The fish are biting, the temperatures are starting to warm up, and the waters of the Blue Ridge are calling to you. From mountain streams to flatwater lakes, use this guide to find your next fishing destination.
Alleghany Highlands, Virginia
If you enjoy fishing renowned blue ribbon trout streams, miles of pristine waterfront all to yourself, or the experience of reeling in a beautiful bass on a scenic mountain lake, then the Alleghany Highlands of Virginia is your next destination for an incredible fishing experience. The scenic Jackson River is the perfect spot for fly fishing with its recognition as a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream. It’s also ranked #25 in Trout Unlimited’s Guide to the Top 100 U.S. Trout Streams.
The Jackson River Scenic Trail runs adjacent to the river and is the perfect place to take in views of the Jackson’s beautiful emerald waters. The 14.4-mile trail is mostly flat and composed of smooth crushed gravel, making it perfect for all ages. If you need a kayak, canoe, or even a bike to ride along the trail, Alleghany Outdoors, a river outfitter located at the Intervale trailhead of the scenic trail, has you covered.
If you’re looking for a more private fishing experience, Escatawba Farms is your spot. Cradled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and heart of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Escatawba offers a secluded Virginia trout fishing experience on Dunlap Creek, a freestone stream that ambles its way through two miles of wooded mountains and fenced pastures. For novice anglers and stillwater enthusiasts, Escatawba Farms also boasts three spring-fed ponds. So whether you fish the stream or the ponds, your Virginia trout fishing experience will include dozens of big, cruising rainbows and brook trout—many of them citation size.
Lake Moomaw, considered one of Virginia’s most scenic lakes, offers 43 miles of undeveloped shoreline, providing anglers the perfect venue for a successful day on the water. The lake is the result of Gathright Dam, which creates great fishing for trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, and panfish.
Other options include the Cowpasture River, which forms the headwaters of the historic James River, and Douthat Lake at Douthat State Park, voted Best State Park by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine two years in a row. The lake and stream at Douthat are stocked with trout during the spring and fall with bass and panfish opportunities throughout the summer.
When it’s time to put the rod and reel away for the day, book your stay in a scenic riverfront cabin, a lakefront campsite, or a unique glamping experience in the heart of Virginia’s Mountain Region. It’s Uniquely Alleghany!
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.
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.
Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources
From cold water to warm water, Virginia offers a diverse array of fishing opportunities that will excite any angler from a novice to the near expert. If you live in the central part of the state you are a 90-minute drive from saltwater opportunities on the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. Drive 90 minutes in the other direction and you can try your luck in the mountains on a native brook trout stream or in the valley stalking large, weary spring creek trout. Add in the wealth of opportunities to target warm-water gamefish like largemouth bass and smallmouth bass and you might have a difficult time deciding where to have fun.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ website at VirginiaWildlife.gov is an invaluable resource for anglers where they can buy fishing licenses and trout stamps for fishing in stocked waters, refer to fishing regulations, explore an interactive map of fishing sites, learn when pre-announced trout stocking is scheduled, and more.
From the confluence of the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers in Botetourt County, downstream to Richmond, the Upper and Middle James River offers a wide range of angling opportunities and settings. Smallmouth bass are the dominant game species, but spotted and largemouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, and various sunfish can also be caught. The elusive muskellunge is stocked in the James, and some very large fish can be caught. Most of the muskies are found upstream from Lynchburg.
The South River harbors good numbers of smallmouth bass, redbreast sunfish, rock bass, fallfish, and even a few largemouth bass from near Lyndhurst downstream to the confluence with the North River in Port Republic. Anglers might also catch bluegill, green sunfish, channel catfish, carp, white sucker, or black crappie while exploring the river. The South River provides excellent fishing for stocked trout in Waynesboro, with anglers having success spin fishing or fly fishing.
Whitetop Laurel, a large trout stream located in Washington County, offers seven miles of stocked water in addition to five miles of special regulation water in Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Anglers can fish for both stocked and wild stream-bred trout. Whitetop Laurel has browns, rainbows, and brookies, making this a great destination for anglers to complete the Virginia Trout Slam Challenge, in which anglers are challenged to catch a brown, rainbow, and brook trout all in the same day.
Giles County, Virginia
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. Both New River Outdoor Co. and Tangent Outfitters offer guided fishing trips in the area so you can get the most out of your visit.
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.
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. 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 newly opened 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, grab your mask and head into town to take advantage of Waynesboro’s cultural offerings. Our restaurants and attractions are doing everything they can to keep visitors safe, including limited seating, mask requirements, and frequent cleanings. Catch a movie or live show at the beautifully restored Wayne Theatre, originally built in 1926. Discover world-class murals on the new Waynesboro Street Arts Trail, an interactive, scavenger-hunt-style tour on the free Traipse app.
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, a new, upscale burger joint already recognized in this year’s Best of the Blue Ridge competition. 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. (also recognized in three Best of the Blue Ridge categories), 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, right in Waynesboro, there’s something for everyone.
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!
From the novice searching for their first big catch to the experienced angler looking for a new thrill, Wytheville, Va., has a waterway for you. Get started on the New River, home to state records for smallmouth bass, walleye, and muskellunge. New River Trail State Park runs parallel to the river for 39 miles, providing water access as well as hiking and biking opportunities.
For those looking for native brook trout, Dry Run Creek is a popular spot surrounded by Jefferson National Forest with access to Mount Rogers Recreation Area while Cripple Creek offers a variety of experiences, from the public, state-stocked sections to private trophy trout waters.
If lake fishing is more your style, Rural Retreat Lake provides 90 acres filled with muskellunge, bass, northern pike, sunfish, channel catfish, and crappy. With a boat ramp and ample shoreline spots, plus a concession stand that sells bait and tackle, this is a quiet spot for a day of fishing.
While you’re in the area, book a local guide to find the best spots on the water. With more than 30 years of experience, the folks at Appalachian Outdoor Adventures specialize in smallmouth bass and musky float trips on the New River. Book a float or wade trip with Matt Reilly Fly Fishing for scenic spots on mountain streams.
Those traveling with the whole family should explore the other attractions Wytheville has to offer. Soak up the sights, smells, and sounds of Beagle Ridge Herb Farm as you walk through rows of lavender and the butterfly house. Interact with the animals at Fort Chiswell Animal Park with a safari bus tour and petting zoo or bike the terrain park at Crystal Springs Recreation Area. Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre presents an evening of Broadway-style entertainment complete with a delicious four-course meal.
Celebrate the day’s catch with a drink and good eats in town. Head to Seven Sisters Brewery or 7 Dogs Brew Pub for locally crafted beers and live music. Enjoy a slice of the countryside with a glass of wine in your hand from West Wind Farm Vineyard & Winery.
Get some rest before another day of fishing at one of Wytheville’s hotels or campgrounds with options available at all price points. Stay in the Trinkle Mansion Bed & Breakfast for elegant accommodations and a memorable three-course breakfast or the Bolling Wilson Hotel for the rooftop terrace serving up appetizers, drinks, and mountain views.
Relax and unwind with a day on the water and night of fun in Wytheville, Va.
Please check with locations prior to travel to determine how best to have a healthy and safe experience.
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