So you want to start bass fishing?

Article by Jeff Banko

I was lucky enough to have a father that was a pretty serious fishermen who showed me the ropes when it came to tackle and equipment needs as I was starting out at a very young age.  Many of you are not lucky like I was.  All too often I see people that would really love to get into fishing especially for bass but become very frustrated and give it up because they are improperly outfitted.  Because of this I decided to try and share some of the knowledge I have gained in my 28 or so years of fishing and write something on the needs of a fishermen trying to get into bass fishing.

Rods and Reels

The first thing a person who wants to get into bass fishing will need to do is get themselves some rods and reels.  As a beginner my advice is to keep this as simple as you can.  I know you will see many seasoned vets, myself included, out there with a whole boat load of rod and reel combos but since you are just starting you don’t need to go that far.   I would suggest you do the following:

1)      Decide how much you are willing to spend but don’t go overboard.  You can buy quality reels for around $30 dollars and quality rods for around $30 – $40.  These reels will be good enough for you at this point, by no means garbage, and will easily serve you as you are learning to love the sport.  It won’t make sense for you to spend the big dollars on rod and reels right now because frankly I don’t think you would be able to notice the difference and appreciate them with a beginners  skill level.  Be patient buy the good stuff when you are good enough to really judge what you want.

2)      Get yourself one Spinning reel.  Look for a reel that will hold an ample amount of 8-10 pound test line.  Usually these will be in the 30 or 3000 series of  a reel for example I use Quantum, Catalyst 30PTi reels that will hold 160 yards of 8 pound test.  Have the reel spooled with 8 or 10 pound monofilament line.  Do not skimp on the line.  This is the one area where as a beginner you need to spend money.  Cheap line will make your life a nightmare with tangles and broken knots, etc…

3)      Match the spinning reel you choose to a rod of 6 or 6 ½ feet in a medium action graphite rod.

4)       Buy yourself a decent casting reel.  I prefer low profile design reels but you will have to make the choice of low profile or round body yourself.  In bass size reels you usually won’t have to make a decision on the line capacity for a reel.  The one thing you may see are different retrieve ratios.  Common ones are 6.1:1 or 5.2:1, what this means is the rate at which the reel brings like in.  A 6.1:1 reel will bring in line quicker than a 5.2:1.  Since you are a beginner go with the 6.1:1.  I believe it will be the best suited for your needs.  On the casting reel line with 10 to 14 pound test monofilament.  See my comments above about cheap line.

5)      Match the casting reel to a 6’ Medium action rod.

6)      Once you have your rods and reels practice your casting, especially with the casting reel/rod combo, in your yard or any open area.  Nothing will be more frustrating to you than trying to learn to cast while on the water where there are lots of things for you to snag.  I am not going to go into the details of casting a spinning reel or casting reel as there are plenty of places to go to find that out.  I will however pass on this piece of advice on setting up your casting reel before you cast.  On the reel there is a cast control knob, usually located behind the handle.  This knob controls the spools ability to spin freely.  To adjust this tie on whatever you are going to cast then hold the rod tip up a little.  Click open the reels spool release.  Whatever you have tied on should begin to fall.  If it does not then loosen up the cast control knob until it does.  If it does then proceed to the next step.  To set the knob right let your lure or weight to fall to the ground if the spool continues to spin once the lure hits the ground then tighten the knob slightly.  Continue to do this until the spool allows the lure to fall freely but then stops as soon as the lure hits.  Set the knob like this and it will help you avoid, not eliminate, some of the backlashes you are going to encounter.

Lure Selection

Now you have your rods and reels and they are all lined up to go, what kind of tackle do you need?  As with the rods and reels keep it simple.  Usually as you fish for bass more and more you will find techniques and tackle that you will like to fish more then others and you can specialize your buying toward that.  Right now since you are just starting it is a little harder because you really need to cover quite a few bases to find out what you like but still keep it simple.  Essentially lures can be broken down into a few categories:

  • Hardbaits (Crankbaits, Lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, etc…)
  • Softbaits  (Plastic Worms, Senkos, Lizards, etc…)
  • Topwaters   (Buzzbaits, prop baits, poppers, jitterbugs, etc…)
  • Spinnerbaits
  • Jigs
  • Terminal Tackle

You need to attack this like the old daily food group thing where you were supposed to have items from each group.

Hardbaits

For hardbaits I would look to get the following

  • 1 crankbait that will run 4 – 6 feet deep in a shad or bluegill pattern i.e.  Rebel Wee R,  Rapala DT6, Bomber model A, etc…
  • 1 crankbait that will run 8 – 12  feet deep in a shad or bluegill pattern i.e.  Rebel Wee R,  Rapala DT10, Bomber model A, etc…
  • 1 lipless crankbait, ½ oz in a shad pattern i.e.  a Rat L Trap, or Rapala Rattlin Rap, etc…
  • 1 long minnow type bait (jerkbait) in a natural pattern i.e Rapala Husky Jerk, Smithwick Rogue, Bomber Long A, etc…

Softbaits

For softbaits look at:

  • Plastic worms with a ribbon tail in 6” or 8”. Need a few colors, pumpkin, watermelon, Blue or Blue Black, Red shad.
  • Senkos or similiar bait in same colors.
  • Lizards in same colors.

Topwater

For topwater:

  • Buzzbaits, one with a white skirt and one with a Chartreuse or Chartreuse w/white skirt.
  • Something like a Rebel Pop R.

Spinnerbaits

For Spinnerbaits:

  • ¼ oz with combo blades (1 willow leaf, 1 colorado) with a white skirt and one with a Chartreuse or Chartreuse w/white skirt.
  • 3/8 oz  with combo blades (1 willow leaf, 1 colorado) with a white skirt and one with a Chartreuse or Chartreuse w/white skirt.

Jigs

As far as Jigs for a beginner I would not go there.  Jigs are great for catching really big bass but in general you will not catch nearly as many.  Since I am writing this for a beginner my biggest concern is to suggest what will catch more fish.

 Terminal Tackles

  • You will need hooks for rigging your softbaits.  Get yourself some 3/0 worm hooks they will cover your needs for now.
  • Weight – Buy an assortment of bullet weights ranging from 1/16 oz on up to ½ oz.

 

The above selection is obviously not all inclusive but I think it would definitely give you a good selection of items to get you started on the right track.

Where to learn what to do?

Now you have your rods and reels, where can you go to learn how to fish for Bass? Your lucky in that aspect.  This sport has taken off and because of the there is just a wealth of information out there.  Here is what I would do.

 

1)      Search the web, there are plenty of sites, like mine where you are reading this article, that can provide you great info on how to fish for bass.  A few notables are:  Bassdozer.com, Bassresource.com, BassBoatCentral.com, Bassfishingusa.com.  These sites provide info. For all levels of bass fishermen.  Also most of them have forums, as does this site fishingva.com, where you can interact with other fisher persons.  Do not hesitate to go to the forums and ask your questions?  That is the beauty of bass fishing, most of us will help another out without question.  Don’t hesitate to try and get to fish with some of the people you meet on forums.  A lot of more advance anglers like to help new fishermen out so take advantage of that.

