W2’s 2023 Top Small Fisheries

by Chris McCotter

Not everyone has a bass boat. Not everyone wants one or can afford one but they are perfectly content to enjoy their passion for fishing using a canoe, kayak or jon boat. This army of anglers knows just how good a day of fishing on one of Virginia’s best small waters can be. There’s none of the noise generated by boats zipping up and down the lake, nor jetskis or wake boats, just the sound of the breeze, birds and often the hum of an electric motor.

   These small waters are all over Virginia, from the mountains to the foothills, Piedmont to the coastal plain. If you have a small boat we encourage you to use it on the following small waters and enjoy exploring some new places.

Diascund Creek Reservoir

  Located in New Kent County, just northwest of Williamsburg lays 1,110-acre Diascund  Creek Reservoir. This is a water supply reservoir for Newport News so it’s electric motor only (you can use your bass boat, just not the outboard). The lake is essentially cut into three sections by roads that anglers can boat under. The lower end of the lake is deeper while the upper end is characterized by shallow water filled with stumps. 

  Anglers can target largemouth, crappie, chain pickerel, shellcrackers, yellow perch and one of the best populations of spotted or Alabama bass in the mid-Atlantic. Anglers have reported catching spotted bass over six pounds from Diascund, much to the dismay of DWR biologists.

   Alabama spotted bass were illegally introduced into the lake over 20 years ago. While they have displaced the largemouth population, many anglers go to Diascund just to catch a big spot. There are also a number of hybrid crosses between largemouth and Alabama spotted bass in Diascund.

   April is an excellent month to visit this lake and catch a big crappie or spotted bass fishing from a kayak or jon boat. The state maintains a public boat ramp at Diascund Reservoir Park.

Lake Mooney

  Created in 2017 in Stafford County just north of Fredericksburg, Lake Mooney has finally arrived. Visitors will find a 520-acre, electric motor only reservoir filled with largemouth bass and some of them are pushing eight pounds.

  This is a clear lake with some deep water near the lower lake ramp and dam. Most of the coves and upper end are full of standing timber, bushes and submerged aquatic grasses. The lake has three arms, the middle of which being the largest and longest. 

 The state maintains a public boat ramp at Lake Mooney Park. There’s also a small boat launch at the end of West Rocky Run Road.

Hunting Run

  This is another Fredericksburg area water supply reservoir that started out slowly with too many little bass but gradually grew into a good bass fishery. Hunting Run produced 11 state citation largemouth bass in 2022 including a 9-14, the ninth heaviest bass certified for the year. It is also considered one of our better big bass waters in the state.  

  At 420 acres, Hunting Run was opened to the public in 2007, but it only just recently became known for producing big largemouth. This lake is owned and operated by Spotsylania County, so you’ll need an access pass to fish. Season and daily passes are available on site. Boat rentals are also available.

  Hunting Run is mostly clear with a number of coves that trail back off the main creek that was dammed to form the lake. The public boat launch is in the upper end of the lake.

Ragged Mountain Reservoir

  Once two, separate lakes, Ragged Mountain Reservoir is now a 170-acre water supply reservoir for the City of Charlottesville. The upper portion of the lake was created in 1887 while the lower portion created in 1908. The reservoir was enlarged in 2014 with the construction of a new dam. The lake is ultra-clear, 80’ deep with fairly steep banks indicative of a foothills lake.

   Anglers can target largemouth bass, though there are rumors the lake contains muskie. 

  Access is limited to small boats, canoes and kayaks that can be carried from a small parking area and gasoline motors are prohibited. The lake is surrounded by the 980-acre Ragged Mountain Natural Area with 10 miles of hiking trails. Fishing from shore is permitted.

Carvin’s Cove Reservoir

  This is a is a 630-acre impoundment located just north of the city of Roanoke. that supplies drinking water and is part of a nearly 12,500-acre nature reserve. The 72-year-old lake contains largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, yellow perch, sunfish, striped bass and hybrid striped bass. The hybrids were first stocked in 2013 and have reached 23”. The stripers are up to 30”.

  Carvins Cove Reservoir has a concrete boat ramp as well as a canoe and kayak launch area. Boat rentals are available at the boat dock office April through September. The property has more than 45 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Restrooms and a picnic shelter are also available near the boat landing.

Pelham Reservoir

  Pelham Reservoir is a water supply reservoir for the Town of Culpeper. It covers 255 acres with a combination of forested and open, sloped banks along its shores. Shorelines consist of water willow and submerged timber. If you like to fish for largemouth bass and channel catfish, then Pelham is the place to go. 

  The lake also has populations of redear sunfish, black crappie, white perch, yellow perch, brown and yellow bullheads and northern snakeheads were illegally introduced around 2016.

  Pelham Reservoir has consistently ranked at or near the top of the list of 18 impoundments in the NOVA district for catch per unit effort of preferred bass and currently is ranked third.

  There are two public boat ramps on the lake; one on the upper end off Rt. 29 at The Ole Country Store & Bakery and another down near the dam, closer to the Town of Culpeper. Electric motors only (though you can use the bass boat with outboard up) and you must have a permit to fish Pelham. Permits are sold weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm at the office of: The Treasurer
400 South Main Street, Suite 109, Culpeper, VA 22701.

Lake Frederick

  Lake Frederick is a 117-acre impoundment owned by DWR. The department acquired the lake and a 50’buffer around the entire shoreline in 1981. Lake Frederick remains clear throughout the year and stratifies forming a thermocline during the summer months. The lake has a maximum depth of 50 feet and an average depth of 20 feet. Much of the shoreline and the upper ends of the two embayments contain standing submerged timber. Typically, the standing timber is located along the shoreline out to around 25’ from the water’s edge.

   Boat anglers are welcome, but gasoline motors are prohibited. Only electric trolling motors are allowed.

  Anglers mostly pursue largemouth bass but the lake is also noteworthy as one of the only places in Virginia with a population of northern pike up to 40 inches.

  The largemouth population is overpopulated at Lake Frederick, which is good if you are targeting a fishery with numbers, however the number of quality sized bass has dropped over time. Within the last few years blueback herring and gizzard shad were illegally stocked. Both of these species are pelagic, meaning they swim and suspend over deeper water. The bass have keyed in on the schools of herring and often can be found suspended with them over deeper water, rather than in the shallows. 

  The lake has an excellent concession (Gregory’s Lakeside Bait & Tackle) with tackle shop and boat rentals. There is also a paved boat ramp.

  There are many more small waters worth visiting around Virginia. Sandy River, Briery Creek, Lake Brittle, Beaver Creek Reservoir, the Norfolk City lakes, Nottoway Lake, Lake Orange, Germantown Lake, Laurel Bed Lake and Lake Conner. We hope you start checking them off this season.

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