fish

Jim Gronaw caught and released this oversized bluegill recently.

Though not as popular as trout and bass, bluegills are an important part of the angling picture. Most of us started off staring at a bobber-rigged worm, eagerly anticipating a subsurface plunge of the red-and-white float, and the enthusiastic hookset to follow.

 “There are some really good panfish opportunities that folks could take advantage of,” said Dave Wellman, one of West Virginia DNR’s six district fisheries biologists.  “Also, panfish provide a kind of a gateway to get younger fisherman into the sport. But there are also adult fisherman that are quite serious about their bluegill fishing, especially when it comes to larger fish. Bigger bluegills are not easy to catch.”

Wellman is not only a fisheries biologist, but an avid bluegill angler himself. Here he shares his thoughts on the better bluegill lakes in his northern West Virginia district, which is right across the border from Pennsylvania:

CHEAT LAKE

(Monongalia County)

Anglers from this northern West Virginia district have a couple good choices for springtime sunfish, including a larger reservoir. Cheat Lake fills this need.

According to Dave Wellman, it’s nice-sized pumpkinseeds that are the main panfish draw on this lake, though it does contain bluegills as well.       

“Any downed trees along the shoreline, you can usually catch some nice pumpkinseeds,” he said. “We’ve seen them over 10 inches. Eight to 10 inches is not at all uncommon.”

1,700-acre Cheat Lake has recovered remarkably from acid mine issues, largely due to limestone buffers introduced to polluted feeder streams upriver of the lake section.

Cheat Lake is relatively narrow, with steep sided shorelines. Besides main lake shoreline areas, pumpkinseed anglers might want to try out the two larger coves found near the dam along the east side of the lake. Not only do these areas provide shallow habitat, they are also in no-wake zones. The main        

lake can get busy with recreational boat traffic during weekends, particularly after the Memorial Day holiday.

Access is excellent around Cheat Lake. Walking trails encircle a significant portion of the lake shore. A public ramp is located at Sunset Beach. There is also a fee ramp at the Cheat Lake Marina. Two other access areas are available for kayaks and cartoppers. Cheat Lake has no horsepower limit, though there are speed zones as well as no-wake areas.             

The lake is located about six miles northeast of Morgantown. Interstate 68 passes over the lake.

DIXON LAKE

(Monongalia County)

If you’re looking for a small, peaceful waterway with great shoreline access, consider Dixon Lake, found within the Pedlar Wildlife Management Area.

 “There are lots of bluegills available on Dixon Lake,” Wellman reported. “It has special regulations. No live bait is allowed, only barbless hooks and it’s catch and release for all species. It’s one the best areas to take kids fishing, to get them started on their fishing careers.”

A fisherman’s trail runs along the eastern and southern shores of this oval-shaped impoundment, making access to this portion of the lake possible for physically challenged anglers. The remainder of Dixon Lake – the northern and western banks — is located close to the WMA access road, so it’s easy to reach as well. Three parking lots are provided, as well as a fishing pier along the lake’s northern shoreline.

The portion of Pedlar WMA contains Dixon Lake is located along County Road 41, about one-half mile south of the County Route 7 intersection.

TETER CREEK LAKE

If you’re looking for bigger bluegills, Wellman said Teter Creek Lake is a good choice. It’s located in Barbour County near Belington. It’s about 25 to 30 acres. It also has a fisherman’s trail all the way around the lake.

“It’s a little bit higher elevation,” noted Wellman. Teter Creek Lake is clearer. We’ve seen bluegills up to around eight inches. But the numbers are very good.”

DENTS RUN LAKE

Dent’s Run Lake on a Wildlife Management Area near Mannington in Marion County. Wellman said it has an abundant bluegill population, with lots of eight to nine-inch fish. It takes a bit more work to access Dent’s Run, which keeps fishing pressure a bit lighter.

“We’ve seen bluegills up to 10 inches,” he noted. “It has limited access. You can’t just drive up to the lake and start fishing. That’s something people either love or hate. But you can carry kayaks to the lake.”