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A new season of fishing is upon us as the water warms and the trees begin to bloom again. Before you pack your gear, check out these top fishing destinations in the Southeast.


Photo courtesy of Virginia State Parks.

Virginia State Parks

Explore the 38 Virginia State Parks for countless places to cast your line.

Head out on the waters of Claytor Lake, Lake Anna, and Smith Mountain Lake for a day of prime bass fishing and breathing in the fresh air. Extend your trip with a stay at one of the many campsites or rental cabins. There’s plenty to do once you get off the water, including miles of hiking trails to explore. 

Take the whole family out for a trip on one of the smaller lakes at state parks like Pocahontas, Douthat, or Hungry Mother. Get started fishing from the bank or rent a boat from the park. You will find everything from bluegill and crappie to catfish and chain pickerel. A special trout fishing area in Douthat is open only to anglers 12 and younger.

Find a spot on the bank, wade to a hidden nook, or take a float trip down the river at several locations. Head to James River State Park and float eight miles of the river from Bent Creek searching for smallmouth bass, catfish, and pan fish. New River Trail State Park follows the water for 39 miles with several boat ramps along the way. You’ll find plenty of bass, muskellunge, and walleye along the way. Both of these parks offer kayak and canoe rentals for visitors.

“I was out fishing with my brother and my friend. We were all out in separate kayaks and I had a strong bite… I knew it was a big one when it bit, but I could hardly believe it. I was so excited… I’d like to go back again.”  

-WYATT GREGORY, 13, ON FISHING AT BEAR CREEK LAKE STATE PARK

Experience the Potomac River in a variety of ways at one of the five state parks on the river. Access some of the best largemouth bass fishing from the motorboat ramp at Leesylvania State Park or the canoe/kayak launches at Mason Neck and Widewater state parks. If you prefer to cast your line from the shore, Caldeon State Park allows fishing on the open sections of the shore. Use the boat ramp at Westmoreland State Park to access the saltwater fisheries for striped bass, flounder, and croaker. Check out the boathouse for bait, tackle, and boat rentals. 

Take a trip to Virginia’s coast for some fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Kiptopeke and First Landing state parks offer access to both bodies of water. Take a motorboat out on the open water or fish for striped bass, flounder, and spadefish from the shore. 

All state parks require a fishing license, except for the piers at Kiptopeke and York River. Find your Virginia State Park today. Check Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for current fishing regulations. 

virginiastateparks.gov


Photo by Brooke Kiatta.

Calvert County, Maryland

Known for its 143 miles of shoreline, Calvert County, Md. is an angler’s dream. Bounded by the Chesapeake Bay to the east and Patuxent River to the west, there are plenty of opportunities to cast a line by land or water. 

Access the river at Kings Landing Park. Launch your paddle-powered boat to explore and fish the river marshes. Or fish from the pier for spot, white perch, and blue fish. Head to the North Beach Pier, Breezy Point Beach & Campground, or Flag Ponds Nature Park to fish from the bay shore for striped bass, croaker, and Spanish mackerel.

Calvert County, Md. is the “Charter Boat Fishing Capital of Maryland” with the largest fleet of boats on the Chesapeake Bay.

If you want to get on the Chesapeake Bay, consider hiring a charter fishing boat to reach the best places. There are several fishing charter companies that offer half day or full day fishing trips, and bait and tackle can be purchased at various shops throughout the county. Paddleboard and kayak rentals are another popular option. When you get off the water, consider a picnic at one of many parks or beaches that dot the shoreline.

Relax by water when you fish Calvert County, Md.

choosecalvert.com


Photo by Presidio Studios.

Pocahontas County, West Virginia

What better place to spend your days on the water than the “birthplace of rivers,” Pocahontas County, W. Va. 

From January to May, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources stocks rivers, streams, and lakes with trout across the county, including the Greenbrier, Williams, and Cranberry rivers. Multiple access points allow you to customize your trip length. Explore the area on the Greenbrier River Trail by foot, bike, or horse as the 78-mile rail trail follows the winding river. 

Get off the grid and cast a line in Seneca State Forest, located in the National Radio Quiet Zone. Fish the stocked Seneca Lake and nearby Greenbrier River for trout and bass. Fish Watoga Lake at Watoga State Park, West Virginia’s largest park, for largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, and trout. Both locations offer miles of trails for hiking and biking and campsites for overnight lodging when you get off the water. 

Visit the Edray State Trout Hatchery to see the stocked trout at all stages of development. Learn more about the stocking process, fish breeding, and how they navigate West Virginia streams. 

Pocahontas County receives ten percent of West Virginia’s hatchery trout.

Get the full package with one of the professional fly fishing outfitters in the area. Knapps Creek Trout Lodge offers beginner lessons, backcountry exploration trips, family-friendly outings, and gear rentals. When you’re done on the water, head back to the lodge for a home cooked meal and good night’s rest before doing it all again the next day. Take a half day guided wade trip or book a weeklong immersive experience on the best West Virginia trout streams with Elk River Inn & Cabins, an Orvis-endorsed outfitter.  Fish Old Field Fork right out the backdoor or head to the Greenbrier, Williams, and Cranberry rivers and beyond. 

Access over a half mile of private fishing waters on a mountain spring creek and four trout ponds with Pocahontas Fish & Game Adventures. Bunk in their restored log cabin for a true mountain getaway. Load up on fishing supplies, including your fishing license, at Appalachian Sport. Take advantage of the lodging above the store and shuttle service to the Greenbrier River. Jack Horner’s Corner has all the bait and equipment you need for the weekend just a few miles from Watoga State Park. 

Explore a new waterway to fish each time you visit Pocahontas County, W. Va.

naturesmountainplayground.com


Photo by Meghan Marchetti/DGIF.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

With more than 3,500 miles of trout streams, along with many ponds, small lakes, and reservoirs, Virginia offers something for every fly fishing fan. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries hatches and raises trout in four coldwater hatcheries and stocks about 600 miles of water with trout.

This year, DGIF is kicking off the Trout Slam challenge. Starting on March 1, anglers who catch all three trout species – rainbow, brook, and brown – in one day can register their catches on the DGIF website and earn a #VATroutSlam sticker. Are you up for the challenge?

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries annually stocks more than one million catchable-size trout in 180 waters around the state.

Explore the famous brook trout stream at Rapidan Wildlife Management Area. The WMA borders Shenandoah National Park and offers excellent fly fishing for native brook trout.  

Target smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and sunfish at James River Wildlife Management Area. If you enjoy float trips, this provides a great put in or take out for a day on the water.   

Anglers will enjoy the variety of fly fishing opportunities at Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Fish for smallmouth bass on the picturesque Laurel Bed Lake or trout on Big Tumbling Creek at the Fee Fishing Area.   

dgif.virginia.gov


Photo courtesy of the City of Waynesboro. 

Waynesboro, Virginia

Located a short drive from the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, Waynesboro, Va. is a trout angler’s dream. Fish thrive in the mountain waters of the George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park. Fly anglers enjoy the South River flowing through downtown Waynesboro for trophy-sized rainbow and brown trout. The South River Greenway provides parking and easy access to the 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. 

“Having traveled across the U.S. (and then some) in search of great trout fishing, I have a deep appreciation for the tremendous quality of the trout fishery that is right here on the South River. Over the past 25 years, the South River has transformed into one of the most productive and challenging fisheries in the region.”

–TOMMY LAWHORNE, FLY FISHING GUIDE AT SOUTH RIVER FLY SHOP

Extend your fishing trip to Sherando Lake in the George Washington National Forest which is stocked with trout and surrounded by mountains. Cool off in the refreshing waters of the lower lake, explore the hiking trails to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Bald Mountain, and spend the night at one of several campsites in the forest. From there, take a drive on the parkway and hike Humpback Rocks. The breathtaking view at the top makes the strenuous hike worthwhile.

