Outdoor report: River fishing forecast

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On the New River upstream from Claytor Lake (Upper New River), smallmouth bass spawning has been poor since 2014 due to high water conditions in the spring months.

As a result, most angler catches in 2020 will be smallmouth bass from seven to 11 inches with occasional catches of larger smallmouth bass from the abundant spawns in 2012 and 2014. The section from Buck Dam to Allisonia is the best area of the Upper New River for smallmouth bass fishing.

Walleye fishing is best from Fries Dam to Allisonia where the department concentrates its stocking efforts. Anglers catch good numbers of walleye in this section from February to May, with Foster Falls a prime location.

Rock bass and redbreast sunfish provide fun fishing opportunities, particularly from Mouth of Wilson to Fries where these sunfish are more numerous. In pool areas from Ivanhoe to Allisonia, anglers can catch channel and flathead catfish, which are more numerous upstream from Claytor Lake than they are downstream from the lake. Muskie populations have increased from Ivanhoe to Allisonia, offering opportunities to catch a trophy that will light up your lure.

Like the New River upstream from Claytor Lake, smallmouth bass spawning on the New River below Claytor Lake (Lower New River) has been poor since 2014, although the 2016 year class was slightly above average. Based on limited fall of 2019 electrofishing data, it appears that the 2019 smallmouth bass spawn was good. As a result, angler catches in 2020 will primarily be seven to 11-inch smallmouth bass with occasional catches of larger ones.

Top locations for smallmouth bass are Whitethorne to Eggleston in Montgomery and Giles counties and Pembroke to Pearisburg in Giles County. Good areas for panfish include Claytor Dam and Whitethorne in Montgomery County and Pembroke to Pearisburg in Giles County.

If you prefer catching big fish, increase the size of your gear and target muskellunge. Throwing large spinnerbaits and stickbaits could result in hair-raising strikes.

VDGIF biologists are beginning the second year of a multi-year tagging study aimed at estimating angler exploitation of muskellunge in the lower New River.

The results of this will provide valuable information to fisheries biologists and administrators about how anglers use this fishery and will help justify the amount of time and resources that VDGIF employs to maintain it.

If you catch a tagged muskellunge, please send it in to the address on the tag and we will send you a $20 reward.

–Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries