The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

How's The Fishing?

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1990

Issue: April, 1990

It seems like the fishing is getting better and better in southwest Virginia. There is a new state record.

February 2, 1990 Christopher Thomas of Glade Springs caught a 29 inch, 12 pound, 15.9 ounce walleye out of the South Fork Holston River on a Dollfly. The previous record was caught out of the New River by Douglas Morton (12 pounds, 7 ounces). Congratulations Mr. Thomas.

Below is some advice from the Virginia Department Game and Inland Fisheries on Crappie fishing in spring, written by Spike Knuth.

Spring Crappies

Virginia's lakes and streams have a wide variety of fish species that can be caught at any time of the year. However, it is the crappie that really kicks off the spring fishing season for most reservoir anglers. Among the more common names for crappie in the Old Dominion are "specs," "silvers" or "silver perch."

Crappies are schooling fish throughout the seasons and they begin congregating in late-February just off of the shallows of their spawning grounds. As the water warms up, crappie move in to spawn, which is usually anywhere from mid-March to late-April.

The males normally precede the females, seeking out gravel or sandy bottoms close to, or amid sunken logs, stumps, underwater brush and other protective structure. They fan out saucer-shaped nests in water of two to 15 feet in depth, a little deeper than most of their cousins in the sunfish family. However, I have found them in as little as a foot of water, with dorsal fins barely covered, spawning in thin strip of gravel shallows along the dike of a small pond. Usually these are smaller fish.

As the water warms to about 50 degrees, the females move in and prepare to spawn. This, of course, is an excellent time to catch crappies since they are congregated in easy to find places. Best of all, whereas some fish don't feed much during spawning, crappies seem to be more active feeders during the spawning period than other fish species.

Rural Retreat Lake is one that has an abundance of small crappies that need culling. Smith Mountain, Moomaw, Claytor and South Holston Lakes are among the best in Virginia for crappie fishing. The New River also produces some good crappie fishing. [This portion of the article has been condensed and only names the best crappie fishing in southwest Virginia.]

The best way to take crappies at this time is to fish the shore that contains cover such as alder, bullrush, sunken tree tops, stumps, etc., using small minnows or jigs. Look especially for those brushy shorelines that drop off quickly to six feet or more.

A good key to a lot of fishing fun is to keep your gear and tackle light and easy to handle. Light spinning or spincasting rods and reels are the best overall equipment to use, because they are far more versatile than anything else. With spinning rigs in particular, light lures of all types, light live bait tackle and even flies can be cast. Remember to approach the brush carefully, anchor and tie up and wait awhile. If not spooked too bad, the crappies will return soon.

As summer approaches, continuing warming waters eventually force crappies to deeper areas, but still around similar haunts, where they remained schooled up. A variety of different methods will continue to take crappies, but somehow fishing the shoreline brushpiles in spring seems to be the most enjoyable way to catch Virginia's spring crappies.