School is winding down and the kids are anxious to get outside and do something. Obviously fishing is a great choice for parents looking to do something outdoors with their kids. This year we have added bonus information about other activities that might appeal to families in the nearby area.
An exciting place for anglers to take their families to fish in this region is the 360-acre lake at Waller Mill Park. Scott Herrmann, fisheries biologist for the region, told us that the impoundment has a high abundance of 2- to 3-pound largemouth bass, plenty of sunfish and even some 10-inch white perch!
Bass anglers will find that plastics that mimic shad or RatLTraps work well. Fish the structure in deeper water in May as the fish have just completed spawning.
Sunfish anglers will find plenty of bites on worms and crickets in the backs of coves, near brushpiles or under tree limbs. For this reason, adults might want to do the casting for the youngest anglers. White perch are usually on the move but once the angler finds them these fish respond well to small crankbaits, red wigglers, small minnows and even bits of shrimp.
Waller Mill Park has a new fishing pier just off the point near the old boat ramp. The City of Williamsburg is putting in a new boat ramp as of press time. There are 15 Jon boats to rent: for $20 a day and you get the boat, trolling motor, battery and a chance to explore the whole place.
Launching your own boat will cost $6 and a parking fee of $2 is also charged most days. There are picnic areas, fields, and playground equipment, and a 9-hole Disc Golf Course and discs for rent. www.williamsburgva.gov/Index.aspx?page=477.
Along The Way
Waller Mill Park is located about 5 minutes away from downtown Williamsburg. There are numerous historical attractions in downtown Williamsburg, including Colonial reenactments that occur daily on the streets, self-guided and guided tours that history buffs will enjoy no matter their age, shops with a Colonial theme, and outlet shopping. All are within minutes of Waller Mill Park. www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/do/
Busch Gardens is also minutes away and offers the entire family shops, rides and food with a European theme. Families with children should find the park educational and fun.
SOUTHERN PIEDMONT REGION
Families looking for a great place to fish and have a good time would do well to look at the Bear Creek State Park in Cumberland County. Dan Goetz, aquatic biologist with VDGIF, pointed out that the 50-acre impoundment is within the 16,000 acres of Cumberland State Forest and it has an exceptional largemouth bass fishery. The small lake also has plenty of great crappie and willing bream. Channel catfish are stocked annually. With plenty of shoreline access and willing fish, families will have fun wetting a line.
There is a handicap pier and park open from 8 a.m. to sunset. Bass must be 15 inches to creel; the limit is 2 per person per day. Electric motors only. The park also offers camping, restroom facilities, swimming beach, boat rentals, and many other amenities.
Along The Way
Families that are history buffs might want to take in some Civil War stops such as Little Sailors Creek Battlefield State Park or High Bridge State Park. where you can walk or bike 125 feet above the Appomattox River near Farmville. The bridge provides a great view and is nearly a mile long!
Make plans to visit the Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox, Virginia and the famous courthouse where General Lee signed the surrender to the Civil War. If the weather is hot and steamy, consider a tubing trip on the James River where the family can cool off less than an hour's drive over in Scottsville via James River Runners Inc.
SOUTHERN MOUNTAIN REGION
Hungry Mother Lake State Park is a great family destination in Smyth County near I-81 and Marion. The lake is 118 acres and has plenty of bass, bluegill, crappie and channel catfish to keep anglers busy.
Cast small jigs or minnows for crappie near bushes and brush in the water. Dragging nightcrawlers in coves and off points with a split shot will likely earn a bluegill bite but don't be surprised to catch a bass or catfish either.
Bass will take typical bass baits and lures cast near woody structure or near vegetation. Bass and catfish must be 18 inches to creel. Hungry Mother State Park can be reached at (276) 781-7400. There is plenty of shoreline access and miles of trails at the lake. Cabins, canoes and boats are available to rent.
Another option for families is Rural Retreat Lake, which is east of Hungry Mother and south of I-81. There is plenty of bank fishing access and a new fishing pier. Kids will find the bluegill and crappie willing. There is a limit of one 18-inch bass per day at Rural Retreat and a limit of 20 catfish per day.
Until June 15, anglers who possess a trout stamp can fish the 2-acre pond nearby that is stocked with trout.
Wythe County Parks and Recreation has a campground, swimming pool, picnic area and a concession stand to get snacks, bait and tackle.
Along The Way
The Hungry Mother State Park schedules Bird Hikes each week for visitors. Bring your binoculars and field guide! There is also an outdoor festival scheduled for May 21 where families can learn about arts, crafts, fishing, outdoor photography and more. Just minutes away in Marion off Highway 16 is the VDGIF Marion Trout Hatchery, which is open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. Learn about the life cycle of trout and what VDGIF does to raise trout to stock in various waters throughout Virginia.
