Sleeper Lakes You Should Try This Year

by Chris McCotter

By C.C. McCotter

Each year we like to highlight some dark horse waters. They don’t get the publicity and they don’t get the angling pressure as more well-known lakes that permit unlimited hp boats with dozens of access points. No, the following lakes are underdogs that can compete with big dogs like Smith Mountain, Lake Anna, Gaston and Buggs as far as big fish and given the right craft and conditions, perhaps even on an overall enjoyment level. Consider adding them to your bucket list to fish this season and enjoy the adventure.

Carvin’s Cove

   Carvins Cove is a 630-acre impoundment located just north of the city of Roanoke of I-81. This reservoir is owned by the Western Virginia Water Authority, is managed primarily as a municipal water supply for the City of Roanoke and is part of a nearly 12,500-acre nature reserve. 

   Carvin’s is surrounded by scenic mountain views, offers good fishing opportunities, and provides an extensive trial system available to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. Other facilities available at this reservoir include a boat ramp and restrooms. Access to the lake is open all year but the lake is closed at night. Outboard motor use is restricted to 10 hp and electric motors. There is a daily fee for all users and additional fees for boaters. 

   The reservoir was impounded in 1945 and was stocked with various predator species such as striped bass, walleye, muskie, and catfish until 1992. 

   Currently, the most popular sportfish species are largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, hybrid striped bass, black crappie, catfish, and sunfish. With the exception of a 14-inch minimum size limit for largemouth and smallmouth bass, all fish species are regulated with statewide regulations. 

  The striper and wiper vary in size but there is a good population of fish over 24 inches. The smallmouth bass fishing is considered good.

Lake Mooney

  Lake Mooney or Rocky Pen Reservoir just north of Fredericksburg opened to the public for fishing on July 1, 2017 after it reached full pool as a water supply lake for Stafford County in early 2016. The 520-acre was originally named after the stream it impounded (Rocky Pen) but renamed after the late Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jason Mooney.

     The lake is a water supply lake that is directly fed from the Rappahannock River so it can fluctuate 6-7 feet seasonally. 

  Lake Mooney was stocked with primary warm water species between 2014 and 2016 including bluegill, redear sunfish and channel catfish.  Black crappie and largemouth bass naturally colonized the filling reservoir from inundated ponds. Anglers have caught largemouth bass from Mooney over 10 pounds.

   Lastly, it is a relatively large trolling motor only so make sure you have good batteries that are fully charged! It is a great option for the kayak anglers as none of the aforementioned information really affects you

   The ramp is extremely steep, and the parking is somewhat limited. Initially when the lake was designed, it was not intended for boats over 16 foot, so the ramp itself is somewhat short. 

  To get to Mooney, take Route 17 north from Fredericksburg, turn left onto Banks Ford Parkway, and right on Greenbank Road.  Stafford Parks and Recreation access is at 500 Greenbank Road, Falmouth, VA 22406. 

  Access consisting of boat launch, park, and restroom facilities, is provided from 8 am to 8 pm mid-March through October 31, and from November 1 through mid-March; access is available from 8 am to 5:30 pm.  No swimming is allowed, and boat motors must be electric – no gas motors are permitted to be operated.

Hunting Run

   Hunting Run Reservoir is a 420-acre water supply reservoir owned and operated by Spotsylvania County. The lake was stocked by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and opened to fishing by Spotsylvania County in fall 2007. There is one access point near the upper end of the lake off Ely’s Ford Road. The lake has an excellent largemouth bass population that is currently “bass heavy” or “predator heavy”.

Anglers need an access permit to fish on the reservoir. Season passes are only $8 for anglers from Spotsylvania, and $10 for those from Fredericksburg and Stafford. Daily passes are also available and cost $3 for Spotsylvania residents, $5 for Fredericksburg and Stafford citizens and $7 for all others. Combination season access to both Ni and Hunting Run costs $15 for Spotsylvania, $18 for Fredericksburg and Stafford, and $25 for all others. Senior citizens over age 62 and children under 16 have free access. Boat rentals are $6 per hour with a minimum of three hours and can be rented for up to eight hours

   Hunting Run offers a variety of habitat to attract fish. Anglers should focus on the young timber left prior to inundation of the reservoir and the stick-up islands holding decent numbers of larger bass in spring. Shoreline habitat consists of water willow, downed timber and some spots of hydrilla. There are several beaver lodges around the reservoir that hold large numbers of crappie and other sunfish. There are also a few older docks and pylons for fish to congregate near and on.

  The lake is located off Route 3, west of Fredericksburg.

Nottoway Lake

   Nottoway Lake is a scenic 188-acre impoundment located in Nottoway County, Virginia – a fairly remote area of the Commonwealth. With exceptional cover and a wooded shoreline, this lake offers a great opportunity for anglers to catch big largemouth bass and crappie in a rural setting. The lake was impounded in 1978 and opened to fishing just two years later. Most of the standing timber was left at that time as fish cover in the lake.

      Nottoway Lake provides a good largemouth bass fishery characterized by above average catch rates with good numbers of fish in the 10-14 inch range. The lake also boasts trophy potential with low numbers of fish up to and over 20 inches encountered with moderate frequency. The spring spawn (April-May) is the best time of year to catch a trophy-sized fish. Spinnerbaits, soft plastics. And shallow diving crankbaits worked around shallow cover can be productive in the spring. During the summer and early fall fishing deeper water around standing timber and creek channels with soft plastics, deep diving crankbaits, and swimbaits can be productive.

   To reach this wonderful fishing experience, take Route 606 north off of Route 460 near the town of Blackstone, Virginia. Follow the signs for the public fishing lake to Nottoway Lake.

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