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.

Plan your visit for the end of April when the South River Fly Fishing Expo (April 18-19, 2020) showcases Waynesboro’s unique urban fishery. Hear from expert anglers, practice casting or tying a fly, and sample local food and drinks. Proceeds from the event support habitat conservation and restoration on the South River. Bring the whole family to Riverfest Waynesboro on April 25 to support the Shenandoah River Basin while watching reptile shows and rubber duck races.

Photo courtesy of the City of Waynesboro. 

Stay Awhile 

After you’ve closed your tackle box for the day, indulge with a stay at our breathtaking mountain getaway, The Iris Inn, just minutes from the South River downtown. Take advantage of Waynesboro’s cultural offerings with dinner and drinks at Heritage on Main Street, a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Enjoy one of their burgers, sandwiches, or delicious signature entrees while listening to live music on their patio most weekends. Or opt for the tantalizing flavors that come from Hops Kitchen, where globally influenced dishes meet beer infusions from Basic City Beer Co. Their Smoked Pork Nachos with Beer Cheese was recently recognized in Food Network’s 50 States of Nachos!

Cruise through the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail, a series of fifteen breweries within an hour of each other, for beautiful mountain views, live entertainment, and local brews. Visit Basic City Beer Co., Seven Arrows Brewing, and Stable Craft Brewing in Waynesboro before discovering the rest of the trail. With more than 40 wineries, breweries, and distilleries within 30 miles, you are sure to find something you like. Fill up with organic kombucha at Blue Ridge Bucha, Virginia’s first dedicated kombucha taproom right in Waynesboro. 

Catch a movie, show, or concert at the historic Wayne Theatre. Originally opened as a vaudeville house in 1926, the recently restored theatre hosts a variety of cultural events in a world class venue. Be sure to stop at Kline’s Dairy Bar for a scoop of your favorite ice cream made fresh every day. If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t miss the chance to play a round of night mini golf at Waynesboro Golf and Games long after the sun goes down or race go-karts at Fastrax. 

Spring-fed waters, stunning mountain views, and alluring activities make Waynesboro the ideal angler’s getaway!

sandwiches, or delicious signature entrees while listening to live music on their patio most weekends. Or opt for the tantalizing flavors that come from Hops Kitchen, where globally influenced dishes meet beer infusions from Basic City Beer Co. Their Smoked Pork Nachos with Beer Cheese was recently recognized in Food Network’s 50 States of Nachos!

Cruise through the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail, a series of fifteen breweries within an hour of each other, for beautiful mountain views, live entertainment, and local brews. Visit Basic City Beer Co., Seven Arrows Brewing, and Stable Craft Brewing in Waynesboro before discovering the rest of the trail. With more than 40 wineries, breweries, and distilleries within 30 miles, you are sure to find something you like. Fill up with organic kombucha at Blue Ridge Bucha, Virginia’s first dedicated kombucha taproom right in Waynesboro. 

Catch a movie, show, or concert at the historic Wayne Theatre. Originally opened as a vaudeville house in 1926, the recently restored theatre hosts a variety of cultural events in a world class venue. Be sure to stop at Kline’s Dairy Bar for a scoop of your favorite ice cream made fresh every day. If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t miss the chance to play a round of night mini golf at Waynesboro Golf and Games long after the sun goes down or race go-karts at Fastrax. 

Spring-fed waters, stunning mountain views, and alluring activities make Waynesboro the ideal angler’s getaway!

visitwaynesboro.net


Photo by Blueway Adventures.

Santee Cooper Country, South Carolina

Santee Cooper Country is South Carolina fishing country. 

