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Catch your Limit: Lake Merriweather Fall Fishing

If you’re looking to catch a limit of sportfish this fall, Lake Merriweather in Rockbridge County is this year’s premier destination fishery for new and seasoned anglers. Lake Merriweather is owned by the Boy Scouts of America, but in 2018, DGIF established a partnership with the Goshen Scout Reservation and National Wild Turkey Federation to open the lake and surrounding land to the public.

Lake Merriweather is 450 acres and is the second-largest lake in the district. Fishing at this lake is prime because the fish are not accustomed to heavy pressure from anglers. Largemouth bass and black crappies are the most common fish to catch here.

“It has a really good black crappie population that people are just in love with,” says, Jason Hallacher, Region 4 Assistant Fisheries Biologist.

Crappie fishing is great for apprentice anglers because there is constant action of catching fish that can be a lot of fun for someone new to fishing.

“It’s great for new or young anglers because it’s easy to catch limits. The average size of the black crappie is 11 inches,” he says. “The largemouth average 15 inches, but bass up to 10 pounds have been reported.”

Lake Merriweather has been privatized for so long that it hasn’t seen many skilled anglers to cover the water. People that fish there are rewarded with great success. The lake also has sunfish, sucker fish, catfish and a lot of carp.

Largemouth Bass captured during spring electrofishing surveys.

DGIF just started sampling the fish populations, so the lake has not been stocked. Biologists conduct annual boat electrofishing and trap netting surveys in the spring targeting bass, sunfish, crappie, and catfish. DGIF is also conducting a Creel survey for anglers who fish the lake. Anglers are encouraged to report their catch after they are finished fishing for the day. Fishing survey cards are located at the boat launch and the shore fishing area. Accurately completing these surveys assist DGIF biologists with evaluating the fishery.

“We are fortunate to have it open and we are getting great feedback from the public,” says Hallacher. “People are happy! They’ve been waiting to fish there for a long time.”

In addition to fishing, Lake Merriweather has a lot of bald eagle nests on the eastern shore of the lake, and eagles are seen on a regular basis. This offers a great opportunity for bird watching from a boat or kayak. Other wildlife watching opportunities are present as deer, bear, turkey, and other birds are commonly seen, too.

Fishing starts to heat up in the fall when the temperature of the water cools and fish are moving around the surface more. The lake is also less crowded during the fall because people are switching from fishing to hunting. If you want to try a new Virginia hot-spot this fall, don’t miss the chance to easily catch your limit here.

Fishing from a boat or kayak is the best way to cover the water at Lake Merriweather. Bank fishing is available, but it is minimal. The bank fishing area is only about 200-yards long located in the lake’s emergency spillway. No gas motors are allowed on the lake, but battery-powered trolling motors are permitted.

PALS permit is required to hunt, fish, view wildlife or access the public portions of the property, in addition to all other applicable hunting or fishing licenses.

Visit the Lake Merriweather page for maps, directions, and more details on lake regulations.

  • September 10th, 2018

Fishing Virginia: Tidal Rivers Provide Exciting Fishing Experiences

Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries biologists (DGIF) don’t stop at providing Virginia with the finest trout and walleye fishing opportunities. They also ensure that some of the best largemouth bass and blue cat fishing is found right here in the Commonwealth.

Largemouth bass and catfish are among Virginia’s premier sport fish. Virginia tidal rivers showcase some of the best bass and catfish fishing around the southeast and across the nation. The James/Chickahominy, Pamunkey, Rappahannock, and the Mattaponi are primary tidal rivers for an exciting and rewarding experience casting a line.

Bass

Tidal rivers provide some the best largemouth bass fishing in the Commonwealth, especially the James and Chickahominy rivers. Not far from urban locations, these rivers are in or near cities for a favorable escape to the outdoors. These waters offer convenient options for boat ramps and bank fishing opportunities.

Where to Fish for Largemouth

The James and Chickahominy rivers are outstanding options for largemouth bass fishing. The combination of huge fish (10-plus pound lunkers) and well-above average catch rates make these tidal rivers a true destination. Either river is worthy of an angler’s time, and both are tied at being at the top of the list of tidal rivers. In 2015, the Chickahominy River was stocked with 40,000 fingerling (small, young fish) largemouth bass, and in 2016 and 2017, it was stocked with nearly 114,000 fish.  The Pamunkey River is a great destination if an angler is looking for lots of 1-2 pound bass. Typical fish come in at around 15 inches.  The Rappahannock River (above Rte. 301) is a great option for anglers seeking tidal river bass action in Northern Virginia.

How-To

Fishing a falling tide on channel drop-offs is a beneficial strategy. Take advantage of fallen trees, weed lines, pad lines, woody debris, dock pilings, and other habitat structure as these are habitats where bass linger. Anglers should know that the tide produces a strong current on these rivers and their tributaries, and many avid anglers prefer to fish the timeframe around slack tide—the time around either high or low tide.

Blue Cats

Virginia’s tidal rivers offer excellent opportunities to catch blue catfish, but the James River has been recognized nationally for more than a decade as a premier trophy fishery. Anglers from around the country have been traveling to central Virginia for guided James River fishing trips. But, all tidal rivers in the Commonwealth are prime for catching blue cats.

Where

The James River and tributaries provide the best catfishing in Virginia with unmatched numbers and high abundance of large fish. The James has the highest catch rates of preferred sized (≥ 30”) blue catfish. High numbers of large fish can be found upstream of the James Harrison Bridge. If fishing this river, be prepared for fish weighing between one and one-hundred pounds.

The Pamunkey River and Mattaponi River systems form the York River, and are very similar in terms of size distribution and catch rates. If you want an opportunity to catch good eating size cats in the three-to-five-pound range, these rivers are ideal. The best size catfish for consumption weighs less than six pounds. It is advised to seek the Virginia Department of Health website for recommendations on catfish consumption.

The Rappahannock River is characterized by high abundance of small fish. If an angler wants numbers to fill the freezer and aren’t as much concerned about trophy fishing, the Rappahannock provides a great opportunity in Northern Virginia.

How-To

Catfish usually dwell near or in deep holes, fallen trees, and drop-offs, especially along the outer bends in the river. Creek mouths are also good options for locating catfish. Valuable bait to use are gizzard shad, eel, or various types of cut bait; an angler has a good chance of catching blue catfish when any of these are rigged near the bottom. Catfish are considered opportunistic omnivores, which means they have a diverse diet and feed on what’s abundant at the time.

Whether a new or seasoned angler, these tidal rivers offer some of the most advantageous fishing in Virginia at a convenient distance from home. With current population numbers, anglers are nearly guaranteed to hook a line in pursuit of either of these species. Buy your license today and get out on the water this spring!

  • April 27th, 2018

Fishing for Catfish

With Stephen Miklandric

Four time “Virginia Angler of the Year”, Stephen Miklandric talks all things catfish and tells us the story of the 102 pound blue catfish he caught in the James River. Read the rest of this article…

  • February 26th, 2017