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West Virginia Stream Conditions

December 12, 2018

FISHING

BEECH FORK – Anglers should call the Beech Fork Corps of Engineers office at 304-525-4831 and go to http://www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wm/?basin/twe/bbf for information and current lake levels.  With falling temperature levels, bass and other gamefish will be biting better on a variety of baits.  Try soft plastics and spinnerbaits around timber.  During warm late afternoons, try topwater lures such as the devils’ horse, skitter pop, or other favored topwater lure.  Try for hybrids near the dam with silver or white lures, or with bait suspended below a bobber or swimming free.  Be aware of the reservoir drawdown to winter pool which usually begins November 1.      

BLUESTONE Fall is transition time on the lakes.  Water temperatures will be changing and fall turnover will be occurring.  Shad and other minnows will be schooling up and can be found in coves, weed beds, and mouths of creeks.  Bass will be using flats with grass, points, or drop offs between shallow water and deeper water.  Bluegills and crappie will be in deeper water around structure or deeper grass areas.  Channel Catfish can be found along river channels and flats next to deeper water.  Flathead Catfish use live bait.  Stripers will be active in the cooler water temperatures and following schools of baitfish.  For Bluestone Lake conditions call 304-466-0156.

BURNSVILLE – The lake is at winter pool.  Bass are being caught near the surface holding to cover.  Look for brush piles adjacent to creek channels and downwind sides of wind-blown points.  For more information call Corps of Engineers at 304-853-2398 and go to:
http://www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wm/?basin/lka/bus.

EAST LYNN For information on current lake levels call the Corps of Engineers recorded message at 304-849-9861 and go to http://www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wm/?basin/twe/elt.  With falling temperature levels, bass and other gamefish will be biting better on a variety of baits.  Try soft plastics and spinnerbaits around timber.  During warm late afternoons, try topwater lures such as the devils’ horse, skitter pop, or other favored topwater lure.  Muskies are being caught trolling and casting using glide style baits.  Be aware of the reservoir drawdown to winter pool which usually begins November 1. 

R.D. BAILEY – Some Spotted Bass should be hitting on the lake.  Spotted Bass will school and suspend around cover and rocky points.  Good lures are swimbaits in shad colors, crankbaits, plastic worms and crayfish imitations.  Bluegill are fun to catch and best baits to use are worms and small jigs and search deeper grass areas and structures.  Hybrid Striper fishing is good off shallow points, mid lake sections where baitfish are schooling, and large tributaries.  Top water and suspended crankbaits work well.  In the fall, find where the baitfish are, and temperatures are right for the fish and you will have success.  Lake will start lowering to winter pool levels beginning on November 1.

STONECOAL LAKE – The lake is slightly below normal pool as we are working on replacing the courtesy dock on the Upshur County boat launch.  The Lewis County boat launch is fully functional.  Bass are in about ten feet of water and reports of lots of fish being caught.  Crappie, Bluegill, and Yellow Perch fishing is picking up.  A few Muskies have been caught trolling and casting to tree piles.  The Walleye bite is good, a few lunker-sized fish have been reported recently.  Fish around tree/brush piles and you will find fish of all species.  Use the WVDNR map tool found here:  https://www.mapwv.gov/huntfish/map/?v=fish .  Find Stonecoal Lake on the map and zoom in to see the orange fish habitat markers!

STONEWALL JACKSON – The lake is at winter pool. Bass are in the top ten feet and holding to cover.  Fish of all species can be found in and around hydrilla weed mats.  Before heading to the lake please call Corps of Engineers at 304-269-7463.

SUMMERSVILLE – The lake is at winter pool.  Winter access boat ramps are open.  Fishing is good for Smallmouth Bass and Walleye.  Jigs tipped with minnows and blade-style baits have been effective.  Simple lift and drop action triggers a strike.  Walleye regulation signs are posted around the lake, please take notice.  For more information contact the Corps of Engineers at 304-872-3412 and go to: 
http://www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wm/?basin/kan/sug.

SUTTON – The lake is at winter pool.  Bass, Crappie and Bluegill fishing has been good with cooler water temperatures, look for natural downed trees with the tree-top still present.  Before heading to the lake please call Corps of Engineers at 304-765-2705 and go to: http://www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wm/?basin/kan/sue.

TYGART LAKE – The lake is about 28 feet below the summer level.  In recent WVDNR surveys, Walleye were plentiful throughout the lake but fish greater than the 15-inch minimum were more abundant from the mid to upper lake.  White Bass were also very abundant and could be seen chasing minnows near the lake’s surface.  Pleasant Creek boat launch is open, all others are currently closed.  The tailwater is about 5,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) and is expected to decrease to 4,000 cfs in the next couple of days.  The fall trout stocking has been completed.  Walleye fishing is best during higher flows (1,500 to 5,000 cfs) and trout fishing is best at low flows (less than 1,000 cfs).  Call the Corps of Engineers telephone hotline at 304-265-5953 for daily lake and tailwater conditions.

