W2’s Small Water Series: Hunting Run Reservoir

by Chris McCotter

  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 pass to fish on the reservoir. Season passes for Hunting Run Reservoir are only $8 for anglers from Spotsylvania, $10 for Fredericksburg and Stafford. Daily passes are also available and cost $3 for Spotsylvania, $5 for Fredericksburg and Stafford and $7 for all others, respectively. Senior citizens over age 62 have free access, and children under 16 have free access. Boat rentals are $6 an hour with a minimum of three hours and can be rented for up to eight hours. 

  If using your own boat, it must have an electric motor, gas motors are allowed on boats but have to be raised out of the water or the fuel line disconnected. Gas motors are prohibited from operation unless engaged in official duties.

  Hunting Run is usually sampled annually by electrofishing (EF) by VDWR biologist John Odenkirk to get an accurate picture of the fisheries status. Electrofishing is an active sampling method used to determine abundance, density, and species composition of fish populations. Typically, community sampling is done in daylight. Historically, the reservoir has consistently been in the top 10 NOVA district waters for catch rate of largemouth bass. 

 VDWR fisheries biologists have sampled the reservoir annually since an illegal introduction of northern snakehead in 2013 to monitor potential effects on the fish community. Most recently, an EF sample was conducted in April 2020. Biologists use shoreline EF to obtain estimates of population size structure and relative abundance. Abundance is usually described as a catch rate in number of fish per hour (CPUE, or Catch per Unit Effort). 

  Biologists employ numerical descriptors of length-frequency data such as Proportional Size Distribution (PSD) and Proportional Size Distribution –Preferred (PSD-P) when evaluating fish populations. PSD is calculated by dividing the number of fish  (minimum quality length by the number of fish) minimum stock length x 100. Quality length is defined as the minimum size of fish most anglers like to catch (12” for largemouth bass). Stock length is the minimum length at which a fish provides recreational value and/or is recruited to the fishery (8” for largemouth bass). PSD-P is the percentage of preferred length group found within a population. It is calculated by dividing the number of fish (preferred length by the number of fish)  minimum stock length x 100. 

  Preferred bass are those 15” or larger, while memorable bass are those 20” or larger. State standard regulations apply to the harvest of most game and nongame fish (e.g., catfish), but largemouth bass harvest has been regulated by a 14-22” protected slot limit. Anglers are required to immediately release any bass between 14 and 22” (inclusive), and can creel only one bass per day over 22” and up to four bass per day under 14”. Harvest of bass below the slot is beneficial to minimize stockpiling of small fish, increase growth and maintain a desirable size structure. 

   In order to sustain Hunting Run as a trophy bass fishery, anglers are encouraged to keep bass under 14 inches, (especially those from 10-12”), and release bass over 22”. Anglers are also encouraged to keep black crappie (25 per day, no length limit) and northern snakeheads (no length or harvest limit). 

  Based on electroshocking data the population size structure of largemouth bass (LMB) in 2020 was slightly better than the previous sample in 2019. PSD increased to 75 from 73. A PSD of 40-70 is indicative of a balanced fish population. Proportional Size Distribution of preferred fish (PSD-P; ratio of adults greater than 15”) was better in 2020 (41) and indicative of a desirable size structure with a population trending towards larger individuals. Total catch per unit effort (CPUE) of LMB in 2019 (87 fish/hr) decreased slightly in 2020 to 80 fish/hr which is still good. CPUE of preferred size bass increased slightly from 26/hr (2019) to 28/hr in 2020. 

  Since 2013, LMB catch rates have shown a gradual increasing trend. Length distribution of collected bass ranged from 3 to 21”, with a large proportion of bass in the 11 to 17” range which suggests improvement in overall bass size structure. This population is regarded as abundant with bass averaging 2-3 pounds and 6+ pound fish available. 

  Largemouth bass catch rate and size structure has fluctuated since the fishery’s creation, and the community became predator heavy in the mid-2000s. Forage was quickly reduced and as a result, largemouth bass became skinnier, as bluegill was the most utilized prey. Multiple attempts to introduce gizzardshad finally succeeded in recent years, and likely is one of the drivers of enhanced bass size structure. 

  Good summer bass baits on Hunting Run include crankbaits and swimbaits. Bass school in the early fall into winter and a soft plastic jerkbait be good as well.

   Hunting Run provides an adequate black crappie fishery. Length distribution ranged from 4 to 13” with the majoritybeing 9 to 12”. Crappie populations are known to fluctuate due to high annual variation in spawning success, and while not a positive sign for crappie anglers; reduced abundance of this species in this predator heavy community can be viewed beneficially. Anglers are encouraged to harvest any crappie caught up to the 25-fish/day creel limit. 

  The lake also hosts good populations of red ear sunfish, bluegill and northern snakhead.

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