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The waters are warming up and the fish are biting. With this directory as your guide, discover the top rivers, streams, and lakes in the region to hook your next catch, plus outfitters and guides to help you get out there. Please check with locations prior to travel for local guidelines or use this guide for future trips!
Reel in Your Next Big One in Newport News, Va.
What makes Newport News a top destination for anglers? Its location on the James River near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay means there’s an abundance of freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities everywhere you look.
Whether you’re looking to get out on a boat in the thick of things or reel one in from the shores, the salty waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries hold untold wonders and plenty of space for you to find a quiet spot. Common saltwater fish include croaker, spot, striped bass, red drum, speckled trout, and flounder. With a Saltwater Fishing License, you’ll find free fishing at the Hilton Pier, Wave Screen Pier at King-Lincoln Park, Denbigh Park, and the Monitor-Merrimac Overlook. Additional fishing for a fee is available from the James River Bridge Fishing Pier at Huntington Park but no license is required.
Two public reservoirs and a lake round out the freshwater fishing in the area with common catches including largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and chain pickerel. From sunrise to sunset, the Lee Hall and Harwood’s Mill reservoirs offer scenic spots to cast a line as you enjoy some time outside. Shoreline fishing requires a Parks Division Shoreline Fishing Permit as well as a Virginia Freshwater Fishing License.
Don’t worry if you forget something at home. Wilcox Bait and Tackle is the one-stop-shop for all things fishing while you’re in town, plus additional resources are available from the Bass Pro Shop just down the road in Hampton.
When the fishing is done for the day, there are dozens of quick stops, cozy cafes, and fine dining establishments to choose from when it comes to finding a good meal. Sample the local catch of the day, get adventurous, or go for the old tried and true—there’s something delicious no matter what you’re feeling. Then it’s time to settle in for the night at one of the area’s relaxing accommodations. From the easily accessible hotels to the 188 modern campsites at Newport News Park, find a comfy spot to spend the night.
Visit Virginia’s coast and discover a whole world of fishing opportunities to explore in Newport News.
Photos courtesy of Newport News
The Rivers Run Through Patrick County, Va.
Five rivers rise out from Patrick County, Va., flowing into two major watersheds. Every river or stream in the county originates from within its borders. This dynamic creates wading opportunities for anglers that can’t be found everywhere.
The Dan River begins on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains with first-class rainbow, brook, and brown trout. The North and South Mayo River are frequently stocked with brown and rainbow trout. The Smith River can be accessed at Historic Jack’s Creek Covered Bridge. Nearby is Rock Castle Creek with pickerel and sunfish. The Ararat River rises up near historic Laurel Hill and contains native and rainbow trout. Fairy Stone Lake at Fairy Stone State Park offers largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and bluegill. Neighboring Philpott Lake offers excellent bass, walleye, crappie, and catfish opportunities.
While you’re here, experience the flavors of Patrick County with a local farm-to-table dining experience at Pickle & Ash. Enjoy Blue Ridge wines at Stanburn and Villa Appalaccia wineries. Immerse yourself in five-star luxury at Primland Resort. There’s so much to discover. Find yourself here in Patrick County, Va. VisitPatrickCounty.org
Photo courtesy of Patrick County
Soak up the Waters in Giles County, Va.
From the world-renowned New River to smaller waterways, Giles County, Va., is a fishing destination for anglers of all types. Considered one of the top smallmouth bass rivers in the country, the 37 miles of the New River running through the county are a premier freshwater fishing spot. With 17 public and private access points along the New River Water Trail, you can stay on the water all day as you look for bass, muskellunge, walleye, and more.
Perfect your fly fishing skills on an excellent trout fishery when you visit Big and Little Stony Creek. Cherokee Flats is an accessible fishing area for wheelchair-bound anglers with a paved trail and metal ramp.
Fill up on local delights at the end of a long day, like beef brisket and hush puppies from Bluegrass BBQ, farm-fresh, seasonal fare from Harvest Restaurant at Mountain Lake Lodge, a rotating menu and specialty drinks from The Bad Apple, or stone-oven pizza and decadent desserts from The Palisades Restaurant.
Soak up the waters and scenery of Giles County when you plan your next fishing getaway. VirginiasMtnPlayground.com
Photo courtesy of Giles County
Scenic Blueways & Lakes in Virginia’s Blue Ridge
Grab your rod and reel and find a quiet stretch of water in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. With over 260 miles of scenic rivers and blueways, as well as more than 28,000 acres of lakes, there is no shortage of amazing locations for fishing.
