Summer is the time for a slow-down. Take it easy with a fishing trip to the best bodies of water in Virginia’s Blue Ridge for big bites.
Make it memorable with your sweetest fishing buddy, be he or she big or small. A child will treasure the moments of learning to bait a hook and cast a line (even if you are gritting your teeth through it all). On the other hand, your BFF (best fishing friend) will always make it a competition.
Choose wisely and have an excellent time fishing in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. And don’t forget your Virginia fishing license!
1. Carvins Cove Natural Reserve | Roanoke
Fish from the banks or paddle your way into the 630-acre reservoir to try your luck. Bluegill and largemouth bass are the common pulls here, with largemouth ranging 10 to 16 inches and bluegill coming in smaller at 2 to 5 inches. The reservoir is stocked annually with hybrid striped bass, with more established individuals coming in at 14 to 18 inches in length.
Trawling motors at 10 horsepower or less are permitted in the reservoir. Boat launch fees and daily access fees apply.
Learn More: Boating & Fishing at Carvins Cove >
2. Claytor Lake State Park | Dublin
You’re sure to find your own perfect place to drop a line at the 4,500-acre Claytor Lake at Claytor Lake State Park, especially if you are able to position yourself near a fish attractor. The most frequently caught species here are bass, catfish, muskie, walleye, and striped bass. Park entrance and boat launch fees apply.
Download: Claytor Lake Fish Map >
3. Philpott Lake | Bassett
Virginia’s best smallmouth bass and trout reservoir waters are those of Philpott Lake, a 2,880-acre shimmering lure with 100 miles of shoreline. Black bass (both large- and smallmouth) are the real claim to fame here. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) suggests “…smallmouth bass densities appear to be greater in the lower (dam) end, particularly along the main lake channel.
Anglers should look for bass along jagged rock structures, weed bed edges (when available), structure on underwater flats, and around fallen trees.” Read More >
Download: Philpott Lake Blueway Brochure >
4. Smith Mountain Lake | Moneta
Sport fishermen love Smith Mountain Lake. Heck, ESPN fishing tournaments have been held here. There are so many coves and tributaries to the 20,600-acre impoundment that determining the best place to drop a line may take a few times out…unless you know someone willing to share some secrets (which we do!). The biologists of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have a few suggestions:
“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 prevalent in the lower portion of the reservoir.”
“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. Most bass are found in 10-20 ft of water when the fish are not near the shoreline during the spawning season.”
5. James River | Botetourt County
This winding river is one of the most popular destinations for fishing, which is arguably best done by boat. Outfitters, like Twin River, can set up a fishing trip for your or just rent you a boat, whichever you prefer. Smallmouth bass are the most common catch in the James River, but muskies are stocked annually and are the hardest to locate and pull in. The fun is in the challenge, is it not? The muskies tend to hide well and grow quite large. Catfish and sunfish varieties also thrive in the James.
Learn More: Fishing the Upper James River Water Trail >
The Roanoke River is a stocked trout stream and portions are “delayed harvest waters,” which means fishermen are expected to abide by additional fishing regulations. In addition to stocked trout, other species available for catching are smallmouth and largemouth bass, redeye, bluegill, and catfish. Wading, bank fishing, and float fishing are the recommended approaches for the Roanoke River. Explore Park is a favorite place to put in or fish along the banks, as stripers, catfish, and bass are often caught at The Point, the confluence of the Roanoke River and Back Creek.
Download: Roanoke River Blueway Map >
7. Pigg River | Rocky Mount
Eight miles of the upper Pigg River are known as the Pigg River Blueway, a popular stretch for those who like to float, kayak, and fish in Franklin County. It’s also a Heritage Trout Stream and host to an annual Trout Heritage Day the first Saturday of April. The Pigg River is easily accessible in Waid Recreation Park near Rocky Mount.
8. Blackwater River | Franklin County
A mountain stream beginning at Cahas Mountain and flowing into Smith Mountain Lake, Blackwater is a good place to catch varieties of trout, musky, sunfish, and catfish. It’s also a great float trip if the water is high enough.
Download: Franklin County Blueways Map >
9. Craig Creek | New Castle
Shallow water swimmers thrive in Craig Creek, a tributary to the James River. Craig Creek is stocked with rainbow, brook, and brown trout, so your odds of pulling in one of these sometimes elusive species is pretty good. When water levels are low (typically in summer), Craig Creek is not stocked. You’ll love this stream for late spring and early fall casting.
10. Roaring Run | Eagle Rock
This popular stream has its status thanks to the hiking trail, falls, and the history of the old iron furnace ruins. Roaring Run is a popular swimming hole, so you’ll want to avoid the splashers to find the fish. VDGIF has a one-mile stretch of “trophy trout” waters at Roaring Run. The mile “is located in the Jefferson National Forest between the third foot bridge upstream of the Roaring Run Furnace Day Use Area and the Botetourt/ Alleghany County line.” The trout you catch in that section of water must be 16 inches or larger and the limit is two per day.
11. Jennings Creek | Buchanan
Another James River tributary, Jennings Creek is a stocked trout stream and also host to a Trout Heritage Day like the Pigg River. The trout in Jennings can grow to a nice size, with recorded catches of more than seven pounds and 14+”. This is a good stream to wade and bank fish.
Learn More: Fly Bum Outdoors on Fishing Jennings Creek >
12. North Creek | Arcadia
Looking for rainbows? You’ll find plenty in North Creek, and they measure 7 to 12 inches, typically. When the waters run deeper through North Creek, Class II to IV rapids appear. Keep that in mind if your fisherman’s heart gets an adrenaline rush for a kayak run.
Learn More: Jefferson National Forest - North Creek >
13. Tinker Creek | Vinton
Trout are stocked in this Roanoke River tributary with Roanoke Valley Greenway access. It’s an easy place to access for those who wish to drop a line close to the city. Smallmouth bass, brown trout, and rock bass are frequently caught here.
Learn More: Tinker Creek Greenway >
Don’t just tell the tale, show off those awesome trophies and memorable moments! Tag your photos #Trailsetter so we and the rest of the fishermen can see what’s biting.