2)      READ.  There are a lot of books and magazines out there that cover Bass fishing topics.   As a beginner I would tend to go more to books.  The magazines are great but cater more to advanced angler.  If you do go for magazines some of the ones that are not bass fishing specific  may be better for you as a beginner as they will cover things more general.  Check out Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, and mags like that.

3)      Go to your local tackle shop and talk to the people there.  One thing about us bass fishermen is we love to talk about out sport.  Take advantage of that and go pick the brains of your local experts.

4)      Watch fishing shows on TV.  I know it may seem like watching paint dry but you can learn a lot from doing this.  What you need to do is make sure you watch the shows with the mind set of you are going to learn.  Really pay attention not only to what the people on the show say but also to what they do.  You can learn just by seeing things like how they cast, etc…

 

That is all I have for what you need to do to get started.  Check back on the site often as I will be adding tactics whenever I can and one last thing….

Nottoway Lake Resource Page

Information gathered from Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries

Lake Regulations

Outboard motor use restricted to 10 HP or less.

The following are prohibited on this property: swimming, open air fires, trapping, trotlines, littering, sailboats, camping.

Hours of use: 24 hours per day.

Largemouth bass – no fish between 12-15 inches, 5 per day
Sunfish – no size limit, 50 per day
Crappie – no size limit, 25 per day

Largemouth Bass

The current fishery supports a healthy population of largemouth bass due in part to a 12 ? 15 inch protected slot limit in effect since 1990. The slot limit was imposed to allow harvest of ample numbers of largemouth less than 12 inches and still provide an opportunity to catch quality fish. Good numbers of largemouth bass in the one to three pound range are abundant with a few bass in the seven to ten pound range caught occasionally. Growth rates for largemouth are very good compared to the state average with most fish reaching catchable size at age 3 and growing out of the slot limit just after age 6. The spring spawn is the best time of year to catch a trophy-sized fish. Spinnerbaits, plastic worms and crankbaits are best suited for bass from April until early June. During the summer months and on into the fall, jigs work best when working deep water where fish congregate these times of the year.

Sunfish

Bluegill and redear sunfish offer anglers in the spring a fantastic bank fishing opportunity. Spawning fish congregate in the spring on the shoreline along the dam where they are easily accessible. There are abundant numbers of both species weighing up to ? pound and the number of larger fish has been increasing over the last several years. This trend is expected to continue. Overhanging trees and submerged structure offer the best cover around which to find either of the sunfish species. Live bait, jigs and small crankbaits are the best lures for catching in the spring and summer months.

Crappie & Catfish

Black crappie and channel catfish provide fishermen with a good change of pace when fishing. Numbers of crappie in the lake are low, however the average size of those fish is excellent. Small minnow plugs and live minnows are the best bet for catching these tasty fish. The catfish fishery is sustained by stocking fish every year. Natural reproduction is not successful enough to maintain good numbers of fish so the department releases about 15 fish per acre each year.

Links

Blackstone Chamber of Commerce

Nottoway River Resource Page

Information gathered from Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries

Fishing Outlook

I’ve fished quite a few rivers across Virginia and if I had to choose a favorite, I’d have to pick the Nottoway. Actually, if I had to pick a favorite fishing spot, lake, or river, I’d pick the Nottoway. Sure, there are places where you can catch more fish, places where you can catch bigger fish, and places that may be a bit more scenic, but if you like catching fish, with some variety in sizes and species, plus have a little scenery tossed in as well, the Nottoway is worth checking out.

The Nottoway River is located in south central and southeastern Virginia. The river’s length is approximately 130 miles. It begins in Prince Edward and Lunenburg counties and flows southeasterly, forming a boundary for Nottoway-Lunenburg, Brunswick-Dinwiddie, and Greensville-Sussex counties, then meanders across Sussex and Southampton counties to its confluence with the Blackwater River at the North Carolina line, forming the Chowan River.

Above the Route 619 bridge on the Greensville-Sussex County line, the river is generally shallow, clear and fast flowing. There are numerous small rapids that prevent the use of outboard motors and large boats, but canoeists will find some nice float trips. Below Route 619, the river slows, deepens, and darkens as numerous swamps in the Coastal Plain join it. This part of the river, particularly in Southampton County, is large enough for bass boats during normal flows.

For anglers, the river’s fishery could also be divided at the Route 619 bridge. The upper river has numerous redbreast sunfish, smallmouth bass, and Roanoke bass. Below the bridge, bluegill, largemouth bass, black crappie, and channel catfish are more common. In the spring, anglers can catch blueback herring, American shad, striped bass, and white perch migrating upstream from North Carolina.

The fun part of fishing the Nottoway is you never know what you might catch. In one season of sampling fish and angling on the river, I saw 51 different species of fish. It’s not unusual to catch six or eight different species of fish on a given day on one lure. If you want to have some fun, switch lures and baits a couple of time and see how many species you can catch in a day. Every time I fished the river with someone, we ended up having a contest to see who could catch the most species, the most fish, and the biggest fish. The Nottoway is that kind of river. It’s not really a place for trophy fish seekers or those wanting to bring home dinner, though you certainly could. It’s the kind of place where a couple of fishing buddies can have a good time catching and releasing a wide variety of fish. The numbers aren’t bad either. If the water’s clear, you can shoot for catching a hundred fish in a day.

For anglers who don’t have a boat or can’t find a canoeing partner, there’s always wading. The Nottoway can be a great river to wade and fish in the summer and fall. You might want to avoid wading in the spring, because spring flows are typically a little strong, and the river can get muddy after a good rain. In the summer and fall though, the river is typically low and clear. Head for one of the bridge crossing accesses along Rt. 40, or better yet, head up to the Rt. 619 ramp and jump in! On a hot July day, nothing beats standing waist deep in a cool, clean river, catching Roanoke bass and smallmouth bass on an ultra-light rod. If you go wading at the Rt. 619 ramp, don’t worry if the water seems too cold when you step in. You are actually feeling the little spring creek that flows in next to the ramp, which is a lot colder than the river. Once you venture a few feet out into the river, the water’s perfect.

The Nottoway River is a four-season fishery. With its southeast location, the winter isn’t too server on the lower river, and anglers can catch some nice fish. Winter is a great time to fish the lower Nottoway River around Courtland for one pound and larger Roanoke bass. Find the deeper holes and fish on the bottom with small, live shiners. In recent years, a greater number of striped bass have been caught in the winter around the Rt. 258 bridge. To catch these angler favorites, use larger minnows, shad, and jigs.