Float the Upper James River Water Trail through Botetourt County, of which 59 miles are designated as Virginia Scenic River. Hook up with Twin River Outfitters for guided overnight fishing and camping trips along the river with waterfront campgrounds. When you’re done on the water, enjoy post-fishing food and drink at local spots such as Foot of the Mountain Cafe and The Witt Stop.
Franklin County features a variety of ways to get on the water, from calm lakes to snaking rivers. Smith Mountain Lake, known for its world-class bass fishing, and Philpott Lake, known for one of the best walleye populations in Virginia, provide plenty of spots tucked away to fish and miles of shoreline to explore. Spend hours on the water floating the Pigg, Blackwater, and Smith rivers for your next big catch.
Roanoke County’s Explore Park is one of the best spots to access the Roanoke River Gorge for fly fishing. Cast a line for bass, redeye, and trout from the shore or put in your boat at Rutrough Point. Then you can settle in for a night at one of the campsites or cabins on the property and enjoy food and drink at the onsite Twin Creeks Brewpub.
Winding its way through the cities of Roanoke and Salem, the Roanoke River Blueway features numerous access points for fishing on the Roanoke River, including various segments stocked with trout. Gather at local breweries such as Parkway Brewing Company in Salem and Big Lick Brewing Company in Downtown Roanoke at the end of the day to share stories about your prize-winning catch.
In Downtown Roanoke, the Orvis Retail Store is the perfect place to find fly fishing equipment, apparel, and other gear, as well as a wealth of information regarding local fishing opportunities. Plus, with knowledgeable guides and outfitters at Carter Fishing Company, Dead Drift Outfitters, South Valley Anglers, and Roanoke Mountain Adventures, you’re sure to find someone who can point you in the right direction or lead you there. VisitVBR.com
A Variety of Fishing Options in Virginia State Parks
No matter the type of fishing you enjoy—trout, big lake, small lake, downriver, tidal river, even Chesapeake Bay and ocean fishing—you’ll find something that suits you at a Virginia State Park.
Famous for its trophy muskellunge, Hungry Mother State Park offers a unique fly fishing opportunity. The 108-acre Hungry Mother Lake is small enough that you can cover it in a day or two, accessible by boat or the spillway from the shore. The two main channels are typically the best area to catch muskie where several larger than 50 inches have been seen. These waters support a host of other sport fish, including largemouth, smallmouth, hybrid striped, and spotted bass, crappie, channel and flathead catfish, carp, bluegill, and walleye.
Douthat State Park is the place to be for trout fishing. Douthat Lake, a 50-acre fee fishing lake, is stocked with rainbow, brown, and brook trout twice a week during the fee season. The lake also offers excellent largemouth bass fishing and fair opportunities for landing sunfish, black crappie, channel catfish, and chain pickerel. Just below the dam, you’ll find a special trout fishing area has been created on a section of Wilson Creek, which is great for kids and adults alike.
Ample panfish are just waiting to be caught at Fairy Stone State Park, so it’s the perfect place to teach the kids fishing skills. For more serious anglers, the lake offers some good largemouth bass while bluegill, crappie, catfish, and October-stocked trout round out the park’s lake fishing. Just up the road is Philpott Reservoir, which offers good walleye and largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing.
New River Trail State Park is a true gem for the fly angler and is famous for its smallmouth bass fishing. The park parallels the scenic and historic New River for 39 miles, so you can hike, bike, or kayak to your fishing spot. The river supports outstanding populations of just about every major freshwater game fish in the state. You’ll find everything from smallmouth, spotted, largemouth, rock, striped, white, and hybrid striped bass, to muskellunge, walleye, black crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish, yellow perch, redbreast sunfish, and bluegill.
With 41 parks dotting the landscape from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, there are endless opportunities in between to fish a Virginia State Park. VirginiaStateParks.gov
Photos courtesy of Virginia State Parks
Cover photo: Fly fishing at Douthat State Park, Va. Photo courtesy of Virginia State Parks
The Rivers Call to You in Halifax County, Va.
Amazing scenery, world-class fishing, and miles and miles of pure paddling adventure await you in southern Virginia. The height of sporting delight, Halifax County’s Southern Virginia Wild Blueway has statewide recognition as a premier fishing destination. The rivers—the Dan, the Staunton, and the Banister—combine for more than 100 miles of navigable water. Of that, more than 80 miles have been designated as Virginia Scenic Rivers. These waterways create an anglers’ paradise as you will find largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, sunfish, and striper fishing year-round.
Once off the water, venture on land for drinks, food, and exciting local culture. Celebrate the day’s catch with dinner at Molasses Grill in the historic town of Halifax. Tell reel stories over brews at Factory Street Brewing Company or high balls at Springfield Distillery. Want to explore the area? Experience world-class motorsports, history, public art, walking tours, museums, arts and culture, state parks, and dark skies. From running rapids to trackside thrills, discover what makes your heart race in Halifax County, Va. GoHalifaxVA.com
Photo courtesy of Go Halifax
Reserve Your Spot in Spotsylvania County, Va.