Made up of five counties, Berkeley, Calhoun, Clarendon, Orangeburg, and Sumter, Santee Cooper has 171,000 acres of land covered by 6.5 million gallons of water. With 450 miles of shoreline, you’ll find plenty of places to get on the water at the two lakes, two rivers, two canals, and a vast swamp in the area.

Marion and Moultrie lakes are home to the landlocked striped bass. Anglers can challenge themselves as they fish for stripers, largemouth, crappie, bream, and catfish. Get off the water at several marinas and boat ramps around the lake. There are plenty of dining and lodging options with views of the water when you are done fishing for the day. The two lakes connect the Santee and Cooper rivers with a number of different public lands, including Santee State Park, Poinsett State Park, Manchester State Forest, Santee National Wildlife Refuge, and Francis Marion National Forest.

In addition to eight state records, Santee Cooper lakes hold the world record for channel catfish weighing in at 58 pounds.

One of the best ways to fish Santee Cooper Country is by kayak. Paddle the waterways, find hidden spots, and break for lunch on a scenic beach. Explore the submerged cypress and tupelo forest of Sparkleberry Swamp. Bring your own kayak or rent one for the day from one of several outfitters around the area. Hook up with a local guide, many of whom specialize in catching certain fish species, for your best chance at a big haul. They provide all of the equipment you will need for fresh water fishing. Get up close and personal with largemouth bass, striped bass, crappie, and catfish in these waters. 

Explore all the area has to offer after a day on the water. Hike five sections of the Palmetto Trail, a state wide trail that will connect the mountains of South Carolina to the sea. Golfers can play 18 holes at 13 different championship courses within a 45 minute drive of Santee. Take in the museums, parks, flower gardens, battlefields, and more. You can sample good old Southern home cooking, traditional barbecue, or a local favorite—fried catfish. At the end of the day, stay at one of the full service motels, lake cabins, or over 1,000 campsites located in the region. 

Relax and get away from the pressures of everyday life where the pace is slow and the people are friendly in Santee Cooper Country.

santeecoopercountry.org


Summersville and Richwood, West Virginia

Fish all day in the mountains of West Virginia when you visit the towns of Summersville and Richwood.

Hop on Summersville Lake, known for its excellent water visibility and relatively warm water temperature. With more than 60 miles of shoreline and 2,800 acres of water, spend all day fishing for bass, walleye, panfish, catfish, and trout. Check out the secluded coves when the water is low. Locations around the lake offer boat rentals, tours, and bait. When you are done with your rod and reel, try out the scuba diving, rock climbing, and hiking trails available around the lake. At 390 feet high and 2,280 feet long, the Summersville Dam is the second largest rock-fill earthen dam in the Eastern United States. 

As a gateway to the Monongahela National Forest, Richwood offers easy access to 150 miles of rivers and streams within a 25-mile radius, including the North and South Fork Cherry River, Big Laurel Creek, Williams River, and Cranberry River. These waters are stocked with golden, brook, brown, and rainbow trout. If you are looking for a multi-day adventure, there are several primitive camping locations along the Cranberry River. Summit Lake has an accessible fishing pier and boat launch. In town, Four Seasons Outfitters & Adventure Sports has all of the supplies and insider knowledge to make your trip a success. Cranberry Adventures offers mule and wagon transportation for fishing and camping excursions. 

Summersville Lake has been called the “Little Bahamas of the East” for the cleanest, clearest freshwater lake east of the Mississippi with 20-45 feet visibility.

Schedule your trip around an event. The West Virginia Bass Federation hosts fishing tournaments on Summersville Lake in the spring, summer, and fall. Toast the arrival of spring at the 82nd Richwood Ramp Festival or celebrate all things whitewater at Gauley Fest. The Richwood and Summersville airports are close by and provide convenient access for small engine fly ins. 

