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.
photo by Meghan Marchetti/DWR
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.
Cover photo courtesy of DWR