In late February or early March, depending on water temperature, American shad, hickory shad, blueback herring, and alewife migrate upstream into the Nottoway on their annual spawning run. Southampton County is a good fishing spot early in the run, but most of the bigger American shad head upriver into Sussex County to spawn in the faster flowing water there. Peter’s Bridge Landing (Rt. 631) is a good place to launch a boat and drift shad darts and small spoons for shad. White perch and yellow perch also run up the river in the spring and can provide some good angling. Hungry striped bass will follow the shad and herring schools upstream and add some excitement to a quite day on the river. By late spring, largemouth bass and redear sunfish are active in the backwaters downstream of Courtland and are targeted by many anglers. The lower Nottoway River is an excellent location for one-pound plus size shellcrackers. Lily pad beds along the shore and in backwater sloughs hold some of the bigger fish.

The summertime offers good fishing throughout the river, but anglers will typically head either further upstream or further downstream depending on their preferred species. As the river gets warmer, many species will head upriver to find cooler, flowing water, while other seek out deep, quite pools in the lower river. Around the Fall Line, waders and canoeists can cast small spinners and floating crankbaits to entice smallmouth bass, Roanoke bass, and redbreast sunfish. Downriver, where channel catfish are biting well, bluegill and bass fishing can still be good. Longnose gar school in the pools and can be caught easily on live minnows. Gar will also hit slow moving surface lures in the summer. Fishing in Sussex County is especially rewarding at this time of year because you can catch a little bit of everything.

In the fall, fish will be fairly well distributed throughout the river. Water levels can be low and fish will have found the deeper pools to hang out in. The lower river provides better action as the water cools and fish start moving down to their winter pools. Basically, Nottoway fishing works on a cycle. Start the year far downstream; follow the shad upriver in the spring; go further up for the summer; and then come back downstream as water temperatures fall again.

There are a half dozen paved ramps and about a dozen canoe access areas along the Nottoway, providing boaters and anglers with a wide variety of float trips. There are more access sites and more water in the lower river. The upper river is sandy and shallow, so it is more suited to wading than boating. The first public boat access on the river is at Nottoway Falls on Route 49, south of Crewe (downstream of the Fort Pickett military reservation, the river is deeper and rockier). Canoes can be launched at Rt. 613 and each bridge downriver (except I-85) in Dinwiddie County. In Greensville County and further downstream, there are more public ramps and parking areas for anglers and boaters to enjoy the river. Give the Nottoway a try and I’ll bet it becomes on e of your favorites too. The scenery is nice and the float is very easy. The river is deeper here than upstream, so anglers can use small motors to cut the float time, allowing them more time to fish the good spots. This transition area from the fast flowing waters upstream and the slow, swampy areas downstream provides anglers the chance to catch a little bit of everything.

Fishing Limits

Black Bass (smallmouth and largemouth)

  • 5 per day in aggregate
    No length limits

Roanoke Bass

  • 5 per day in aggregate with rock bass
  • No Roanoke or rock bass less than 8 inches

Sunfish

  • 50 per day in aggregate
  • No length limits

Crappie

  • 25 per day
  • No length limits

Channel Catfish

  • 20 per day
  • No length limit

Maps

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Smith Mountain Lake Resource Page

Information gathered from Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries

Smith Mountain Lake is a 20,600-acre impoundment located near Roanoke in Bedford and Franklin counties. This reservoir is one of Virginia’s premier fisheries, offering outstanding fishing and other recreational opportunities. The reservoir was constructed in the early 1960’s and is owned by American Electric Power Company and is managed primarily for hydroelectric power generation. Most of the shoreline is developed with residential homes but other facilities catering to outdoor enthusiasts are found at various locations.

According to a creel survey conducted in 2003, the most sought after speices are Black bass, crappie, catfish, and sunfish. Annual stockings of striped bass are required to maintain the fishery since they do not reproduce successfullat at this reservoir. The other sportfish such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, white perch, yellow perch, channel catfish white catfish, and flathead catfish are all maintained through natural reproduction. The only species that are not managed with statewide regulations are black bass and striped bass.

Smith Mountain Lake has a numerous boat ramps (public and private) and marinas scattered throughout the reservoir. Smith Mountain Lake State Park is a major attraction with all it has to offer. Some of the parks options are picnic areas, a beach, campground, cabins, handicapped fishing pier, boat ramp, hiking trails and scenic views. Combining the lakes proximity to Roanoke and Lynchburg with residential development, visitors should expect heavy boat traffic during the summer months. However, anglers will find little competition during the cooler months.

Largemouth bass are the most sought after species by anglers at Smith Mountain Lake. Largemouth bass comprise the bulk of this fishery and outnumber smallmouth ten to one. Smith Mountain Lake is consistently one of the top producers of bass citations in Virginia. Testing for the largemouth bass virus was conducted in 2001 and all fish collected tested negative for the virus.

Largemouth bass fishing on this 20,600-acre lake is very good but this fishery receives a lot of pressure. Extensive electrofishing surveys (conducted by VDGIF fisheries biologists) each spring typically produce many largemouth bass in the 2-4 pound range. Surveys indicate the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass fishery has remained stable for several years, which is an improvement over the early 90s and 80s. The highest densities of largemouth bass in this reservoir is found upstream (heading away from the dam) of Hales Ford Bridge area in the Roanoke River arm and buoy B26 in the Blackwater River arm. Smallmouth bass are more evenly distributed throughout the reservoir. Piers and boathouses provide extensive shoreline cover that anglers should take advantage of. Additionally, natural structure such as fallen trees, rock shoals, and points, are seasonally productive. Coves typically produce the best largemouth bass angling opportunities due to shallower water and less boating traffic. Most anglers, fishing during the summer, fish at night or very early in the morning to avoid heavy boat traffic.

The striper fishery has to be the most notable fishery on Smith Mountain Lake. Striped bass are the second most popular sport fish at Smith Mountain Lake. Striped bass have been stocked into this reservoir since impoundment in 1963. Limited spawning habitat for striped bass prevents natural reproduction. Stocking is required to maintain the fishery unlike other species such as bass, crappie, catfish, and shad. Stocking rates for striped bass were increased from 300,000 to 450,000 fingerlings annually in 1998. Different stocking methods in conjunction with increased stocking rates recently increased the striped bass population.

Recent good year-classes of stripers (from 1998 and 2001) are producing many fish up to 28 inches. Stripers are distributed throughout the lake during most of the year but are concentrated in lower lake areas during the summer and early fall months. Coves are typically not very productive for striped bass during the summer months so anglers should concentrate their efforts on the main lake when water temperatures begin to rise. However, the backs of coves, which contain flowing streams, can be productive during the winter and early spring months. Look for schools of shad in these areas especially during warming trends when the streams are warmer than the reservoir. Striped bass anglers utilize a variety of fishing methods such as drifting live bait, trolling plugs and bucktail jigs, or casting top water lures. Anglers use live bait throughout the year, trolling is most popular during the warmer months, and casting top water or shallow running plugs is most productive during the spring at night. Most striped bass are caught between the dams and buoy 64 of the Roanoke Arm and up to buoy 40 of the Blackwater Arm. Although these are the general areas most striped bass are caught, these fish are very mobile and may change locations continuously depending on forage availability, water temperatures, and spawning.

