OVERVIEW - The age old Spring barometer, the blooming of the dogwoods, has signified the beginning of the spawning cycle of fish. With the recent warm weather heating up the local waters, resident fish have started their search for beds. Anadromous species are also in full spawning mode, heading for the back ends of tidal waters to scatter eggs and repeat the propagation of the species.
POTOMAC RIVER - D.C. - Bass are beginning to spawn in the river. Better fishing areas now include any suitable spawning areas, such as Columbia Island Lagoon, Washington Sailing Marina, Oxon Cove, Washington Channel and the Spoils. Jig 'n pig, plastic worms and grubs and rattling crankbaits are the preferred baits. The area around Fletcher's Boathouse is thick with stripers up to 20 pounds. White perch are available in the deeper holes, while catfish action is red hot. Bottom fished baits of cut mud shad, are taking cats up to 20+ pounds. Herring schools are thickening and shad action is good, early and late in the day. REMEMBER - There is a moratorium in effect for river herring and shad.
POTOMAC RIVER - BELOW WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE - Most of the bass have not moved into the backs of creeks. Best action is found in the main river grassbeds and sand or gravel flats on the main river. Carolina-rigged plastic worms and lizards, in green and blue colors are taking good fish. Crankbaits are taking a lot of good fish, when fished on the downtide side of points with good tidal flows. Bass are also looking to spawn in the backs of the creeks, where Rapalas, twitched around the spawning flats, will take fish. Some fish are also taking spinnerbaits, rattling crankbaits and occasionally, topwater baits. Crappie are schooled up and taking small minnows and tiny jigs. White and yellow perch may be found on the bottom in the deeper holes in some of the creeks. Fish these holes with small plastic grubs, nightcrawlers and live minnows. Catfish are suckers for cut bait, particularly mud shad. Fish the flats adjacent to the river channel for the trophies.
OCCOQUAN RIVER - Herring, shad, a few crappie and good numbers of bass are being caught here. The herring and shad are found in the rocks in the back of the river, while crappie and bass are found near the boat docks and structure around the Route One Bridge. Catfish action is great throughout the river, with the larger fish coming from around the islands at the mouth of the river. Striper action is iffy, on large Rapalas, Rebel Minnows or Cordell Redfins. Some fish are taking Rat-L-Traps or Sassy Shads.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR - Water conditions are excellent, with bass beginning to spawn. Those bass that are not yet building nests, are taking spinnerbaits in the back of main lake coves and on main lake points. Most of these bass are running 4-8 pounds. Crappie fishing is excellent, with plenty of large fish. Catfish are turning on, taking cut bait in the old river channel.
BURKE LAKE - Bass are building nests all around the lake. Best baits are small plastics and minnow imitators, such as small Rapalas or Thundersticks. Crappie and bass action is generally good, with bass hitting crankbaits and plastic worms around brushpiles and points. Crappie are taking small jigs and live minnows on dropoffs and over brushpiles.
LAKE BRITTLE - A good number of bass in the 3-7 pound range, are taking lures in this lake. The larger fish are taking live crayfish. Crappie and bluegill are biting well in the clear water.
FARM PONDS - Lots of action from largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie and channel catfish. Better baits are topwater lures, bottom-fished plastic worms, flyrod poppers, nightcrawlers and live minnows. Check for spawning beds in the shallows. Fish small plastic baits through the beds or small minnow imitators over the beds.
POTOMAC RIVER - UPPER - Smallmouth bass are biting on chartreuse plastic grubs, tiny crankbaits and small spinners or spinnerbaits. Work baits along the shoreline weedbeds during the morning and in the middle of the river during the afternoon. Topwater baits should also work well for some good fish, early and late in the day. Largemouth bass are spawning in the feeder creeks off the main river. Catfish are taking live minnows and cut bait, fished on the bottom, in the deeper holes. Lots of big, spawning bluegills may be caught on nightcrawlers, spinners, Beetlespins and flyrod poppers, around the shoreline weedbeds.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER - Big blue catfish, to 30+ pounds, are taking cut gizzard shad baits, fished on the bottom, in the outside bends of the river. Bass fishing has slowed, as the bass are beginning to nest. Herring, white perch and hickory and American shad are being caught around the Route One Bridge. The river is loaded with stripers. Above the city, smallmouth bass, 2-5 pounds, are taking Tiny Torpedos.