NORTHERN WEST VIRGINIA

OHIO RIVER (New Cumberland, Pike Island, and Hannibal pools and tailwaters) –  Recent WVDNR surveys observed Sauger and Walleye moving into the tailwaters.  Walleye and Sauger will start feeding about an hour before sunset and then throughout the night.  Eddies and back-current sections are good places to cast jigs tipped with minnows or 3-inch plastic grubs.  Hybrid Striped Bass will also move in and out of the tailwaters and can be caught using large silver spoons and crankbaits that imitate gizzard shad.  Channel Catfish can be targeted using stink baits, night crawlers, chicken liver, and cut baits; not only in the tailwater areas but in deeper areas on outside bends and tributary mouths.   

MONONGAHELA RIVER – The best fishing success for Sauger and Walleye is during low light conditions at dawn and dusk.  Sauger, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, and White Bass are always attracted to the currents in the tailwaters.  Jigs with minnows are the best baits right now.  Large Hybrid Striped Bass move in and out of the tailwaters and can be caught with a variety of lures.  Musky can be caught throughout the river either trolling large crank baits or casting. 

CHEAT LAKE – Cheat Lake is now at winter water level fluctuations and the winter boat ramp at Cheat Lake Park is opened.  Cheat Lake has one of the best Yellow Perch populations in West Virginia.  The easiest way to fish the lake for all species is drifting along the shoreline with a night crawler or minnow on a hook with a couple of split shot at a depth of 10 to 15 feet.  Walleye have been reported being caught on deep diving crank baits.

RIVERS and STREAMS – To get daily river flow conditions, visit the following U.S. Geological Survey website:  http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wv/nwis/current/?type=flow .  Use the WVDNR online fishing map to find stream access information as well as flow conditions at:  http://www.mapwv.gov/huntfish/ .

TROUT STOCKING – Fall trout stocking has been completed.  Go to www.wvdnr.gov or call the stocking hotline at 304-558-3399.  The interactive fishing map on the WVDNR webpage is very useful for determining fishing spots throughout the state.  Use the USGS stream gages to help determine flows at your favorite river or stream.  http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wv/nwis/current/?type=flow

SMALL IMPOUNDMENTS – Fall trout stockings have been completed in some small impoundments.  These lakes provide easy access and are excellent places to fish.  Use the WVDNR fishing map tool to find a small impoundment in your area.   http://www.mapwv.gov/huntfish/  

EASTERN PANHANDLE

South Branch and Cacapon Rivers – Although flow has adjusted to normal rates, current stream temperatures are too low to offer fishable conditions due to low fish activity.  Warmer air temperatures later in the week may make for better fishing conditions in the upper 30’s.  The best part of the day to fish would be the evenings, when sunlight has had the chance to increase water temperatures to the daily maximum.  Diet studies focusing on Smallmouth Bass consumption have highlighted the importance of crayfish as a staple diet item!  Large Smallmouth Bass can be caught on soft plastic and skirted jigs, crankbaits, weighted chatter baits, and weighted plastics.  However, don’t underestimate the importance of fish as food item; weighted swim baits may still produce if fished deep.  Channel Catfish greater than 30” in length have been captured in sampling gear from Petersburg, WV all the way down to the mouth on the South Branch.  Not surprisingly, Channel Catfish over 25” have been reported recently by anglers as high in the watershed as Petersburg.  Over 2,380 Channel Catfish have been angler reward tagged since 2012, so please keep an eye out for these tagged fish and know what to do if you encounter one http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/Fish_Tagging.shtm.  Our research suggests that Channel Catfish become much more active during elevated flows and turbid water conditions, so fishing during safe flows as waters are coming down from rain events may increase catch rates for anglers.

Shenandoah River – Current conditions are poor for targeting winter Smallmouth due to very low stream temperatures.  Warmer air temperatures later in the week may make for better fishing conditions in the upper 30’s.  If plans are made to fish soon, it is suggested that evening trips would offer the best chance for success due to warming water temperatures throughout the day.  Smallmouth can be caught on soft plastic and skirted jigs, crankbaits, weighted plastics, chatter baits, and crayfish imitation crankbaits.  Lures that balance lifelike characters and allow a variety of retrieve speeds, such as weighted swim baits, may be the answer to carefully feeding fish.  Swim baits imitating forage fish low in the water column would be a wise switch occasionally from deeper fished lures if fish are proving to be more active.  Recent reports for Channel Catfish larger than 28” have been reported, as well!  The Shenandoah River is a phenomenal Channel Catfish fishery.     