Both Summersville and Richwood have a variety of recreation, dining, and lodging options for when the day winds down. Whitewater raft the New and Gauley rivers, learn the history of the area at Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park, or visit one of the antique shops in the area. Stop by the Kirkwood Winery and taste some of their 30 varieties of wine. Take in views from the Summersville Lake Retreat Lighthouse before bunking in one of their cabins or campsites for the night. 

Discover all that Summersville and Richwood have to offer when you get away to these waterways of West Virginia. 

summersvillecvb.com | richwoodchamberofcommerce.org


Photo by Sam Dean Photography.

Boone, North Carolina

Get away to the trout waters of North Carolina when you visit Boone on your next fishing trip. These parks and access points make it easy to get on the water and get fishing. 

The Watauga River is a fly anglers dream, filled with smallmouth bass and all kinds of trout. Wade into the water at Valle Crucis Community Park. This section of the river is designated a delayed harvest trout stream. You can also fish Dutch Creek on the other side of the park. 

Fish the Middle Fork of the New River from Sterling Creek Park. Bring a picnic for lunch or enjoy a walk on the first completed segment of the Middle Fork Greenway. Access the South Fork of the New River from the banks at Brookshire Park where you’ll find wild and stocked trout, rock bass, and redbreast sunfish. Just a few miles upriver, Green Valley Community Park has a canoe ramp so you can access the fishing by boat. Hop on Winkler Creek along the Boone Greenway and follow the water until it merges with the South Fork. 

The headwaters of the New River, the Yadkin River, the Johns River, and the Watauga River all originate in Watauga County.

Visit Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, for several fishing opportunities. Cast your line at Trout and Bass lakes, with parking and walkable loops around the water. The hiking trail around Price Lake at Julian Price Park provides several fishing spots to catch the trout that is stocked monthly. Coffey Lake, designated as delayed harvest trout waters, on Beech Mountain is stocked annually with brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Both Bass and Coffey lakes offer handicapped access for all anglers. 

Take advantage of the local knowledge when you book a guide in town. Stock up with flies and gear rentals before heading out on the waters of the Watauga Watershed with High Country Guide Service. Learn the fundamentals of fly fishing or float for trophy fish with Due South Outfitters, a Trout Unlimited endorsed guide service. From casting clinics to wilderness wade trips, Fish Goat Guide Service has something for everyone. 

Photo by Sam Dean Photography.

Stay Awhile 

There is so much more to explore when you get off the water. Mountain bikers can test out their skills on miles of trails at Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, Beech Mountain Resort, and Sugar Mountain. Go for a stroll on the Boone Greenway, hike to the peaks at Grandfather Mountain State Park, or step onto the scenic Appalachian Trail. 

At the end of the day, head to one of the 30 local eateries in and around downtown for a delicious meal. You’ll find deliciously prepared trout and other dishes at The Gamekeeper, Red Onion Café, and others in town. The Local and Twigs serve up good eats and weekend nightlife. Hit up Ransom Café Pub for bluegrass jams on Wednesdays or The Woodlands BBQ any night for live performances. 

Enjoy a flight from Grandfather Mountain Winery as you take in the scenery from the bank of the Watauga River. Both Lost Province Brewing Co. and Appalachian Mountain Brewery are just a short walk from where Boone Creek runs through town. Sit outside and drink a cold one at Booneshine Brewing Co., just off of Brookshire Park and the South Fork of the New River. 

Take in all of this and more when you explore the mountains and waters of Boone, N.C. 

exploreboone.com


Photo courtesy of Wythe and Smyth County.

Wythe and Smyth Counties, Virginia

From mountain rivers to scenic lakes, the waters of Wythe and Smyth counties are the perfect getaway in Southwest Virginia. 

Explore the deep pools and scattered islands of the New River. With six different ramps, choose your trip length and float the river south to north as you fish for walleye, smallmouth bass, and musky. Rent kayaks and canoes for the day from New River Trail State Park. Get out on the headwaters of the South Fork Holston River in search of brown and rainbow trout.  The Middle Fork offers a variety of fishing opportunities, including redbreast sunfish, rock back, and bluegills. Private trophy trout fishing is available along Cripple Creek. 

