With the cold and snow finally waning, and the sun warming the local waters, it's time to pull out the rods, reels and tackle for a new Spring season of fishing here in Central Virginia! From large and smallmouth bass, to perch, pike, trout and catfish, the waters of the lakes, rivers and streams are teeming with different varieties of fun-to-catch fish.
Let's start in the heart of the region, Lynchburg, Virginia. The James River flows right through Central Virginia and the banks of the river in downtown Lynchburg are a great place for shore fishing. From Percival's Island to the newly renovated Amherst Boat Ramp and Park, the fishing is great along this slow, wide portion of the James. The most dominant fish is the smallmouth bass, but there are also flathead catfish, channel catfish and many sunfish species. This part of river, referred to as the Upper-James, is also stocked yearly with muskies, which are few and far between, but can be very large and fun to catch. Float fishing is offered by James River Float Company on either canoes, kayaks or inner tubes. They offer guided tours as well.
Just north of Lynchburg, in Amherst County, there are many great seasonal fishing holes. One of the most popular is Monocan Park, out Rt. 130 in Elon, VA. Located there is a large lake-like area of the James River above the AEP hydro-electric dam. This park has a great boat launch, as well as shore line fishing. For the boating anglers, there are miles of great fishing spots including islands, deep water, shallow water, coves and even some rapids up toward the Big Island area to the north. Next, there is the Mill Creek Resevoir. It is located about 9 miles out Rt. 645 from the town of Amherst, and is a 189 acre public reservoir. There is shore line fishing and a fishing dock, and electric-powered or oar driven boats are allowed. The reservoir contains largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish and channel catfish. Another great spot is along the Tye River, which borders Nelson County and Amherst County. One of the best trout streams in Virginia, the Tye offers brookies, rainbow and huge brown trout. Fishing can be done from many roadside spots, or wading out into the cool, clear, rocky streams that make up this beautiful river. There are swift-water sections as well as deep pools for trying out your whole collection of baits and lures. The Tye is also known as a terrific fly fishing stream for both novices and seasoned anglers.
For those closer to the Roanoke/Salem area, there is the mammoth Smith Mountain Lake. The lake offers over 20,000 acres of fishing and boating recreation. It is accessible from both Bedford County and Franklin County, and has been home to the Bassmasters Tournaments for years. The sportfish in the lake include large and smallmouth bass, crappie, perch and three different varieties of catfish; channel, white and flathead. There are many parks and marinas for dock or shoreline fishing, but the best angling on the lake is by boat. There are six free public boat launches as well as paid boat launches at about a dozen local marinas. Boat rentals are also available in the summer months. However you choose to fish, Smith Mountain Lake is great for either a day-trip or a week-long fishing vacation.
Lastly, between Roanoke and Lynchburg is Botetourt County, which offers a few prime fishing holes. First, there's Jennings Creek. Located off of Interstate 81 at Arcadia, it's a short drive down Rt. 614 to the stream. For years, the creek has been a hot spot for trout fishing. It is stocked yearly, and has some excellent runs as well as a nice deep pool below the waterfall. With a little hiking, one can find some more remote spots that are just pristine, and great for fly, lure, or live bait fishing. Botetourt County is also home to the Roaring Run stream. This trophy trout stream is off of Rt. 220, on Rt. 621, in the Jefferson National Forest. It runs through a very deep gorge and is spring fed from a cold water limestone spring. It is stocked with both brown trout and rainbow trout. It is not uncommon for anglers to pull a 16 inch trout from the crystal clear waters here, and there are many marked, public spots with easy access.
Remember, when fishing in the Commonwealth of Virginia, all residents 16 years of age and older are required to possess a state freshwater fishing license to fish for trout. Persons who fish in designated stocked waters must have an additional trout license. A National Forest Stamp is necessary when fishing in most waters within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
So whether you prefer boating, floating, shore casting or wading in the streams and rivers, there are excellent spots all across Central Virginia to enjoy the great sport of fishing. With Smith Mountain Lake, the James River, the Staunton River, the Tye River and all the smaller streams and tributaries, you could literally fish a different spot all summer long, and catch a different species of fish each time. So whether it's fly fishing, lures, live bait or the old school worm-and-bobber method, get out there and enjoy the beautiful waters in your own back yard of Central Virginia.