On the New River upstream from Claytor Lake (Upper New River), abundant young Smallmouth Bass (SMB) will contribute to angler catches in 2017 with good numbers of 7 to 14” fish. The section from Buck Dam to Allisonia is the best area of the Upper New for SMB with excellent numbers of 14 to 20” bass.
During spring 2016 electrofishing from Buck Dam to Allisonia, 35 percent of SMB collected by biologists over 7” long were also over 14”, and 13 percent were over 17”! Walleye fishing is best from Fries Dam to Allisonia where the Department concentrates stocking efforts.
Anglers catch good numbers of walleye in this section from February to April with Foster Falls a prime location. The bulk of walleye catches in spring 2017 will be 14 to 17” fish from the most abundant recent stocking in 2014.
Rock Bass and Redbreast Sunfish provide fun fishing opportunities particularly from Mouth of Wilson to Fries where these sunfish are more numerous. In pool areas from Ivanhoe to Allisonia, anglers can catch Channel and Flathead catfish which are more numerous upstream from Claytor Lake.
The New River below Claytor Lake should produce good catches of Smallmouth Bass (SMB) up to 15” in 2017 with an opportunity to catch a few larger ones.
Bass fishing should continue to improve during the next few years with above average SMB spawns during four of the last eight years.
Top locations are Whitethorne to Eggleston in Montgomery and Giles counties, and Pembroke to Pearisburg in Giles County. Good areas for panfish include Claytor Dam and Whitethorne in Montgomery County, and Pembroke to Pearisburg in Giles County.
Muskie fishing in the New River should continue to be fantastic in 2017. The upper New muskie fishery, from NC to Claytor Lake, is maintained by annual stockings with the goal of developing a naturally reproducing population so that stockings can be curtailed or discontinued. There are plenty of muskie to be found in the large pools throughout this section.
The lower New, from Claytor Lake to WV, contains a reproducing population of muskie and has not been stocked since 2011. Muskie over 50” can be caught, but the majority will be between 35 and 42”. This size group is extremely abundant right now and will continue to offer great fishing for years to come. A new muskie regulation went into effect on January 1 for the lower New River.
All muskie below 48” must be returned to the river from March 1st through May 31st. During the rest of the year, all muskie between 40 and 48” must be released.
The harvest limit remains one per day. Please be aware that muskie are not a real hardy fish, and catching one when the river temperature is 80 F or above can lead to death of that fish if not quickly brought to the boat and released.
Many dedicated muskie anglers will not fish for them during summer.
Questions about muskie and muskie management can be directed to Joe Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Clinch River should provide excellent fishing opportunities in 2017 for Smallmouth Bass (SMB), Walleye, and Channel Catfish. The catch rate for SMB in spring 2016 samples was up from 2015 and was among the highest observed in a decade. The relative abundance of SMB in 2016 samples increased at all sampling sites but was highest in the reach from Fort Blackmore to Dungannon. Size distribution also improved with more large fish in the population. Nineteen percent of adult fish were greater than 14”, and 4% were 17” or longer.
Walleye numbers continued to increase in spring samples with the 2016 catch rate being nearly three times higher than any observed in the past 12 years. This increase is likely the result of consistent stocking over the past few years and good survival. The 2016 sample produced relatively large numbers of Walleye in the 15 to 17” range with some exceeding 22”. Good numbers of these fish will have reached the 18” minimum length by 2017. Although Walleye can be found throughout much of the river, anglers fishing in the areas of Fort Blackmore and Dungannon are likely to have the greatest success.
Sampling efforts also indicate that anglers wishing to target Channel Catfish should have good success in deeper pools. Good fishing opportunities for Rock Bass and Redbreast Sunfish can be found all along the river.
The fishing outlook for Smallmouth Bass on the North Fork Holston River is bright for 2017. Boat electrofishing catch in 2016 was an impressive 147 fish/hour. Size structure was excellent at the three sites sampled, but low spring flows limited access to Mendota which traditionally offers some of the best bass numbers the river has to offer.
–Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.