The feel of spring’s warm air can get an angler to thinking of more distant spots, ones that provide good fishing, but are still within a reasonable distance. West Virginia has a host of such places. The choices expand well beyond trout fishing, too, for which it is best known.
Here are three excellent options for crappies, walleyes and smallmouth bass.
CRAPPIES ON STONEWALL JACKSON LAKE: Anglers have long made good use of the significant level of woody cover featured in Stonewall Jackson Lake. During spring this is particularly true of crappie anglers, ones well-acquainted with the crappies’ attraction to wood during the springtime.
Unlike most Corps of Engineers flood-control lakes, an abundance of standing wood was left remaining in this impoundment prior to filling. Expect to find the wealth wood in the back ends of the lake’s many bays and coves. In addition to the standing wood, there are also a fair amount of shoreline laydowns, which also have a magnetic effect on springtime crappies.
A good springtime crappie tactic on Stonewall Jackson is to use an under-spin leadhead jig like the Road Runner, coupled with a small twister tail trailer. The lure can be fished like a traditional spinnerbait, slow rolling it along the branches of horizontal laydowns. Also target the open-water zones proximate to this cover. And the bait can be allowed to helicopter down along the trunks of standing trees.
There is no horsepower limit on Stonewall Jackson, though there are no-wake zones in what’s termed as “Fishery Management and Development Zones.” The Corps of Engineers has ramps at Georgetown, Glady Fork and Jacksonville. The WVDNR has an access area within the state park.
Stonewall Jackson Lake is easily accessed by way of Interstate 79.
SUMMMERSVILLE LAKE WALLEYES: This Gauley River impoundment supports a fine naturally reproducing walleye population.
At summer pool, Summersville Lake covers 2,790 surface acres and settles in at an elevation of just over 1,650 feet.
Summersville Lake lies in a rocky, almost gorge-like valley, winding its way up the former Gauley River basin. It’s traversed by the Route 19 and Route 39 bridges. Typical of canyon-like reservoirs, Summersville features sharp drop-offs from the shore, bluff walls, rock slides, boulders and an assortment of channel bends.
A top tactic is to fish blade baits like Reef Runner’s Cicada, Heddon Sonar, or Silver Buddy along drop-off areas near the lake’s creek mouths. Use a sonar unit to locate schools of baitfish and walleyes.
Boat access ramps on Summersville Lake include Battle Run, Salmon Run and Long Point. Winter landings, ones that provide access during the lowest drawdown ebb, include Salmon Run as well as one at the Corps of Engineers Dam Site Picnic Area.
Public camping facilities are available at the Battle Run Recreation Area. The campground features 117 sites.
Privately owned Mountain Lake Campground provides additional camping options, as well as cabins located near the lake.
An undated message on lake conditions can be heard by calling (304) 872-5809.
Summersville Lake is located along U.S. Route 19, a major north/south corridor in this part of the state.
The Gauley River, below Summersville Lake, is well-stocked with trout, adding another angling dimension to any trip taken there.
SMALLMOUTH ON THE SOUTH BRANCH: One of the more underutilized angling resources in the state, in most places for that matter, are river smallmouth bass. One of the better places to target river smallies is the South Branch of the Potomac, namely two catch-and-release sections, where an angler has a chance to catch better-than-average-sized bass.
The Hardy County C&R bass section entails eight miles of river, from the Route 220 bridge (near Petersburg) downriver to the County Route 13 bridge (aka Fisher Bridge).
The Hampshire County C&R project is 8.5 miles in length, extending from the Route 28/50 bridge (Romney Bridge) down to the Route 28 bridge (Blue Beach Bridge).
There are no tackle restrictions on these waters. All bass must be returned to the water. Deep-hooked fish should be released by cutting the line a few inches above the lure.
One of the best ways of catching them is to work a smaller suspending jerkbait like a Rapala X-Rap. Use a fairly aggressive retrieve to conjure up reaction bites. If the fish aren’t showing an interest in the minnowbait, slowly drift a sinking worm like a Yamamoto Senko or Yum Dinger through likely lies.