If you want to spend the day with your rod and reel at a picturesque spot, look no further than the waters of Spotsylvania County, Va.
Start your trip off with a visit to Lake Anna State Park, known for its largemouth bass, crappie, and bream. Just down the road, you can rent kayaks and canoes from Lake Anna Outfitters for fun on the water. Plus, with tent sites, RV sites, cabins, and family lodges, there are plenty of spots to stay close to the fishing and miles of trails.
Ni River Reservoir and Hunting Run Reservoir are both stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and more, perfect for entry level to experienced anglers. Launch your boat from one of the ramps or fish from the shores. Don’t overlook the Wilderness Presidential Resort where you can fish and boat two stocked lakes. Wake up at your campsite or cabin before heading out for a day relaxing on or by the water.
Get away and recharge on the peaceful shores of Spotsylvania County, Va. VisitSpotsy.com
Photo courtesy of Spotsylvania County
Work Up an Appetite in Waynesboro, Va.
Located a short drive from the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, Waynesboro, Virginia is a trout angler’s dream in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. Fish thrive in the mountain waters of George Washington National Forest and fly anglers especially enjoy the South River flowing through downtown Waynesboro for trophy-sized rainbow and brown trout, a 6.5-mile stretch of which was recently designated a Virginia Scenic River. The 2.2-mile catch-and-release section, extending from Wayne Avenue bridge downstream to Second Street bridge, is one of two urban trout fisheries in Virginia. Further upstream, you’ll find the put-and-take section of the river at Ridgeview Park. While in town, visit the professionals at South River Fly Shop for fishing gear, advice, and guided excursions to the nearby South River or further out to the James and Jackson Rivers.
The outdoor fun doesn’t stop there. Check out great hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park, or explore the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel, a unique hike that takes you under Afton Mountain through an abandoned railroad tunnel.
After taking on the great outdoors, head into town to take advantage of Waynesboro’s cultural offerings. Catch a movie or live show at the beautifully restored Wayne Theatre, originally built in 1926. Discover world-class murals on the Waynesboro Street Arts Trail, an interactive, scavenger-hunt-style tour on the free Traipse app, or explore art indoors at the Shenandoah Valley Art Center and P. Buckley Moss Gallery.
You’ve probably worked up an appetite by now, and there are plenty of enticing options to sate your hunger in Waynesboro. Stop by The River Burger Bar, an upscale burger joint whose interior decorating pays homage to its namesake, the South River, or the local favorite, Heritage on Main, where southern cuisine comes with a twist. Cruise through the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail, a series of nearly twenty breweries within an hour of each other, for stunning mountain views, live entertainment, fresh brews, and tasty eats. Visit Basic City Beer Co., Seven Arrows Brewing, and Stable Craft Brewing in Waynesboro before discovering the rest of the trail. With over fifty wineries, breweries, and distilleries within thirty miles, plus Virginia’s first dedicated kombucha taproom, Blue Ridge Bucha, there’s something for everyone in Waynesboro.
Spring-fed waters, mountain views, alluring activities, and exceptional restaurants make Waynesboro the ideal angler’s getaway and a foodie’s haven. Come work up an appetite in Waynesboro! VisitWaynesboro.com
Photos courtesy of Visit Waynesboro
Fish the Streams of Hardy County, W.Va.
Spinning or fly fishing? Hardy County offers seasonally gentle or whitewater rivers, as well as lakes and mountain runs waiting to be fished. Tributaries wind down the mountain slopes feeding Hardy County’s four rivers to offer some of the best fishing in West Virginia.
The South Branch of the Potomac River is a favorite, and whether fishing or floating, the Trough should be a destination. The six-mile gorge features towering rock walls and can only be accessed by water. Known for its great bass fishing and abundance of rainbow, brown, and brook trout, you can also watch bald eagles soaring overhead. Breezewood Adventures has kayaks and canoes you can rent for paddling or fishing the South Branch. They offer a variety of river trips with shuttle service and host private camping trips featuring waterfront sites, river access, and adventure activities.
The Hanging Rock area is a favorite fishing spot on the 30-mile Lost River. Disappearing underground at the Lost River Sinks, it emerges as the Cacapon River. In the fall and spring, Lost River, nearby Waites Run, Trout Run, and Moore’s Run are stocked with trout. The Cacaponand its tributaries are known for their brook trout habitats. Warden Lake offers easily accessible fishing and the longest grass carp on record (53.1”) was landed there this year by Zack Adkins.
North River skirts the northern boundary of the county and, like so many of the mountain runs and man-made lakes, is also stocked throughout the season. Upper Cove, Kimsey Run, and Parker Hollow Lakes are well known fishing spots with Parker Hollow’s submerged, standing trees creating fish habitat.
Trout Pond Recreation Area is home to excellent fishing. At times not more than a large puddle, Trout Pond is the only natural lake in West Virginia, and the 17-acre Rockcliff Lake offers incredible fishing from the river’s shore or by boat. Channel catfish, largemouth bass, and trout are regularly caught at Rockcliff but, while night fishing is permitted, there are special boating and fishing limit regulations.
There are numerous places to stay throughout Hardy County—inns, bed and breakfasts, vacation cabins, a hotel, and several motels. Find a complete list of accommodations, restaurants, and shopping, plus river access points, at the website below. VisitHardyWV.com
Photos courtesy of Visit Hardy
Explore the Pristine Waters of Pocahontas County, W.Va.
When it comes to finding a quiet spot where the fish are biting, there’s no shortage of deep pools, active streams, and calm lakes to cast a line in Pocahontas County. Amidst the mountains of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest, you’ll find a wide range of rainbow, brook, and brown trout opportunities, plus some excellent spots to catch smallmouth bass.
From the storied Greenbrier River and Gauley River to the wild waters of the Williams, Elk, Cranberry, Cherry, Tygart, and Shavers Fork of the Cheat River, there’s always a new waterway to explore every time you visit. Between Knapps Creek and three lakes in the area—the Buffalo, Seneca, and Watoga—you’ll keep busy all day long.
Want to get to know these waters more intimately? The professional guides at Knapps Creek Trout Lodge know their way around the area. Between their beginner lessons and backcountry outings, there’s a trip for every skill level. Plus, their onsite lodging makes for a great place to stay while you’re in town. From a full day wading trip to a weekend package, enjoy world-class fly fishing right out your back door at the Elk River Touring Center. Plus, rent the gear there so you don’t have to haul everything with you. If you prefer solitary exploration, check out Appalachian Sport for all of your fishing supplies, boat rentals, and shuttle service needs while you’re in town.
Plan your visit around one of the many top-notch fishing events throughout the year and meet up with other anglers from all over the region. Participate in the WV Gold Rush, running March 23 through April 3, as the state stocks its infamous golden rainbow trout, including at Cass and Watoga state parks. Compete on storied waters at the Greenbrier Fly Fishing Classic or Lake Buffalo Fishing Derby, both happening on May 14.
Depending on what level of comfort you seek, there are plenty of lodging options to choose from at the end of the day. Curl up in your tent or cabin, find a charming bed and breakfast, or enjoy one of the area’s fine hotels. Find all of this, and more, in Nature’s Mountain Playground of Pocahontas County, W.Va. PocahontasCountyWV.com
Photos courtesy of Pocahontas County
On the Water in Summersville, W.Va.
Home to the mountain state’s largest lake, there is plenty of space to spread out and cast a line in Summersville, W.Va.
Summersville Lake’s calm flatwater is perfect for families, beginners, and those looking for a serene float. In addition to the lake’s tailwaters, the Cherry River, Cranberry River, and Laurel Creek located in nearby Richwood provide excellent destinations for float and wade trips. Whether you’re looking for large and smallmouth bass, walleye, panfish, catfish, or trout, stocked in the spring, there’s never a bad time to visit.
Get on the water with a knowledgeable local guide from Pro River Outfitters or Freelance Fishing and Guide Service. They’ll get you to the best spots in the area, plus provide all the gear you’ll need. If you’re going out on your own, several outfitters and shops are well stocked with bait, gear, and boat rentals in case you leave anything at home.
Plus, with a wide variety of dining and lodging options, you’ll never want to leave. Fish all day and relax at night in Summersville. SummersvilleCVB.com
Photo courtesy of Summersville CVB
Rocking the Rockfish in Calvert County, Md.
As the state fish of Maryland, there’s no better place to cast a line for rockfish than the waters of Calvert County. Located right between the Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent River, there are countless scenic spots to fish on the water or from the shore.
The rockfish, also known as striped bass, typically grows up to three feet in length and weighs 10-30 pounds. Trophy season kicks off the first of May, but there is good fishing through October, so there’s plenty of time to plan your trip.
If you’ve never fished the bay, consider booking a charter boat for a morning or the day. The experienced crew will take care of equipment and navigation so you can focus on reeling in the big one. Plus, with countless tackle shops, waterside restaurants, and lodging accommodations with a view in the area, you don’t have to travel far to stay close to the rivers and bay.
Discover the ultimate rockfish destination when you visit Calvert County, Md. ChooseCalvert.com
Photo courtesy of Calvert County