Hungry Mother State Park, one of the six original Virginia parks, encompasses a 108-acre lake filled with a dozen species, including largemouth and smallmouth bass. After a morning on the water, take to the 17 miles of trails in the park by foot or bike to see more of the area. The boat ramp at Rural Retreat Lake is open year-round, 24-hours a day. Stock up with bait and tackle before casting your line for musky, northern pike, sunfish, and more. A small pond next to the lake is stocked with trout. Both lakes also have camping onsite for an extended trip. 

The New River is one of the oldest in the world, and holds several state records for musky, smallmouth, and walleye.

If you are new to the area, consider hiring a local guide to show you around. With over the 30 years of experience, book a float trip on the New River with Appalachian Outdoor Adventures. Chase smallmouth bass, musky, and wild trout through the mountain streams with Matt Reilly Fly Fishing. Whether you’re looking to get 4 hours on the water or multiple days, New River Trips LLC can get you out there. Trips with Greasy Creek Outfitters include all of the equipment you’ll need on the water.  

At the end of a long day, head to Seven Sisters Brewery or 7 Dogs Brewpub for a cold one. Take in an evening show at the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre or the Historic Lincoln Theater. Check into the Bolling Wilson Hotel, a boutique hotel in downtown Wytheville, for a comfy room, full-service restaurant, and a rooftop bar. Or wind down at the General Francis Marion Hotel and grab a bite to eat at their Speakeasy Gastropub. 

Spend your days on the water when you visit Wytheville and Smyth County, Virginia. 

visitwytheville.com | visitvirginiamountains.com


Photo by Fly Fishing The Smokies.

Bryson City, North Carolina

Discover the trout waters of Bryson City, N.C., the fly fishing capital of the South. Explore hundreds of miles of native trout streams, four rivers, and two lakes in the area.

Find a spot to cast your line on the Nantahala and Tuckasegee rivers, both named a Top 100 Trout River by Trout Unlimited. The Tuckasegee flows right through town, so it’s just a short drive or walk to local restaurants and amenities. 

Spend your days surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Nantahala National Forest at Fontana Lake. It is the fourth deepest man-made lake in
the country at more than 400 feet and features some of the best walleye, musky, and smallmouth bass fishing around. 

Experience the world class scenery and fishing of Deep Creek and Hazel Creek. The Raven Fork Trophy Section, a 2.2-mile stretch of creek located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, is home to the biggest trout in the Smokies.

A 2.2-mile section of the Tuckasegee River through Bryson City is designated delayed harvest waters with one of the highest trout count totals per mile of any stream in the U.S. 

Whether you are new to fly fishing or are looking to find the best local spots, there are several outfitters in town who can help you out with any wade or float trip in the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas. Fly Fishing the Smokies will introduce you to delayed harvest fishing on the Tuckasegee River. Fish the smallmouth bass sanctuary on the Little Tennessee with guides from Tuckaseegee Fly Shop. A popular trip with Fontana Guides includes Cherokee’s trophy trout section. Located right on the Nantahala River, Endless River Adventures has a trip for everyone, 
including the fast-moving cascades on the Upper Nantahala. 

When you get off the water, stop by the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians to learn about legendary “Stream Blazers,” the evolution of rods and reels, types of gear, and fly tying. View the diversity of the Southern waters at the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium. Of the many regional fish, amphibian, and reptile species, the aquarium includes two Hellbenders. These ancient and protected salamanders live in a 450-gallon tank, the largest in the Southeast.  

If you are in the mood for more trout, The Fryemont Inn and Everett Hotel serve trout prepared several different ways. Kick back and relax with a cold beer at Nantahala Brewing Company or Mountain Layers Brewing Company at the end of a long day. 

greatsmokies.com


For more fly fishing go to https://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/fly-fishing/

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