Anglers should not release legal size striped bass during the summer months. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries encourages striped bass anglers to quit fishing after catching their limit in the months of June-September. Most of these fish released during the summer months will not survive! A voluntary catch-and-release (no harvest) season is recommended for striped bass from October through May to help build population abundance and fish size. Look for information brochures around the lake community or contact the VDGIF regional office in Forest, Virginia, for more details on how to practice effective catch-and-release for striped bass.

A striped bass tagging study was initiated in the fall of 2001 to provide biologists with information on striped bass catch rates, harvest rates, movement, survival, and population dynamics. The fish tags are yellow and approximately three inches in length. The tags are attached to the abdominal area of the fish and should be easily recognized without dissection. Tagged fish do not have to be harvested to collect the reward. Cut or clip tags (do not pull tags loose) from fish you wish to release. Anglers are encouraged to submit all tags collected from striped bass to the address printed on the tag. There is a reward of $5-$50 for all returned tags.
This reservoir has limited crappie habitat. An average of 33 citations (trophy certificates) have been issued for crappie at Smith Mountain over the past six years. Although the lake produces many quality size crappies, anglers should not expect to consistently catch large numbers of crappie. The crappie population is smaller than some other Virginia reservoirs but the quality of these fish is very good. Coves in the upper ends of the reservoir should be the most productive especially near fallen trees or brush piles.

Sunfish and catfish are also popular sport species at Smith Mountain Lake. Sunfish are abundant but competition with shad prevents good growth so most of these fish are small. Channel catfish are the most popular catfish species but flathead catfish have recently been introduced and are gaining in popularity because their large size. Flathead catfish are doing very well in size and abundance. Anglers seeking flathead catfish should concentrate their efforts in the upper reaches of the Roanoke Arm, especially in coves. Smith Mountain Lake is also stocked annually with musky fingerlings. This lake does not produce large numbers of muskies; however, a few fish are caught each year, primarily by bass and striper anglers. Although walleye stocking has been discontinued, adult walleye can be caught along the shoreline of the lower lake (below R-8) during night hours of spring and fall. There is a small amount of natural reproduction of walleye occurring in the reservoir.

Numerous public and private boat ramps and marinas are found around the lake. In addition, there is a very nice handicapped-accessible fishing pier at the Smith Mountain Lake State Park boat launching area. Additional information on lodging, marinas, and other attractions can be obtained by calling the Smith Mountain Lake Visitors Center at 1-800-676-8203.

Fishing

>Regulations

Black Bass

Only two bass less than 14 inches may be creeled. The creel limit is five total, including any bass less than 14 inches.

Striped Bass

The minimum size limit is 20 inches with a two per day creel limit.

All other species are under statewide regulations.

Info>

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass

Black bass (largemouth and smallmouth bass) are the most sought after species by anglers at Smith Mountain Lake. Largemouth bass comprise the bulk of this fishery and outnumber smallmouth ten to one. Largemouth bass fishing on this 20,600-acre lake is good but this fishery receives a lot of pressure. Extensive electrofishing surveys (conducted by VDGIF fisheries biologists) each spring typically produce many largemouth bass in the 2-4 pound range. Surveys indicate the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass fishery has declined the last few years. The highest densities of largemouth bass in this reservoir are found upstream (heading away from the dam) of Hales Ford Bridge area in the Roanoke River arm and buoy B26 in the Blackwater River arm. Smallmouth bass are more evenly distributed throughout the reservoir. Piers and boathouses provide extensive shoreline cover that anglers should take advantage of. Fishing around and under boat docks/piers from the water is legal but remember to be courteous to dock owners. Additionally, natural structure such as fallen trees, rock shoals, and points, are seasonally productive. Coves typically produce the best largemouth bass angling opportunities due to shallower water and less boating traffic. To avoid the heavy boat traffic in the summer, anglers should concentrate their efforts at night or very early in the morning.

Striped Bass

Smith Mountain Lake has gained national attention for its striped bass fishery. The chance to catch fish in the 40-pound class and routine catches of striped bass in the 10 ? 15 pound class has made this fishery very unique. Consequently, striped bass are nearly as popular at Smith Mountain Lake as black bass. Striped bass have been stocked into this reservoir since impoundment in 1963. Limited spawning habitat for striped bass prevents natural reproduction. Stocking is required to maintain the fishery unlike other species such as bass, crappie, catfish, and shad.

The striped bass population had been improving since 1999 as a result of increased stockings and better survival of young fish. However, the Smith Mountain Lake striped bass fishery experienced a major setback in 2003. A parasitic copepod (Achtheres) infestation of striped bass began in the fall of 2002 and the shad population was reduced by more than 60% for several months due to a winterkill in 2003. As a result, a major striped bass kill occurred in the spring of 2003 for a minimum of two months. Based on observations during the fish kill, gill net data, VDGIF citation program data, and angler diary data; the fish kill affected primarily older and larger (>10 lbs.) striped bass. Gill net data has indicated that the number of young (up to 3 years of age) striped bass has remained good despite the fish kills. VDGIF is continuing to monitor and research the parasite infestation. It is unknown at this time what the long-term impacts of this parasite will have on the striped bass population at Smith Mountain Lake. Currently, most striped bass caught are between 4 and 8 pounds.

Striped bass are distributed throughout the lake during most of the year but are concentrated in lower lake areas during the summer and early fall months. Coves are typically not very productive for striped bass during the summer months so anglers should concentrate their efforts on the main lake when water temperatures begin to rise. Striped bass anglers utilize a variety of fishing methods such as drifting live shad, trolling plugs, spoons, plastic shad bodies, and bucktail jigs, or casting top water lures and bucktail jigs. Anglers use live shad throughout the year, trolling is most popular during the warmer months, and casting top water or shallow running plugs is most productive during the spring at night. Most striped bass are caught between the dam and buoy 64 of the Roanoke Arm and up to buoy 40 of the Blackwater Arm. Although these are the general areas most striped bass are caught, these fish are very mobile and may change locations continuously depending on forage availability, water temperatures, and spawning.

Anglers should not release legal size striped bass during the summer months. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries encourages striped bass anglers to quit fishing after catching their 2-fish limit in the months of June-September. Most of the striped bass released during the summer months will not survive! Catch-and-release is recommended for striped bass from October through May.

