The weather is warming, flowers are blooming, and the fish are biting! Catch beautiful native brook trout in the small streams that flow from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, or wrangle in some sizable smallmouth bass in the largest river in Virginia, the mighty James. Celebrate the return of spring in the Blue Ridge with the diverse fishing opportunities, outdoor activities, and dining establishments that Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia have to offer.
Pristine Waterways of The Rivanna
Gently flowing throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle County, the Rivanna River allows for excellent fishing without venturing far from town. In these waters expect to catch warm water fish species such as smallmouth bass, sunfish, and crappie. Efforts from the Rivanna Conservation Alliance have protected the Rivanna River from outside pollutants, making it perfect for swimming and floating as well. These efforts have also helped protect the many species of wildlife in and around the river, including the fish you catch!
Celebrate our clean waterways and wildlife preservation with the rest of Charlottesville at the annual Rivanna RiverFest. Each spring, activities are held for a week, culminating in a celebration held at the Rivanna River Company where you’ll find conservation demonstrations and other educational activities, kayak and canoe races, and live music.
For more information on fishing in the Rivanna, visit this page on the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ website.
The Historic James River
The James River borders southern Albemarle County, just a 30-minute drive from the city center, and is one of the largest rivers in Virginia. These vast waters commonly produce large smallmouth bass, catfish, and even muskies. The James is accessible through a public boat ramp in Scottsville, a town in southern Albemarle County, where water activities such as fishing, tubing, kayaking, and canoeing reign supreme.
While visiting Scottsville, you’ll learn that the James River is an integral part of its history and identity. Scottsville was originally the county seat of Albemarle County due to its location on the river, and the batteau (a special type of flat-bottom boat) was used to transport the agricultural riches of Central and Western Virginia to the seaports along the coast. Learn more about this fascinating history at the Scottsville Museum, or get some hands-on experience by taking a batteau ride down the river with the James River Batteau Company.
Click here for more information about fishing in the James River.
Cool Park Streams and Tributaries
The Blue Ridge Mountains offer scenic views and produce some of the best fly-fishing opportunities in the world. Located just a short drive away from Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Skyline Drive meanders through Shenandoah National Park, which contains more than 90 mountain streams and tributaries. Fly-fishing enthusiasts come from all over the nation to toss a fly in some of the beautiful plunge pools which contain native brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout.
Visitors can leave their cars at Sugar Hollow Reservoir and enter the park, hiking along either the North or South Fork of the Moormans River. Before your visit, be sure to check the fishing regulations in Shenandoah National Park and take a look at this map of the Moormans River.
Angling at Local Lakes and Reservoirs
Beautiful parks are spread throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle County, with many featuring bodies of water perfect for finding sunfish, bass, and catfish. Boat ramps are available at Walnut Creek Park, Beaver Creek Park, Albemarle Lake, and the South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir behind Ivy Creek Natural Area. Additionally, Ragged Mountain Reservoir has a put in for kayaks.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources stocks the lake at Mint Springs Valley Park, Scottsville Lake, and Sugar Hollow Reservoir throughout the fall and winter months. Visitors can find out when the lakes were last stocked by looking at the Daily Trout Stocking Schedule on the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ website.
Many local natural areas and parks are also home to great hiking and biking opportunities. Ragged Mountain Reservoir, Ivy Creek Natural area, and Walnut Creek Park are close to town and are great for a quick and easy hike or bike ride.
Discover rushing waterfalls, rocky outcrops, and sensational singletrack. For additional outdoor fun, take the 30-minute drive from downtown Charlottesville back to Shenandoah National Park to explore endless hiking and biking trails, and magnificent overlooks. Along Skyline Drive you can find many hikes including the Calvary and Chimney Rocks hikes at milepost 90. Chimney Rock, in particular, wows with a stunning overlook complete with flattop rocks.
The Blue Ridge Parkway, running opposite of Skyline Drive towards the south, also houses hikes for all skill levels. For a moderately difficult hike with a rewarding 360-degree view, head to Humpback Rocks. Or, for advanced hikers looking for a challenge, take the 15.0-mile loop hike across Three Ridges Wilderness to gain nearly 4,000 feet in elevation and take steps along the iconic Appalachian Trail.
Charlottesville and Albemarle’s proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains and other trail and waterway systems make it the perfect basecamp for adventure.
Wine and Dine This Spring
The return of spring calls for the return of patio dining! Take a stroll through the pedestrian-friendly historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville and choose from a variety of restaurants that provide excellent outdoor dining atmospheres such as Citizen Burger Bar, The Bebedero, and Bizou. Or, relax at Mudhouse Coffee Roasters’ doorstep and re-up your energy levels with a delicious latte.
The Belmont neighborhood is within close proximity to the Rivanna River and a great place to stop after a long day of fishing. Explore the menus of various cuisines at restaurants like Mas, Conmole and Tavola, or head to Selvedge Brewing Company at the Wool Factory for a cold local beverage and views of the riverbanks.
For a tasty all-day experience, hop on the Monticello Wine Trail to sip award winning wines from over 40 wineries, all within 25 miles of Charlottesville. Relax in the bucolic countryside and enjoy views of the Blue Ridge, as you sip nationally and internationally acclaimed wines. The Monticello Wine Trail Digital Passport makes it easy to find wineries and track your visits. As a bonus, a special gift awaits you at the 10th participating winery you visit!
Places to Stay
After a day of adventure, find a relaxing place to stay, so you can do it all over again! Montfair Resort Farm provides wooded cottages and houses, perfect for couples and families. Onsite lakes are stocked with bass, catfish, and bluegill – and visitors can even rent canoes to take out on the water. You can also enjoy birdwatching, hiking, biking, stargazing and more on the 129-acre property.
Stay in town at the Quirk Hotel where, as the name suggests, you can delight in a stay that is everything but usual. At this boutique hotel on West Main Street, you can discover local artists, unique dining experiences, and restful slumbers. Be sure to check out the rooftop bar for more lively entertainment and incredible views.
Groups should also consider the Lodge at Sugar Hollow. This beautiful retreat is located just below Sugar Hollow Reservoir along the Moormans River. The 4-bedroom lodge has stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as 2 stone fireplaces and a pool. Access to the Shenandoah National Park is just a short drive up the road.
Click here for a complete list of places to stay in Charlottesville and Albemarle County!
Spend your spring in Charlottesville and Albemarle County for an unforgettable fishing and outdoor adventure, world-class wineries, and dining experiences.
**Please note: All users will need to have either a Virginia resident or non-resident freshwater fishing license, and those targeting stocked trout waters between October 1st and June 15th will need to acquire a trout license. Those under 16 years of age do not need a fishing license. Click here for Virginia Fishing Licenses and Fees.**
Cover Photo: Fly fishing on the Rivanna River