Looking for a lake in Virginia that offers quality springtime fishing for largemouth bass? Don't just head for the biggest and best known, like Buggs Island, Smith Mountain, Gaston and Anna.
Biologists of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have ranked what they consider the best bass lakes in the state, according to their density of bass 15 inches and longer.
Some at the top of the list are going to surprise you. In most instances, the smaller lakes were rated higher than the well-known, big impoundments. One example, Carvins Cove outranked Smith Mountain Lake, Philpott Lake, and Kerr Lake in one zone. You might scoff at that until you cruise the shoreline of Carvins Cove, a 630-acre Roanoke Valley water supply impoundment, and see all the bass in the clear water.
Be aware: One reason smaller lakes did so well in the rankings is that they are easier to sample. Other factors, such as the weather and fish behavior, also can bias the results. But the list is a reliable starting place for anglers searching for quality bass fishing, according to the researchers.
The survey was divided into four zones. The complete ranking can be found on www.huntfishva.com. Here are the top five lakes in each zone:
- Grady's Millpond, 75 acres, Northumberland County
- Lake Chesdin, 3,100 acres, Chesterfield County
- Lake Prince, 777 acres, Suffolk
- Lake Meade, 512 acres, Suffolk
- Western Branch, 1,579 acres, Suffolk
- Lake Burton, 76 acres, Pittsylvania County
- Fairystone Lake, 168 acres, Patrick County
- Bear Creek Lake, 42 acres, Cumberland County
- Carvins Cove, 630 acres, Roanoke
- Brunswick Lake 150 acres, Brunswick County
- Lake Witten, 52 acres, Tazewell County
- South Holston Reservoir, 7,580 acres, Washington County
- Rural Retreat Lake, 90 acres, Wythe County
- Gatewood Lake, 162 acres, Pulaski County
- Claytor Lake, 4,363 acres, Pulaski County
- Pelham Lake, 255 acres, Culpeper
- Germantown Lake, 109 acres, Fauquier County
- Occoquan Lake, 2,100 acres, Fairfax County
- Arrowhead Lake, 34 acres, Page County
- Lake Burke, 218 acres, Fairfax
Here's a deal for pine plantation owners and quail
Bobwhite quail are considered a species of agricultural land, but the birds also like young pine plantations.
The Virginia Department of Forestry is assisting the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in locating private landowners who are interested in managing their pine plantations in a way that will improve habitat for quail and other wildlife while increasing the value of their timber. Cost-sharing money is available.
"Most farms in Virginia have more timberland than open farmland," said Marc Puckett, the coordinator of the DGIF quail restoration project. "With commodity crop prices at all-time highs, landowners are now even less likely to devote that agricultural space to bobwhites. But their woodlands do provide a management option."
Information on this topic is available here and here. Email Puckett at Marc.Puckett@dgif.virginia.gov.
- John Crews of Salem no doubt would like to forget the first day of the Bassmaster Elite Series opener on Texas' Sabine River. He ranked 57th in a field of 88. The next day he vaulted to 28th and on the third day climbed two more positions. But the slow start cost him the chance to make the final-day cut. Nonetheless, he won $10,000. The event was won by Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas. Virginia's other entry, Rick Morris of Gaston Lake, finished 31st.
- Fishermen along the Virginia Coast are optimistically watching for the first wave of flounder, which normally shows up the second half of March. Commercial fishermen already are catching flounder, and there are some jumbo fish among them. One was reported to measure 38 inches and weigh 25 pounds. Recreational flounder fishermen have a more favorable minimum-size limit this season - 16 inches - which is one-half inch less than last year.
- North Carolina is trying to do what Virginia has been unable to pull off - to significantly increase Sunday hunting. North Carolina Senate Bill 224 would allow Sunday hunting on private land with the written permission from the landowner. The sponsor is Sen. Buck Newton, co-chair of the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus. North Carolina and Virginia are among 11 states with significant restrictions against Sunday hunting.
- There is still another award for the Botetourt Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. It was reported here earlier that the chapter won first-place state and national awards for the best Jakes (youth) event with 75 to 150 participants. Now comes word that for the second year in a row the chapter has won the state Turkey Hunters Care Program award for providing the most frozen turkeys for the needy. The count last year was 707.
- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed two pieces of legislation that apply to saltwater fishermen. One authorizes the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to revoke a person's fishing privileges for up to two years for a violation of tidal water regulations. The other established a lifetime saltwater fishing license.
- Legislation that would significantly increase boat registration fees is being considered in North Carolina. The additional funds would be used to help underwrite coastal dredging. The fee for a 20-foot boat would jump 275 percent. BoatUS doesn't like the idea, especially with commercial fishermen escaping the increase. Members are being told to oppose the higher fees.
Events, seasons, dates
- Cross Roads Outdoorsman Show, March 30, Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex, Chatham, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., $3, National Wild Turkey Federation sanctioned turkey calling contest, 3-D archery competition, guns show, big bucks/big bass competition, more information from Joyce Estabrook, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The New River Trout Unlimited Chapter has rescheduled its Spring Thawout to April 3rd due to inclement weather. Speakers will be Joe Williams, fisheries biologist of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, along with Shawn Hash and Steve Pflieger of Tangent Outfitters. Muskie, bass and trout fishing in the New River Valley will be discussed. The meeting site is the Montgomery County Government Center. Guests welcomed. Information from Jason Williams, email@example.com
- James River Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society Banquet, April 4, Jefferson Lakeside Country Club, Richmond, information from Randall Strawbridge at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Youth spring gobbler hunting day, April 6, for youngsters age 15 and under, must be supervised by an adult information from www.HuntFishVa.com/youth.
- Banquet sponsored by Bland County Many Beards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, April 6, Rocky Gap High School, 123 Eagles Road, Bland, contact Lawrence Scott, 540-240-2424, email@example.com.
- Fly fishing basics by Josh Williams, April 8, Tri-County Forestry and Wildlife Association, Roanoke Moose Lodge 248, 3233 Catawba Valley Driver (Virginia 311), Roanoke County, social time 6 p.m., dinner 6:45, meal $10, RSVP required, call Marian McConnell, 540-309-4747.
- Spring gobbler season, April 13-May 18.
- Botetourt Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation banquet, April 27, social 5:30 p.m., meal 7 p.m., Lord Botetourt High School, Daleville, singles $55, couples $75, additional information and tickets from Richard Pauley, 540-992-1883 (work) or 540-254-2564 firstname.lastname@example.org and Ed McCoy, 540-339-0622 email@example.com .
- Virginia Hunter Skills Weekend, May 3-5, Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center near Appomattox, ages 11 up, $110 includes instruction, food and lodging, classes cover everything from a variety of hunting skills to cooking game, www.holidaylake4h.com/vahunterweekend.php.
- Hunters for the Hungry banquet, Sept. 14, Moose Lodge on Virginia 311 in Roanoke County.