SHENANDOAH RIVER - Good action is being had by anglers fishing for catfish, sunfish and smallmouth bass. Catfish are taking cut bait and nightcrawlers, fished on the bottom. Sunfish are taking nightcrawlers and Beetlespins, while smallmouth are taking topwater baits and plastic grubs.
MATTAPONI/PAMUNKEY RIVERS - Shad and herring are thick in the rivers. White perch and catfish action is excellent, on bloodworms, minnows, peelers and cut bait. Bass are being caught on topwater baits, crankbaits and plastic worms throughout the rivers, while crappie are taking small minnows and jigs.
LAKE ANNA - Bass are in various stages of spawning on the lake. Plastic lizards and topwater twitch baits are the most effective lures, although some fish are being taken on crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Best patterns appear to be crankbaits on main lake points as far up the North Anna as possible. In addition, fish spinnerbaits around boat docks in 6-8 feet of water, tossing the bait up on the shore and bringing it past the pilings to the deeper water. Most of the fish will be taken from 2-3 feet of water. Striper fishing is best early and late in the day, with Zara Spooks, Cordell Redfins and pearl colored Sassy Shads, fished on the shallow flats adjacent to main channel points. Good catches of the linesided fish are coming from the Dillard's Bridge and Harris Pond areas of the lake. Crappie fishing remains excellent, with the tasty fish being caught on live minnows and tiny jigs around beaver huts, bridge pilings and suspended over creek channels.
LAKE ORANGE - Excellent fishing for large bass this past week, prior to the spawn. Crappie fishing is good and bluegill fishing is excellent for spawning fish. Catfish anglers are taking some fish to 10 pounds, on cut bait.
JAMES RIVER - Smallmouth bass are taking live minnows, plastic grubs and worms and small topwater lures above the city. The best pattern for largemouth bass in the tidal stretch, is flippin' the standing cypress trees with small plastic worms, grubs and jig and pig. Catfish action is good on cut gizzard shad or eel chunks, fished on the bottom, on the outside bends of the river channel. The cats are running to 50+ pounds.
LAKE CHESDIN - Bass action is excellent. The preferred baits are spinnerbaits, plastics and rattling crankbaits. Crappie action is excellent, with the fish taking minnows around submerged brush. Stripers are putting in an appearance, as quite a few were taken this past week on rattling crankbaits and jumbo minnows. Catfish action is fair on bottom baits.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER - This river is in excellent shape. Lots of bass in the 3-4 pound range are being taken on small crankbaits, plastic worms and grubs and topwater lures. Big gar are being caught by anglers using large minnows, in and on the edges of the lily pads. Lots of big bream are taken on nightcrawlers, along with herring and shad on small gold hooks and spoons at Walker's Dam. Stripers are thick in the river, particularly at Walker's Dam. Catfish action is red hot, with many in the 10-15 pound class being taken.
CHICKAHOMINY LAKE - Buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic worms, fished in the grass, are taking good stringers of bass, as well as an occasional gar, lots of bowfin and lots of pickerel. Crappie action is outstanding on minnows. Bream are taking topwater poppers, crickets and nightcrawlers. Catfish action is excellent on nightcrawlers, minnows and cut herring.
LITTLE CREEK RESERVOIR - Some 4-5+ pound bass are being taken from the beds on plastic lizards and topwaters, while citation yellow perch and pickerel are taking artificial baits. A few stripers are also mixed in the creels. Crappie action is sparse. Shellcrackers are showing, but not bedding yet.
BACK BAY - The bay is in excellent shape. Grass has appeared in the coves and along the ditches. Lots of catfish and bass are being caught. Better areas are the canals in Knott's Island, West Neck Creek and Blackwater Creek. White perch, sunfish and crappie are also biting well. Nightcrawlers and cut bait are taking the cats, while worms and spinnerbaits are accounting for most of the bass. Hellspoint Creek is producing some big channel catfish.
SUFFOLK LAKES - Fishing for bream and shellcrackers is great, as the big sunnies are spawning. Bass fishing is excellent with most of the fish being caught on plastic worms and crankbaits in less than two feet of water. Live jumbo minnows are accounting for a number of gar being taken from Lake Prince. Lake Meade and Western Branch are producing good numbers of striped bass on live minnows. Lake Smith is producing bass to six pounds, along with a few stripers, lots of catfish, some crappie and a few walleye.