A striped bass tagging study was initiated in the fall of 2001 to provide biologists with information on striped bass catch rates, harvest rates, movement, survival, and population dynamics. The fish tags are yellow and approximately three inches in length. The tags are attached to the abdominal area of the fish and should be easily recognized without dissection. Tagged fish do not have to be harvested to collect the reward. Cut or clip tags (do not pull tags loose) from fish you wish to release. Anglers are encouraged to submit all tags collected from striped bass to the address printed on the tag with the following information: date fish was caught, marker number nearest to location of capture, length of fish, and was harvested or released. There is a reward of $5-$50 for all returned tags. Special postage paid tag return envelopes are available at some marinas and bait and tackle stores in the Smith Mountain Lake area to assist in the return of tags.

Crappie

Although the lake produces many quality size crappie, anglers should not expect to consistently catch large numbers of crappie. The crappie population is smaller than some other Virginia reservoirs but the quality of these fish is very good. Coves in the upper ends of the reservoir should be the most productive especially near fallen trees or brush piles. Crappie anglers are the most productive in October and November.

Catfish

The catfish fishery is comprised primarily of channel catfish, flathead catfish, and white catfish. Flathead and channel catfish are most abundant in the upper reaches of the Roanoke Arm and white catfish are found primarily in the lower end of the reservoir.

Additional Species

Sunfish are also popular sport species at Smith Mountain Lake. Sunfish are abundant but competition with shad prevents good growth so most of these fish are small. Smith Mountain Lake is also stocked annually with musky fingerlings but anglers fishing for other species catch most muskies incidentally. Although walleye stocking was been discontinued in the 1996, there is still a small population due to limited reproduction. A few walleye can be caught along the shoreline of the lower lake (below R-8) during night hours of spring and fall. Channel catfish, flathead catfish, and white catfish make up the catfish fishery. Flathead and channel catfish are most abundant in the upper reaches of the Roanoke Arm and white catfish are found primarily in the lower end of the reservoir.

Shenandoah River – Main Stem

Information gathered from Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries

Fishing

Black Bass

Smallmouth Bass

Serious smallmouth anglers know the Shenandoah River is one of the top smallmouth bass rivers in the eastern United States. Densities of smallmouth are not as high in the Main Stem as they are in the North and South Forks of the shenandoah. Smallmouth bass catch rates can average up to two fish per hour. Fisheries biologists consider catch rates greater than one fish per hour to be very good. Remember, fishing success can vary depending upon environmental conditions. While densities of smallmouth bass are lower on the Main-stem Shenandoah than the North or South Forks, growth rates are better and larger fish are more common. The natural mortality rate of smallmouth bass in the Shenandoah is high and harvest by anglers is low, based on research conducted by biologists. Therefore, the smallmouth bass population is mostly controlled by environmental influences (floods/droughts). Years where there is a very successful spawn produces a strong “year-class” of bass. These strong year-classes are what makes the fishing favorable. When one or two strong year-classes of bass are reaching sizes that anglers target, fishing can be excellent. However, when weak year-classes are produced by environmental factors, fishing success can be poor. Currently, there are several strong year-classes of bass recruiting into the fishery. There should be good numbers of quality-size smallmouth bass available to anglers in 2002-2003. Anglers will find smallmouth throughout all habitats on the river. One of the most productive areas to find smallmouth on the Shenandoah are directly below riffle areas or bedrock ledges. These areas provide cover and transport food items directly to waiting smallmouths. Overall, anglers should target structure closely associated with faster currents when hunting smallmouths. Various types of artificial lures and live baits can be effective for catching smallmouth on the Shenandoah. Anglers should not limit their fishing for smallmouth to just the warmer months. Smallmouth are active throughout the year and some of the larger fish are caught during the colder months.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass do not gain as much attention as there cousin the smallmouth bass, but the Main-stem Shenandoah is home to an excellent largemouth population. Largemouth are common throughout the river in the slower current pool areas. Excellent numbers of quality-size largemouth bass are available to anglers. Largemouth up to seven pounds have sampled by biologists in recent years. A recent angler/creel survey conducted by VDGIF indicated that largemouth bass are being underutilized by anglers. One of the best locations to encounter largemouths is near woody debris that accumulates along the banks of the river. Theses areas provide cover and attract small sunfish the main prey of hungry “bigmouths.” Most any offering of artificial or natural bait should entice a largemouth.

Limits (smallmouth and largemouth)

From the confluence of the North Fork Shenandoah and South Fork Shenandoah Rivers, Front Royal, VA., downstream to Warren Dam:

  • All bass 11-14 inches must be released
    Daily creel limit is 5 bass per day

From the base of Warren Dam near Front Royal, VA., downstream to Route 17/50 bridge:

  • All bass 14-20 inches must be released
  • Only one bass longer than 20 inches may be harvested per day.
  • Daily creel limit is 5 bass per day

From the Route 17/50 bridge downstream to the Virginia / West Virginia state line:

  • All bass 11-14 inches must be released
  • Daily creel limit is 5 bass per day.

Sunfish

The Main-stem Shenandoah River is home to several sunfish species. They include: redbreast sunfish, rock bass, green sunfish, bluegill, and pumpkinseed sunfish. All the sunfish species tend to occupy the same habitats. They prefer to associate with areas with reduced current and structure. The redbreast sunfish may also be located in areas with faster currents. Sunfish densities are excellent and the number of larger “hand-size” panfish is outstanding . Seven to eight inch sunfish are quite common in the Shenandoah River.

  • No minimum size limit
  • 50 per day in aggregate (combined) creel limit

Rock Bass

  • No minimum size limit
  • 25 per day creel limit

Crappie

Both black and white crappie inhabit the Shenandoah River. The black crappie is the most dominant of the two species. Crappie densities tend to be low and the only areas they can be encountered in fair numbers is in large, deep pools. Crappie like structure and will typically be found near the main channel of the river. Since crappie exhibit “schooling” behavior, where one is caught others are sure to be closeby. Anglers should try small jigs and live minnows when targeting crappie.

  • No minimum size limit
  • 25 per day creel limit

Muskellunge

The VDGIF annually stocks fingerling-size musky at several sites on the Main-stem Shenandoah River. There has been no evidence of muskies reproducing naturally in the Shenandoah river, therefore they must be stocked to sustain a fishery. Adult musky densities are low and closely resemble numbers seen in a wild, reproducing population. The area directly downstream of Warren Dam is the best location to connect with a musky on the Main-stem Shenandoah. Musky are “ambush” predators and often lie just off the main channel waiting for a meal to float or swim along. Also remember these fish are a “cool-water” species that is active even during the coldest months of the year.