North Branch River – Flows should be around 375 cfs for the next couple days, making for excellent fishing opportunities if one decides to brave the cold.  Please follow Maryland DNR creel and gear regulations for this stream.  Check the Corp of Engineers webpage for specifics or schedule changes concerning whitewater discharges.  Flows in the North Branch can be monitored by watching USGS stream gages (http://www.nab-wc.usace.army.mil/northBranch.html) or by calling (410) 962-7687 for a three-day projection of outflows.

Small Impoundments – Cold water temperatures and reasonable water clarity in our small impoundments in District 2 have eliminated optimal conditions to catch warmwater fish in these impoundments.  Summer stratification should be broken up, allowing fish to utilize deeper habitats. 
When conditions allow, these small, easily accessible impoundments provide some of the best opportunities for catching high quantities of quality-sized Largemouth Bass, Bluegill and Channel Catfish in the state!  Not surprisingly, several trophy fish citations have come in over the past couple of months indicating trophy-sized Largemouth Bass, Sunfish and Channel Catfish.  Although they cannot reproduce (natural lack of spawning habitat and predatory Largemouth Bass densities), many of these impoundments are stocked with larger Channel Catfish by WV DNR staff to generate fisheries for this species. 

Jennings Randolph Lake – Jennings Randolph Lake is currently about 20 feet below conservation pool, exposing deeper shoreline habitat.  Recent surveys have uncovered high densities of Smallmouth Bass 15” and greater and Walleye longer than the minimum size limit.  Additionally, WV DNR has been stocking catchable-sized Channel Catfish in this lake.  On a recent stocking trip, staff noticed a considerable amount of surface striking of forage fish schools by Smallmouth Bass, potentially indicating that late summer focus on shiners high in the water column is occurring.  This location may be becoming a destination for quality-sized Yellow Perch, as two anglers recently filed citation reports for perch greater than 13” from this lake.  The West Virginia (Howell boat ramp is accessible to bank fishing at this time but will only be accessible for boating under good weather conditions and at lake water elevations that allow launching.  The Maryland ramp is still open to receive boats but will be closed if adverse weather conditions warrant as decided by the Army Corps of Engineers.  See site for additional information:     http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Missions/Dams-Recreation/Jennings-Randolph-Lake/Fishing/ .
Additional recreational information can also be found at (http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Missions/DamsRecreation/JenningsRandolphLake.aspx).

Mount Storm Lake – Anglers at Mount Storm Lake should target Striped Bass, Black Bass, and Walleye.  Additional Christmas tree reef structures have recently been added as fish attractors and habitat on the Helmick Run (southeastern) arm of the lake.  WVDNR staff has recently completed efforts to map this popular fishing lake to provide visual depth and bottom contour information for anglers.  You can download a printable map from: http://www.wvdnr.gov/Lake_Maps/ .  Recent surveys revealed greater numbers of quality-sized Channel Catfish, which are overly abundant in this lake, and good densities of both Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. Harvest of Channel Catfish in Mount Storm is promoted to improve this population.  Additionally, recent biological surveys have revealed plentiful citation-size Striped Bass (greater than 25” in length)!  Large Striped Bass from Mount Storm have recently been reported for citation certifications; there have been greater than 5 over the last year.  An individual recently checked in a Striped Bass from Mount Storm Lake that was 41.5” long, weighing 30.5 pounds!  This population is maintained through WVDNR stocking efforts!  Trolling minnow and shad patterns (crankbaits, jigs, inline spinners, and stick baits) should prove successful for targeting Walleye and Striped Bass.  Lake depth profiles were recently completed on this lake, which should allow the production of maps that will aid anglers in locating lake bottom features, such as points and historic stream channels, for which to target. 

For detailed information about stream flow, water clarity, and temperature, visit this United States Geological Survey (USGS) page for available stream gauge data:  http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wv/nwis/rt or visit our WV DNR Fishing Map at:  https://www.mapwv.gov/huntfish/map/?v=fish .

CENTRAL WEST VIRGINIA

If you are looking for a place to go, please check the fishing regulations and the WVDNR website for a list of public access sites or call your local WVDNR district office for some advice on places to fish.  The USGS WaterWatch website:   https://waterwatch.usgs.gov/?m=real&r=wv is a good tool for real-time stream conditions while you are planning your fishing trip.

