Though Pennsylvania anglers will find a wide variety of trout fishing opportunities in our home state, a relatively short trip south to West Virginia will provide a host of options, many of which are available right now.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources manages one of the most aggressive trout-stocking programs in the nation. Not only are tons of trout stocked on an annual basis, the process spans a several-month period. High-quality streams receive trout the first five months of the year.
Shavers Fork of the Cheat River received its first annual stocking in January. Stockings become more frequent as winter moves into spring. These stockings are dependent on the weather. It’s wise to check with the DNR to determine the status of stockings.
Shavers Fork also receives two stockings of trout each fall. Depending on the conditions experienced over the winter months, carryover trout from these stockings may exist in some areas.
Shavers Fork provides a wide range of angling opportunities. The stream flows from south to north, with the stocked section beginning at Spruce. The upper portion of the stream is quite remote. Though that may be an attraction later in the year, at this time it might be wiser to fish easier-to-reach spots. From Bowden on down it’s possible to find easy-to-access spots.
The North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River is another of the Mountain State’s premier trout waters. The WVDNR manages the South Branch in three sections — the Franklin, Smoke Hole and Catch-and-Release sections. Between the three there is something to meet the needs of pretty much any trout angler.
The Franklin section is stocked from about a half-mile from the Virginia line downstream, past Franklin, to about 2 miles south of the Upper Tract, located near the old Poor Farm. Route 220 provides good access to most of this stretch. The Franklin section is stocked every week from March through May. It also received a stocking in January and two in February.
The Smoke Hole section runs from the Route 220 bridge downstream to the Big Bend Recreation Area. U.S. Forest Service Route 74 provides access to a portion of this stretch, as does State Secondary Route 2. The Smoke Hole section is stocked on the same schedule as the Franklin section.
Located within the Smoke Hole section is a 1-mile stretch managed as catch-and- release waters. This stretch begins about 2 miles below the Route 220 bridge. The C&R area is stocked once in April.
Quality trout fishing can also be enjoyed on the Elk River. The Elk furnishes an abundance of trout fishing opportunities, satisfying the angling appetites of fly-fisher, spin fishermen and bait anglers all.
Heavily influenced by limestone sources, the streams offer a stability not found in nearby freestone streams. This high water quality makes it a safer bet during the wet spring season and it also provides exceptional cold-water habitat for trout.
The Elk River begins near the town of Slatyfork in Pocahontas County. Good trout fishing can be found in this section. Farther downriver Cowger’s Mill is another good area to try.
The Elk River contains a special regulations area. A 2-mile section from the Elk Springs Campground downstream to the Rose Run bridge is under catch-and-release regulations. This stretch can be accessed from county Route 49 off state Route 15 approximately 4 miles west of Valley Head. The river section is located in Randolph County.
The Elk sees a wide assortment of insect hatches throughout much of the year. One of the first hatches in the spring is the Quill Gordon.