  • 30 inch minimum size limit.
  • All musky less than 30 inches must be released.
  • 2 fish per day creel limit

Channel Catfish

Channel catfish are plentiful in the Main-stem Shenandoah River. Recent sampling by VDGIF biologists indicated a healthy catfish population dominated by quality-size (2-4 lb) fish. Some 10+ lb individuals were also collected. The large pools in the river are the best place to locate channel cats. Don’t overlook pieces of structure in all areas of the river for they will also hold catfish. Anglers should take advantage of the catfish spawning season when the water temperature reaches the low-mid 60’s (F). Channel cats will move out of the deeper pools, usually heading upstream, and congregate at the head of pools in shallower water. Unlike other fish that do not feed during spawning, catfish feed heavily during this time. Even though most people think that you can only catch catfish after dark, anglers can also have success during daylight hours. Commercial catfish baits, homemade “stinkbaits”, cut bait, and some live baits can be used to catch channel catfish.

  • No minimum size limit
  • 20 per day creel limit

Other

American eel, white sucker, northern hogsucker, common carp, yellow bullhead, and redhorse are some additional fish species commonly found in the Shenandoah River that anglers may encounter.

 

Shenandoah River – North Fork

Information gathered from Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries

Access Points

There are five (5) public access points along the North Fork Shenandoah River. All the access sites are either owned or co-managed by VDGIF. Moving downstream: (1) Meems Bottom is located where Route 730 crosses the North Fork near Mount Jackson. This access is a “hand launch” area where boats must be carried to the river. The site also has a small parking area to accommodate 2-3 vehicles; (2) Chapman’s Landing is located just downstream of Edinburg off Route 672. This site has a gravel parking area and a concrete boat ramp; (3) Strasburg is located in Strasburg Town Park off of Route 55. The access has a concrete boat ramp and gravel parking area ; (4) Catlett’s Landing is located off of Route 626 upstream of Riverton. The site offers canoe access only. Parking is also available; (5) Riverton Landing is located off Route 340/522 on Route 637 in Riverton. The access offers a concrete ramp and parking area.

(Hudgin’s Rest) A canoe “rest stop” area is located on the left bank going downstream near Maurertown. The land was donated to the VDGIF by Garland Hudgins and is maintained by the Friends of The North Fork Shenandoah River. Canoeists can use this area to take a break from paddling and enjoy lunch or a nap. The area is marked with a brown metal sign.

REMEMBER, please respect the rights of private property owners along the river! All most the entire riparian area on both banks of the North Fork Shenandoah River is privately owned.

Fishing

Black Bass

Smallmouth Bass

The most sought after sportfish in the North Fork Shenandoah River is the smallmouth bass. Densities of smallmouth are high and anglers can experience catch rates that average 1.2 bass per hour. Fisheries biologists consider a catch rate greater than one fish per hour to be very good. Experienced anglers can experience catches of 50+ smallmouth in a day of fishing. Remember, fishing success can vary depending upon environmental conditions. The natural mortality rate of smallmouth in the North Fork is high and harvest by anglers is low, based on research conducted by biologists. Therefore, the smallmouth bass population is mostly influenced by environmental conditions (flood/drought). Years where there is a very successful spawn produces a strong “year-class” of bass. These strong year-classes are what makes the fishing favorable. When one or two strong year-classes of bass are reaching the sizes that anglers prefer, fishing can be considered excellent. However, when weak year-classes are produced by environmental variables, fishing success can be poor. Currently, there are several strong year-classes of bass recruiting into the fishery of the North Fork. There should be good numbers of quality-size smallmouth bass available to anglers in 2002-2003. Anglers will find smallmouth throughout all habitats on the river. One of the most productive areas to find smallmouth is directly below riffle areas or bedrock ledges. The area of the North Fork between Edinburg and Strasburg contains many bedrock ledges. Various types of artificial lures and live baits can be effective for catching smallmouth on the North Fork. Anglers should not limit their smallmouth fishing to just the warmer months. Smallmouth are active throughout the year and some of the largest bass are caught during the colder months.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are limited to relatively few areas of the North Fork where deep pools with slower currents exist. The North Fork has a low percentage of pool habitat compared to the South Fork Shenandoah. However, anglers can encounter some good largemouth fishing in the pools of the North Fork. Most any offering of artificial or natural bait should entice a hungry largemouth.

Limits (smallmouth and largemouth)

From Route 42 bridge, Rockingham County, downstream to the confluence with the South Fork Shenandoah River at Front Royal:

  • All bass 11-14 inches must be released.
  • Daily creel limit is 5 bass per day

Sunfish

The North Fork Shenandoah River is home to several sunfish species. They include: redbreast sunfish, rock bass, bluegill, and pumpkinseed sunfish. All these sunfish species tend to occupy the same habitats. They prefer to associate with areas of reduced current and structure. The redbreast sunfish may also be located in areas with faster currents. Sunfish densities are excellent and the number of larger “hand-size” panfish is outstanding. Anglers should not overlook the sunfish population when fishing the North Fork.

  • No minimum size limit
  • 50 per day in aggregate (combined) creel limit

Fallfish

This fallfish feels right at home in the mid-depth currents of the North Fork. These fish are numerous and can attain lengths of up to 15 inches. Fallfish are often overlooked as a sportfish, but the can put up a good fight on light tackle. Fallfish often feed on the surface taking mayflies and other insects. Fly fishing for “rising” fallfish on the North Fork can be very rewarding.

Rock Bass

  • No minimum size limit
  • 25 per day creel limit

Muskellunge

The VDGIF annually stocks fingerling-size musky at several sites on the North Fork Shenandoah River downstream of Mount Jackson. There has been no evidence of muskies reproducing naturally in the North Fork, therefore they must be stocked to sustain a fishery. Adult musky densities are low and closely resemble numbers seen in a wild, reproducing population.

  • 30 inch minimum size limit. All musky less than 30 inches must be released.
  • 2 fish per day creel limit

Other

American eel, white sucker, northern hogsucker, common carp, crappie, yellow bullhead, and channel catfish are some other fish species that anglers might encounter in the North Fork.

Shenandoah River – South Fork

Information gathered from Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries

Fishing

Black Bass

Smallmouth Bass

The South Fork Shenandoah River has a long-standing reputation as an excellent smallmouth bass river. Densities of smallmouth bass in the South Fork Shenandoah River are greater than any other river in Virginia. Smallmouth bass catch rates can average up to four fish per hour. It is not uncommon for experienced anglers to catch 30-60 smallmouth during a eight hour float trip. Fishing success can vary depending upon environmental conditions. The South Fork Shenandoah may be known for its high catch rates of smallmouth bass , but it does not produce the number of trophy-size smallmouth bass as other Virginia waters. Growth rates are extremely slow with smallmouth not reaching twelve inches until age 5-6. The smallmouth bass population is mostly controlled by environmental influences (floods/droughts). Years where there is a very successful spawn produces a strong “year-class” of bass. These strong year-classes are what makes the fishing favorable. When one or two strong year-classes of bass are reaching the sizes that anglers are targeting, fishing can be excellent. However, when poor year-classes are moving into the fishery, fishing success can also become poor. Currently there are several strong year classes recruiting into the smallmouth fishery. There should be good numbers of quality-size smallmouth bass available to anglers in 2002-2003. Anglers will find smallmouth throughout all habitat areas on the river. The best places to find smallmouth bass in higher concentrations are directly below bedrock ledges, at the head of pools directly below riffles, runs with various pockets and eddies, and the tail-end of pools. These areas produce faster currents which wash food items to waiting smallmouths. Smallmouth can be caught with all types of artificial lures and live bait. Anglers can catch smallmouth every month of the year in the South Fork Shenandoah River.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass do not gain as much attention as their cousin the smallmouth bass but the South Fork Shenandoah harbors a very good largemouth population. Largemouth bass are most common in the slower, deeper pool habitat areas of the river. Any large pool, including the power pools created by the hydropower dams, contain fishable populations of largemouth bass. Good numbers of quality-size largemouths are available to anglers. Largemouth bass of up to seven pounds have been collected by biologists from the South Fork in recent years. Looking at a recent angler/creel survey conducted by the VDGIF, largemouth bass are being underutilized by anglers. If you are interested in largemouth bass, target your efforts near woody debris in the pools of the river. Most any offering of artificial or natural bait should entice a largemouth.

Limits

From the confluence of North River and South River at Port Republic, VA downstream to Shenandoah Dam near the Town of Shenandoah:

  • All bass 11-14 inches must be released
  • Daily creel limit is 5 bass per day

From the base of Shenandoah Dam near the Town of Shenandoah downstream to Luray Dam near Luray, VA:

  • All bass 14-20 inches must be released
  • Only one bass longer than 20 inches may be harvested per day.
  • Daily creel limit is 5 bass per day

From the base of Luray Dam near Luray, VA downstream to the confluence with North Fork Shenandoah River at Front Royal, VA:

  • All bass 11-14 inches must be released
  • Daily creel limit is 5 bass per day

Sunfish

The South Fork Shenandoah is home to several sunfish species. Redbreast sunfish, bluegill, and pumpkinseed sunfish are the most common Rock bass can also be included in the sunfish group. Green sunfish are also present, but in very low numbers.

Redbreast sunfish are the most abundant sunfish species inhabiting the South Fork. They can be found in all types of habitat throughout the river. Usually where there is one many others will be in close proximity. Any type of structure (large boulders, woody debris, edges of vegetation mats) will hold redbreast. Unlike the other sunfish species, redbreast will also occupy areas of the river with faster currents. Redbreast in the 6-7 inch range can make for some exciting fishing. Anglers can catch redbreast on small artificials and live bait. These sunfish can be quite aggressive and catching them on larger artificial lures is common.

Bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish are quite abundant and are found mostly in the slower currents associated with pool habitat. Anglers should target structure like large boulders or woody debris when fishing for these two species.

Rock bass or “red-eye” (as they are referred by many anglers) are abundant throughout the entire river. These fish can be found occupying the same habitat as the other sunfishes.

  • No minimum size limit
  • 50 per day in aggregate (combined) creel limit

Rock Bass

  • No minimum size limit
  • 25 per day creel limit

Crappie

Both black and white crappie inhabit the South Fork. The black crappie is the most dominant of the two species. Crappie are predominantly found only in the large pools of the South Fork. The pools formed by the hydropower dams at Shenandoah, Newport and Luray have the highest concentrations of crappie. Anglers should target woody debris in these pools when fishing for crappie.

  • No minimum size limit
  • 25 per day creel limit

Muskellunge

Channel catfish are plentiful throughout the entire South Fork Shenandoah. Catfish numbers increase as you move downriver into bigger water. The large pools in the river are the best place to find channel cats. Recent sampling conducted by VDGIF biologists indicated a healthy population dominated by quality-size (2-3 pound) channel cats.

The VDGIF annually stocks fingerling-size musky at 10+ sites on the South Fork Shenandoah. There has been no evidence of muskies reproducing naturally in the river, therefore they must be stocked to sustain a fishery. Adult musky densities are low and closely resemble numbers seen in a wild, reproducing population. Anglers should focus on areas where structure is present adjacent to the main channel when hunting muskies. Musky are “ambush” predators and often lie just off the main current waiting to strike prey that swims/floats along. Also remember that these fish are a “cool-water” species, and unlike other species are active during the coldest months of the year.

  • 30 inch minimum size limit. All musky less than 30 inches must be released.
  • 2 fish per day creel limit

Channel Catfish

  • No minimum size limit
  • 20 per day creel limit

Other Fish

American eel, white sucker, margined madtom, northern hogsucker, common carp, fallfish, yellow bullhead, brown bullhead, and redhorse are additional fish species commonly found in the South Fork Shenandoah River  encounter in the North Fork.

 

Sandy River Reservoir

Information gathered from Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries

Sandy River Reservoir is a 740-acre water supply impoundment located slightly east of the town of Farmville in Prince Edward County. Sandy River Reservoir is one of the newest lakes in Virginia with construction completed in 1994 and fishing opened in 1996. The reservoir was built and is owned by the county of Prince Edward with fisheries management responsibilities belonging to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Sandy River Reservoir is a beautiful resource located in the rolling hills of the piedmont in south-central Virginia. Two large areas of standing timber were left in the lake at construction to provide fish habitat structure. To supplement existing fish habitat in the reservoir, department personnel and the county have placed used Christmas trees and ?hinge? shoreline trees to provide additional spots for anglers to concentrate their fishing effort.

This reservoir boasts one of the best sportfish assemblages in the piedmont. The lake supports excellent fisheries for largemouth bass, black crappie, redear sunfish, and an ever-improving channel catfish fishery. Other species to note include bluegill and chain pickerel.

You can try your luck at Sandy River Reservoir by traveling east on 460 from Farmville and turning south on Route 640. Take the first left after turning on Route 640 and follow this road straight to the boat ramp.

Fishing

Largemouth bass – 14-20 inch slot, 5 per days, only 2 greater than 20 inches
Sunfish – no size limit, 50 per day
Crappie – no size limit, 25 per day
Channel catfish – no size limit, 20 per day

Outboard motor use restricted to 10 hp or less

Largemouth bass

The largemouth bass fishery at Sandy River Reservoir is excellent with fish of all sizes well represented. The population has been developing for the past eight years with sizes and numbers that rival many of the best lakes in Virginia. Bass up to eight and nine pounds and over 20 inches are becoming more and more common. The future of the fishery is looking pretty bright too with numerous smaller fish coming in behind the lunkers. Sandy River bass are growing faster than almost any other waterbody in the piedmont, and this trend should continue for several years to come. The largemouth bass fishery is managed with a 14-20 inch slot to improve quality fish catch rates and still allow for some harvest. As with most fish species, the best action for largemouth bass fishing is in the spring, but good action can be found in the summer fishing mornings and evenings and in deeper water.

