Small Waters: Ragged Mountain Reservoir

by Aaron Ball

Not everyone has a 21’ bass boat with four depth finders and a tow vehicle to haul it. There are many anglers that enjoy the fishing pastime via kayak, canoe, jon boat or other small boat, like a Gheenoe. They use these boats to access and fish the thousands of small waters around the state – everything from ponds to municipal-owned water supply reservoirs to Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) managed lakes to private fishing club lakes. 

  It’s these small waters that we are dedicating this series to, the 15-800-acre fisheries that don’t get the publicity Buggs Island, Smith Mountain, the tidal Chickahominy or Lake Anna get.

   This month’s focus is on Ragged Mountain Reservoir located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Once two lakes, this now 170-acre lake is the water supply reservoir for the City of Charlottesville. 

   Ragged Mountain Reservoir is both the oldest and newest reservoir managed by RWSA. It originally consisted of two dams: an upper dam built in 1887 and a lower dam constructed in 1908. The reservoir was enlarged in 2014 by the construction of a new earthen dam. 

  Despite this enlargement Ragged Mountain is still considered a W2 small water and when such an assignment comes up we have one ace usually ready to cover the story.

  W2 Adventure Editor Aaron Ball has been fishing Ragged Mountain a few times since it was expanded. He visited last month a couple times and his recap follows.

  The lake is open from sunrise to sunset. Access and parking are limited and there is no boat ramp. Boats must be carried to the lake, and gasoline motors are prohibited.

   Earlier this year Woods and Waters Magazine had a list of some of the best small water fisheries to hit and Ragged Mountain Reservoir was included on that list. Reading that article made me realize that it had been several years since I had visited, so a few weeks ago I decided to slip my Bonafide 107 kayak into the deep clear water of Ragged Mountain once again.

 Ragged Mountain Reservoir is a 170-acre lake that is included in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area which consists of 980 acres of land just several miles outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. The natural area itself consists of over seven miles of hiking trails and lots of opportunities for bird watching and animal observation if that is more your speed. Hunting is not permitted.

   As noted above, the reservoir used to consist of two smaller ponds, but the reservoir was redone several years back to produce the current lake as constructed. The physical address to the parking lot is 1770 Reservoir Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Be forewarned, the parking lot is on the smaller side, and it can be quite crowded, especially on the weekends. 

   The one other issue to note is that this is only accessible via a kayak or canoe and even that can be burdensome. Your two options to access the water are to drag/carry your vessel down the hill from parking lot via a steep set of stairs which can be challenging. The other option is to unload at the top of the dam and carry your kayak down the access road about 75-100 yards. However, the top of the road is gated, and it is a tight fit on either side of the gate to pass through. 

   Having said all that, it is more of a hassle than anything and is manageable especially with two or more people.  Really, I see no reason why the road should not be opened to allow easier access, but I digress. 

    If you have read through the previous paragraph and have not been deterred, you will find scenic mountain views with crystal clear water and many willing fish to take your offerings. The water is gin clear with vast expanses of subaquatic vegetation throughout.

  The water of Ragged is also very deep, over 25 feet in most places on the lake. The bass fishing in my experience is usually very good, but the fish are usually on the smaller side. Many fish can be caught in the 12-14 range which makes it a perfect venue for the family to keep the lines tight all day. Additionally, Ragged Mountain has a very good crappie and yellow perch fishery, and I have been told a few muskies have been pulled from the depths. However, I cannot personally confirm that, but I’d like to think one of Virginia apex predators is swimming deep within the reservoir. 

   I recently spent a day kayaking Ragged Mountain with my good buddy Cameron and his friend Aaron. We decided before launching that we would have a friendly competition and measure our best five via our bump boards. From past experience I knew that a jerkbait would be a player in the clear water, and I had five fish in the kayak within a few minutes and was feeling very proud of myself. A short time later I received a message from Cameron that Aaron had caught a 7-pounder coming in around 23 inches. 

   At that point I knew I needed to not worry about bumping anymore of my fish, and I just focused on enjoying the beautiful scenery around me. The Megabass jerkbait put plenty of fish in the boat for me that day along with a 2.8 Keitech on a Megabass Okashiri spin head. Between the three of us that day we caught over 60 fish, with the big fish of the day falling to the tried-and-true jig!

    If you are looking for a place to get off the beaten path and enjoy nature Ragged Mountain might be worth the trip for you and the family. If you have further questions regarding Ragged Mountain feel free to reach out to my on my IG @Psuaaron.

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