January 26, 2015
If you have not made up your list of places to go fish this season now is a good time to do so. After doing extensive research we came up with a list of local waters that are especially productive for the month they are listed.
Urban Ponds Trout
The urban trout program provides a very popular way for anglers, particularly those in urban areas, to ward off cabin fever. With regular stockings at seven ponds and lakes across the state, not to mention designated stocked waters, anglers who have the itch to catch fish in the middle of winter are never far from a fresh fish meal.
The fish in the urban trout program average at least a pound and often 2 to 3 pounds. Anglers will need a trout license. Second, the fish will hit better if light line is used with flashy spinners or lures. Rarely will anglers do well to just leaving their bait on the bottom. Give it a twitch from time to time. Many times the fish will follow the bait to the shoreline. Wear drab colors and fish quietly to maximize your catch.
Other Options: Waller Mill Reservoir striper are known to hit trolled deep diving crankbaits or spoonbrellas this month. Crappie can be caught in the large tributaries of Buggs Island. The fish will be hugging ledges coupled with structure.
Sandy River Reservoir Crappie
Sandy River Reservoir, at 740 acres, is usually known as a big bass haunt — but the crappie fishing there can be quite good. The fish average over 9 inches and some grow up to 12 inches. This impoundment is located in Prince Edward County near Farmville.
Sandy River does not have the amount of cover that nearby Briery Creek Reservoir does, but with less structure available the fish are easier to find. Keep in mind that the treetops that were sunk in the reservoir years ago are likely deteriorated now.
Dan Michaelson, VDGIF fisheries biologist, noted that the crappie fishery is better now than it was ten years ago and the fish are more numerous in the impoundment. Use traditional crappie rigs but don't be afraid to slowly troll with several lines out at various depths until the fish are located. A good area to start looking is the Marrowbone arm of the reservoir along the ledge or channel.
Other Options: Lake Anna crappie are hitting 1/8-ounce jigs tipped with minnows on deep structure. Walleye are taking live minnows free floated in pools on the upper New River.
Lake Orange Crappie
Lake Orange (124 acres) is a consistent producer of crappie averaging a pound or more. Mike Isel, VDGIF fisheries biologist, noted that creel surveys show crappie harvested here average 10.5 inches. Isel also said that once the water temperatures at Orange hit 60 degrees, the fish move shallow to spawn. Fish visible structure in the upper end of the lake to find the fish. Don't be afraid to fish deeper to catch the larger fish, particularly on cooler days in early March.
Other Options: James River anglers can find stripers at the fall line in Richmod by casting bucktailed jigs or shads in the riffles. South Holsten walleye are running upriver and can be taken with diving crankbaits from shore.
Ponds Largemouth Bass
If I had only one trip to take where I could be outdoors all day in April, I would most certainly go armed with a shotgun for spring gobblers and round out my morning and afternoon with my bass rod fishing a nearby pond. Virginia is dotted with ponds and small lakes and even the smallest ones seem to have at least a few bruiser largemouth in them. Soft plastic creature baits fished across coves and along emerging lily pads is a an extremely effective technique. Take your time fishing among holes in the lily pads and along logs. If the water is really clear, make long casts to ensure you don't spook the fish.
Other Options: Crappie are hitting well in the coves at Hunting Run Reservoir in Spotsylvania County on minnows. On the Elizabeth River anglers find good speckled trout angling near the Hot Ditch. Consult regulations on creeling regulations this year.
Lake Gordon Largemouth Bass
Lake Gordon, at 157 acres, is home to a number of gamefish. Although the lake is small compared to nearby Buggs or Gaston, it supports a thriving population of quality largemouth bass. The bass in this lake average 3 to 4 pounds, according to Dan Michaelson of VDGIF, and some have been sampled up to 5 pounds.
Lake Gordon does not get a lot of fishing pressure and it looks fishy, with the tannic, colored water beckoning your favorite bass plugs. Successful anglers often use plastic worms in and around the edges. There is a slot limit of 14 to 18 inches and five bass per day creel limit.
Other Options: Virginia Beach anglers will greet the influx of croaker with squid baited bottom rigs. Up in the mountain region, Lake Frederick will be giving up good bream on crickets and red wigglers.
Lake Anna Striped Bass
Lake Anna, at 9,600 acres, can be a daunting place to fish for a newcomer. Striper are typically chasing bait at Anna at first and last light. Casting jigs loaded with sassy shads in white pearl or chartreuse, or casting topwater lures from the outside of a busting school of fish will be a summertime thrill. Approach feeding schools quietly so as not to disperse them.
If we have an early arrival to summer the striper retire to the depths to feed on shad along the channel edges and drop offs once the sun gets high in the sky. In this situation either live line fresh-caught lake herring to them or use Toothache spoons.
Other Options: Chunky Lake Brunswick bass can be caught readily in and around the vegetation with plastics. Bass are also readily caught with crayfish and minnows in National Forest Service lakes and ponds in the Northern Mountain Region.