Panfish

The black crappie population size is at a very high level with much of the fishery being supported by one year class of fish. The 1994 year class still accounts for the bulk of ?keeper? size crappie at Sandy River. Currently, the fishery is becoming dominated by smaller fish as the large, fast-growing 1994 crappie begin to disappear due to natural and fishing mortality. Crappie populations are characterized by dramatic fluctuations in numbers based on good and bad spawns and survival. Another strong year class will come along to carry the fishery into the future. For now, anglers should expect to catch high numbers of small-sized crappie. Crappie congregate on submerged trees and other structures and can be caught on live minnows or jigs. Best fishing for crappie is in the early spring. Sandy River also provides an excellent opportunity to catch good numbers of large redear. The bluegill fishery is also good with best fishing for both bluegill and redear from late April to June.

Channel catfish

Catfish are being stocked on a semi-annual basis currently and has really become a quality fishery. Anglers are reporting very nice fish being harvested with fish from two to five pounds becoming pretty common. Take advantage of the flexible hours at Sandy River Reservoir and try your luck fishing catfish at night with your favorite bait (chicken liver is always a good choice) or concoction.

Chain pickerel

Chain pickerel are fairly abundant in Sandy River Reservoir. Fish over 20 inches are present in the impoundment.

Maps

SandyRiverResContMap

 

Potomac River and Tributaries

Information gathered from Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Maryland Side of the River

Ft. Washington / Piscataway Creak (Prince Georges County)

Description and Fish Species

The water off of Ft. Washington varies from shallow areas above and below the lighthouse, to fairly deep water just at the point itself. The point has been rip-rapped with boulders to help keep erosion at bay, so fish accordingly. If you are able to fish from a boat in Piscataway Creek, be mindful of the channel markers. Much of the Creek itself is very shallow, but it is worth working your way through the flats to fish along the structure near shore. The grass beds are great places to catch bass and perch, and the deeper holes hold some really big catfish. Fish species found at Ft. Washington/ Piscataway Creek include large catfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass (few), bluegill sunfish, pumpkinseed, white and yellow perch, eel, carp and crappie.

Water Access

Ft. Washington Park – Allows fishing at the base of the lighthouse where Piscataway Creek meets the Potomac River. The park covers 341 acres and has picnic areas, hiking, biking, and playgrounds for the kids. There is a fee for entering the park, but annual passes can also be purchased. For more information on Ft Washington Park, call (301)763-4600.

Ft. Washington Marina - Boat access to Piscataway Creek and the Potomac River are available at Ft. Washington Marina for a fee. The Marina also has a restroom and some vending machines.

Piscataway Park (National Park Service) - There is some bank fishing available at Piscataway park at Farmington Landing and the National Colonial Farm. Farmington Landing is on the South side of Piscataway and can be reached via Wharf Rd. National Colonial Farm is located just south of Piscataway and is on the mainstem of the Potomac. Inquiries as to places to fish can be obtained at the Park Visitor Center (phone: 301-283-2113).

License Requirements

A Virginia Freshwater Fishing License or a Maryland Chesapeake Bay Sportfishing license is required to fish the tidal portion of Piscataway Creek and the tidal Potomac. On Piscataway Creek the dividing line between fresh and tidal waters is the bridge on Maryland Rt. 224 (Livingston Rd.). Above the bridge a Maryland Freshwater License is required.

Directions

To Ft. Washington Park – From Rt. 210 south of the Beltway take either Fort Washington Rd. or Old Fort Rd. west to the Park Entrance. Fees apply to park admittance. Call (301)763-4600 for more information.

To Ft. Washington Marina - From Rt. 210 south of the Beltway take either Fort Washington Rd. or Old Fort Rd. west to Warburton Dr. (turn left), follow to King Charles Drive and turn right. There is a fee to use the boat ramp at the marina.

To Piscataway Park – From Rt. 210 south of the Beltway take Farmington Rd. (west) to either Wharf Rd., if you want to fish Farmington Landing in Piscataway, or Bryan Pt. Rd. if you want to fish at National Colonial Farm on the Potomac.

Mattawoman Creek (Charles County)

Description and Fish Species

Mattawoman Creek is primarily a shallow tributary to the Potomac River, but does have a defined channel for most of its navigable length. There is a 6 mph speed limit on the north side of the creek where the channel is close to the US Naval Surface Warfare Center. Boat speed is enforced by the military. Vegetation is thick at certain times of the year in Mattawoman with both SAV and lily beds being abundant throughout much of the creek. Other good fishing structures include downed trees, overhanging brush, concrete rip-rap, old barges and pilings. Largemouth bass is the most sought-after species, but Mattawoman also has catfish, carp, bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish, perch, pickerel, crappie and longnose gar. An occasional striper is not out of the question either.

Mattingly Park and Boat Ramp (Upper Mattawoman Creek)

Mattingly was formerly known as Slavens Ramp. It is now run by the Town of Indian Head and is adjacent to Mattingly Park on the upper end of Mattawoman Creek. A small pier is available for fishing and there is limited shore access. The boat launch is best suited for small bass boats or similar watercraft. A launch fee applies. Inquiries should be directed to (301) 743-5511.

License Requirements

A Virginia Freshwater Fishing License or a Maryland Chesapeake Bay Sportfishing license is required to fish the tidal portion of Mattawoman Creek and the tidal Potomac. The dividing line for Mattawoman Creek is Md. Rt. 225. Above the bridge a Freshwater Fishing license is required.

Directions to Smallwood State Park

From Rt. 301 south off the Beltway - Take Rt. 225 west in LaPlata, then take a left onto Rt. 224 to the Smallwood State Park Entrance on your right.

From Rt. 210 (Indian Head Highway) south of the Beltway – Take Rt. 225 east in Indian Head, then make a right onto Rt. 224 and follow the signs to the Smallwood State Park Entrance on your right.

Directions to Mattingly Park Ramp

Take Rt 210 (Indian Head Highway) south of the Beltway. In the town of Indian Head make a left onto Mattingly Ave. just before the base gates. The ramp is at the end of the road.

Marshall Hall (Charles County)

Description and Fish Species

This ramp enters the mainstem of the Potomac River so varying depths and fishing conditions exist, depending on whether you fish from shore or boat. From shore, there is a wide “flat” on this part of the river, commonly referred to as “Greenway Flats”. Water depth is shallow and the flat often is covered with vegetation. Fish commonly found here are catfish, largemouth bass, different kinds of sunfish, and an occasional smallmouth bass. Because of the flat shelf and solid bottom wading may also be a productive way to fish south of the ramp. The area adjacent to the north side of the ramp has a lot rip-rap rocks and boulders. If fishing from a boat, there are many channels and coves to fish but be mindful of the channel markers and look out for the larger boats that travel up and down the river.