SOUTHERN WEST VIRGINIA

Smallmouth and Walleye fishing is good this time of year.  Spots below or above shoals are good spots to try your luck.  Musky fishing is picking up in the New River.  Best baits are crankbaits, jigs, and swimbaits.  Lakes such as Plum Orchard, Stephens, Tuckahoe, and Pipestem will all provide good bass fishing in deeper grass areas and structures.  Channel catfishing is good in some of the small impoundments.      

SOUTHWESTERN WEST VIRGINIA

Lower Ohio and Kanawha Rivers – Anglers are doing well below locks on the Kanawha and Ohio rivers for a variety of species.  Hybrids, Blue Cats and bass catches have been reported regularly.  Winfield locks especially has been proving to be a good choice for all species this summer.  Anglers use bait and lures to catch nice Smallmouth, Hybrids, and Flathead, Channel, and Blue Catfish from below the locks.

Other Southwestern Rivers – Check the USGS website ( http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt ) for river/stream conditions and check local landings visually before wasting a trip.  Water levels recently have been up and down making fishing difficult, keep checking weather and water levels for suitable flows.

Small Impoundments – Bass and Bluegill can be targeted right now using lures and/or bait.  Try small rattletraps, topwater, and crankbaits for success.  A simple bobber set-up or bait fished on the bottom are great choices for Channel Catfish found in all small impoundments.  Try fishing during low light periods (dawn, dusk) and if allowed (check your regulations) at night for greater success with catfish, and all species as we move into the summer.  Many make their own smelly concoctions to lure Catfish in to bite their hook.  Hot dogs soaked in jello mix or anise (licorice) are also effective baits for Channel Catfish, give them a try. 

Reservoirs – Check the USACOE website (http://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/) and the USGS website (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt) for reservoir and tailrace conditions.

WEST-CENTRAL WEST VIRGINIA

Fall is a great time to be fishing Ohio River tailwater areas.  Water temperatures are beginning on the decline, and many fish are becoming active.  Areas to target include eddies, back-current sections, and anywhere that river flows appear to be unusual.  Anglers fishing in tailwater areas at Belleville and Willow Island Dams have been catching Hybrid Striped Bass, White Bass, and catfish.  Sauger and Walleye are also beginning to move up into tailwater areas.  Anglers targeting these species should focus their efforts to non-daylight hours.

The Ohio River is an exceptional Flathead Catfish fishery for both numbers and size.  Additionally, fishing for Blue Catfish on Ohio River has been improving, and it should only continue to get better over time.  Currently, both Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish should be active.  However, Flathead fishing will slow down as temperatures continue to fall.  Blue Catfish will remain active throughout winter months.  Good locations to target catfish include deep areas along islands, outside bends, and near tributary mouths.  Clever anglers are using side-scan sonar units to locate areas that have potential for holding big catfish.  Please Note:  Special Regulations are in place for Flathead Catfish from Ohio and Kanawha Rivers.  http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/Regs18/specregs.pdf

Largemouth Bass fishing in area impoundments has been good but will begin to slow down as water temperatures continue to drop.  As temperatures cool, anglers may want to try lures with slower action, such as soft plastics.  Area lakes with good bass angling opportunities include Elk Fork Lake, Woodrum Lake, and O’Brien Lake in Jackson County, North Bend Lake in Ritchie County, Mountwood Lake in Wood County, and Charles Fork Lake in Roane County.  PLEASE NOTE:  Special Regulations are in place for Black Bass in Elk Fork, Woodrum, O’Brien, and North Bend Lakes.   http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/Regs18/specregs.pdf

Most area musky streams are high and muddy due to recent rainfall.  Anglers targeting Musky are focusing on structure, such as fallen trees, and using glide baits, bucktails, and other large baits.  Middle Island Creek, Little Kanawha River, and the Hughes River system hold naturally reproducing populations of Musky.  Additionally, North Bend and Woodrum lakes are also good bets for anglers wanting to catch Muskies when streams are too muddy. 

There are several useful tools available to West Virginia anglers.  Use the WVDNR interactive fishing map to help locate and get information on a lake or stream near you.  As part of an ongoing DNR project, some lake maps showing contour and bottom structure have been uploaded to this website (look for more in the future).  Use the following website to reach the interactive map:  https://www.mapwv.gov/huntfish/map/?v=fish .  Also, the USGS stream gage website is a very helpful tool for anglers wanting to check river/stream conditions prior to planning a fishing trip: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/wv/nwis/current/?type=flow .  USGS stream gages have recently been added to our interactive fishing map.

Conaway Run Lake in Tyler County is currently closed to boating due to repairs being made on the dam.  The lake was originally scheduled to be reopened to boating traffic by the end of November.  However, the project is behind schedule due to adverse weather conditions that occurred throughout most of the summer, and the project will not be completed by the scheduled date.  The area will remain closed to boating until all repairs have been completed on the dam.

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