Chesapeake Bay Flounder
Last year the flounder bite was quite good with many anglers getting into keeper-sized fish. Successful flattie anglers tend to have a couple of things in common. First, they use fresh bait and they change the bait out regularly. Second, successful anglers fish deep in cover and structure. Popular places to fish include the CBBT, the Cell, and around lighthouses and jetties.
There are many ways you can rig your baits but longer strips of bluefish, squid or squid minnow combinations are very popular. Use flashers of various colors to figure out what the fish are hitting more consistently. Also consider drifting to take advantage of covering more fish territory with more than one bait.
Other Options: Motts Run Reservoir in Spotsylvania has been a consistent producer of great channel catfish action using chicken liver. At Virginia Beach, Spanish mackerel are hitting in 25 to 30 feet of water on trolled Drone spoons.
Chesapeake Bay Cobia
Cobia anglers saw a banner year last year in the Chesapeake with the bite beginning in June and lasting into September. There are two basic ways to hook these fish. First, many anglers find structure such as wrecks, shoals or the CBBT and chum heavily while freelining bait. Spot are a favorite bait but eels or peeler crab will work too. Other anglers motor around to various pieces of structure, including buoys and even floating debris, and sight cast to them with bait or soft bodied jigs. Cobia can be finicky fish and tough to catch on some days — but they are easily seen.
Other Options: The Potomac River is overloaded with blue catfish, which are easily caught on cutbait. Big Tumbling Creek located on the Clinch Mountain WMA offers great stocked trout fishing for anglers using flies or spinners.
Chesapeake Bay Spanish Mackerel And Bluefish
Very likely the most consistent bite during September is the Spanish mackerel and bluefish bite. If you want to put meat in the cooler and have a great time doing so you should target these two species. Both species are easily caught while trolling spoons such as Clarke or Drone. The macks tend to favor the spoons with a flasher on them while the blues are not as picky. However, to consistently catch macks, your trolling speed has to be between 6 and 7 knots. Bluefish will hit your rigs at slower speeds. I often deploy my spread of 3-4 rods and troll fast at 6-7 knots to hook the Spanish. Once I get a knockdown and my fishing partner starts winding in that fish, I slow the boat down slightly to allow the fish to be landed. This often results in another rod taking a hit from a bluefish.
Other Options: The Rappahannock largemouth bass fishery has been great lately using jigs and plastics on woody structure from Fredericksburg down to Port Royal. A float trip on the Clinch River for smallies is productive with small crankbaits thrown to eddies and worked through pools.
Jackson River Tail Waters Wild Trout
I spoke to Jason Hallacher of VDGIF about trout fishing. He explained that fall is so gorgeous at the Jackson River tail waters near the Moomaw Dam that it is a hard choice to pass up. Wild rainbows and browns are available and there is no restriction as to what type of gear that you can use. All will work fine in the hands of a trout angler. During October the fish will hit pretty much any traditional lure, fly or bait depending on weather conditions. Watch the hatch and look for live bait in the water to determine what patterns you should use. Be sure to consult the regulations before hitting the river.
Other Options: Tidal creeks are pickerel factories at this time of year when using spinners or spoons. Meanwhile, the confluence of Dragon Run and the upper Piankatank holds an incredible number of bowfin that will destroy any old bass spinnerbait or buzzbait.
Chesapeake Bay Stripers
Bay anglers saw a solid year last year for large stripers in the Chesapeake Bay. At the beginning of the month anglers were catching fish in the 20-to 30-inch class and the fish just kept getting bigger through December. Trolling the middle bay and lower bay is the traditional method of catching Mr. Linesides. Large umbrella spreads or sassy shad parachute rigs in bright colors at various depths is key to hooking up. Anglers should head for the channel areas of the bay and use their fish finder to locate the fish feeding on bait. A charter captain can teach you a lot about finding and catching a trophy striped bass. I have learned a lot about fishing from Captain Ryan Rogers of The Midnight Sun Charters over the years. It is hard to beat a fresh caught striper wrapped in aluminum foil and baked on hot coals on a chilly fall day!
Other Options: South Fork of the Holsten River is great for trout fishing. Anglers fishing Lake Thompson on G.R. Thompson WMA will find that stocked trout are available and often hungry for offerings.
Whitetop Laurel Creek Trout
Whitetop Laurel Creek is a beautiful creek to fish for trout, and winter is a good time to do it. Most of the fish sought on the creek are the wild rainbows averaging 10 inches, but there are some brown and brook trout too. A weighted nymph such as the Prince or stonefly patterns fished very slowly through the deeper pools is best. Sneak up and be stealthy as the water is super clear.
Other Options: Anglers are finding open water and good striped bass angling at Claytor Lake trolling umbrella rigs. Other are hitting the James River with huge circle hooks and chunks of mud shad to stick monster blue catfish.