NORTHERN MOUNTAIN REGION
Families looking for angling fun here will find that crystal-clear Lake Robertson in Rockbridge County fits the bill. Largemouths, channel catfish, bluegill and redear sunfish can be caught from the bank.
Use bluegill-colored crankbaits or live minnows for the largemouth bass. Beaver lodges and the weedlines are the key places to cast lures and bait.
The sunfish will hit red wigglers, crickets or pieces of night crawlers, particularly near structure such as hinge trees or in coves. Channel catfish are thriving at Robertson and can be caught on chicken liver or worms. Savvy anglers will sometimes take nice walleye by casting colorful jigs tipped with minnows and working them around the riprap areas.
There is a concrete boat launch and a handicap fishing pier as well as a fish-cleaning station available. A concession stand rents out boats, campsites and sells bait and snacks.
Along The Way
Lexington is the final resting place for both of the Confederate Army's top generals, Lee and Jackson. Also nearby at Natural Bridge, is the Virginia Safari Park where families can drive through 180 acres and see up to 1,000 free roaming animals. Some of the animals can be fed, pet and photographed. www.virginiasafaripark.com/
Speaking of Natural Bridge, the 215 foot high limestone arch was purchased by Thomas Jefferson. There is a Monacan Indian Living History Exhibit at the end of Cedar Creek Trail. At dark, a light and music presentation about the seven days of creation is projected on the walls of the bridge.
NORTHERN PIEDMONT REGION
Despite the urban setting, the Northern Piedmont Region has two great places to go fishing with the family. Lake Burke (218 acres) in Fairfax has plenty of bank access, good largemouth bass angling, plenty of sunfish and channel catfish.
The largemouth population is in good shape, with a number of fish over 15 inches. However, because there are plenty of baitfish for the bass to eat, they can be tough to entice. Use shad-colored jerk baits near structure such as treetops or logs.
The bluegill are small but numerous — they are sure to keep the younger anglers busy. Cast red wigglers or crickets under bobbers to marked fish attractors or other structure along the bank. Channel catfish are plentiful and willing customers and average several pounds. Fishing is best early morning and late evening on weekdays. On weekends the park gets very busy.
There are two ramps at the lake. The VDGIF ramp near the dam requires a $5 launch fee and an $8 entrance fee for non-Fairfax County visitors. Nearby are handicapped fishing piers, which are lighted. At the mid-lake region is the Burke Lake Park ramp, and a park concession, which has rental boats, bait, tackle, and snacks. There is also a jogging or bike trail, campground, and golf. Because Burke is a public fishing lake, remote control boats, dog training, paddle boats or sail boats are prohibited.
To get to Burke Lake: I-95 - take 123 West at Woodbridge. Burke Park will be on the right just before Burke Lake Road.
Another great place to take the kids fishing for a few hours is Locust Shade Park in Prince William County. This 8-acre lake is stocked with catchable size channel catfish in May and has some bluegill and largemouth bass in it too. Use worms or chicken liver to keep your kids engaged in some great eating. The limit is four catfish per person per day.
Along The Way
The NRA Firearms Museum is located off 11250 Waples Mill Road in Fairfax less than a half hour away. The museum has 15 galleries and over 3,000 firearms, including military and Hollywood pieces that the entire family is sure to enjoy. Admission is free. www.nramuseum.org/museums/national-firearms-museum.aspx
Also just down I-66 to Rt. 29 is Bull Run Shooting Center at Centreville. Shooting lessons, trap, skeet and sporting clays for all ages. Bull Run is a first-class educational shooting center. If you are fishing at Locust Shade Park, be sure to stop in to the Marine Corps Museum. This museum is top notch and interactive with life size displays, a gift shop and even a mock rifle range to try out the Marine Corps M-16!
THE SALT LIFE
Gloucester Point Beach Park, located in Gloucester at the mouth of the York River, is a great place to take a family for some inshore saltwater angling beginning in May and anytime during the summer. Crabs can be caught on chicken wings while croaker and spot are commonly caught with Fishbites or bloodworms on bottom rigs from the long pier that is free to fish from. Sometimes flounder and striped bass get pulled in too. The pier boasts handicapped parking and accessibility.
There are two concrete ramps and courtesy piers nearby to launch your own boat. The park offers a concession, grills, picnic areas, playground, restrooms, a nice beach, swimming and volleyball areas.
Along The Way
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) is located right next door to the park. The VIMS Watermen's Hall Visitors Center is open to the public on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
VIMS has after-hours lectures and Discovery Labs for all ages. There are also tours. Watch out for the Marine Science Day in May. Families can examine the science equipment, help catch aquatic creatures and learn about the VIMS Teaching Marsh, seafood cooking and lab tours too! www.vims.edu/public/msd/index.php For more information, visit the events calendar or call 804-684-7061.