fish.
Use a fish finder, fresh bait (usually shad) and look for structure before putting out your lines. The fish tend to be more concentrated once the water cools.
Remember, blue catfish over 90 pounds have been caught from the river. Use appropriate gear for these mammoth fish.
Kerr Reservoir is the place to be in December for large striped bass, according to VDGIF fisheries biologist, Vic DiCenzo.
"Striped bass are spread nicely throughout the reservoir during December. Check out the mouths of the creeks such as Grassy, Eastland and even into Nutbush."
Live bait is the best bet but large swim baits or umbrella rigs will also work. Use a cast net to catch fresh bait. Remember there is a special regulation in effect: Stripers must be 26 inches long and only two may be creeled.