LAKE GASTON - Fishing is excellent, with striper fishermen catching fish on live shad and bucktails, cast up on the bank in the upper end of the lake, near Kerr Dam. Catfish action is good for anglers fishing live shad on or near the bottom. Largemouth action is good, with topwater lures accounting for a few good fish in the back ends of coves. Bass are spawning in the back end of the warmer creeks and in main lake coves. Fish crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic worms between boat docks in the coves and creeks near the main lake for the pre-spawn bass.
BUGGS ISLAND LAKE - Downlake, bass are looking to nest in the back of creeks and coves. They are also present on secondary points, where Carolina-rigged lizards will take some good fish. With the water level stable at 302 over the past week and water temperature still in the mid 60s, the brush is just underwater and bass are holding in the brush, around spawning sites. Above the Clarksville bridge, bass are either spawning or staging for the spawn, holding on drops in 8-12 feet of water, taking any kind of plastic bait, as long as it is not watermelon or green pumpkin. Almost every angler on the lake is throwing these color plastics and the fish have become used to them. Try a red, blue or pumpkinseed bait instead and see if you don't pick up fish behind them. Use the lightest sinker possible, as these fish are looking for a slow falling bait. Fish the backs of coves and pockets, particularly those with brush, adjacent to a creek channel. With the brush being flooded, the fish will be holding tight to the brush, adjacent to the creek channel. Do not pass up "nothing" type banks. Just because they don't have cover on them does not mean there are no fish available. Topwaters, such as gold or teal colored Rattling Rogues, will entice some bass, particularly early and late in the day. When the sun is up, toss blue flake power lizards into the middle of coves. Crappie are on brushpiles in eight feet of water and are taking live minnows. Stripers are up in the Dan and Staunton Rivers on their annual spawning run. Excellent white bass fishing in the upper reaches of the lake.
BRIERY CREEK & SANDY RIVER RESERVOIRS - The big bass are turned on at Briery Creek, with bass over the six pound mark being taken last week. Most of the fish took either plastic worms or jig 'n pig. Large red-eared sunfish are taking nightcrawlers, red wigglers and crickets in eight feet of water. Crappie and pickerel fishing continues to be good.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE - Bass are beginning to go on the beds. Some are being caught in the backs of coves and on shallow banks, using chameleon colored plastic worms. The better bass fishing is in the Blackwater River arm of the lake. Stripers are biting well, with a 20+ pound fish being taken on live shad this past week. Crappie fishing is also excellent.
LEESVILLE RESERVOIR - Striper fishing is good in the Staunton River, with live shad, bucktails and Cordell Redfins being the best baits. Walleye are mixed in the catches. Bass fishing has slowed, but catfish and crappie action is good.
LAKE MOOMAW - Largemouth bass have turned on in the lake, with fish over the five pound mark being weighed this past week. Crappie action is holding up. A few large catfish are also being caught. Trout action is heating up, with a number of fish over the four pound mark being caught this past week.
PHILPOTT LAKE - Bass are taking spring lizard baits. Walleye are taking the same bait, in addition to live minnows and crankbaits. Crappie fishing is excellent. The Smith River is producing some rainbow trout in the 4-5 pound class.
NEW RIVER - Carp, catfish and smallmouth bass, to five pounds are the fare. Water is lightly stained, with most of the bass being caught at the mouths of creeks. Occasional musky are being taken by bass anglers. The big news is stripers, 6-8 pounds, running out of Bluestone Reservoir. Best action is to be had at Shumate, Narrow Falls and State Line Falls.
SOUTH HOLSTON RESERVOIR - Crappie fishing is excellent, with minnows being the best bait. White bass are taking small spinners, but may not be kept. Smallmouth bass are also biting aggressively. Fish the flooded bushes with plastic worms or lizards. Some trout are being caught, primarily in the Tennessee section of the lake.
FLANNAGAN RESERVOIR - Bass are going on the beds, but crappie and catfish are taking up the slack. A few small trout and walleye are also seen in the creels.
CLAYTOR LAKE - There is a decent run of 4-6 pound striped bass. Crappie and yellow perch are taking baits around the boat docks and brushpiles. Smallmouth bass are located about 10 feet off the bank and are taking crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastics. Flathead catfish are turned on, taking crayfish and chub minnows.
TROUT STREAMS - Excellent trout fishing throughout the state. Spin fishermen are having good success using Dardevle spoons and Roostertail spinners. Fly fishermen are finding good fishing with maribou muddlers in sizes 8-10 in the larger streams and size 14-16 dry flies in the smaller streams.