Gerald Almy: Virginia’s best crappie fishing waters
Some states like South Carolina and Kentucky are legendary for their crappie fishing. But the fact is the Old Dominion is no slouch when it comes to this speckled black and white fish, either. And fall through early winter is one of the best times to catch them.
If you want to plan a crappie fishing trip to Virginia, the problem is not finding a fishing destination, it’s deciding which of the many possible choices to settle on. There are literally dozens of fine crappie fishing waters. Here’s a look at some of the top spots to try. All are open to the public with boat ramps and often there are shore fishing opportunities as well.
Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Reservoir): In the opinion of many anglers, this is Virginia’s best crappie lake. Also known as Kerr Reservoir, it straddles the border with North Carolina and sprawls over some 48,900 acres. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake offers both black and white crappies in good numbers and large average sizes. It has yielded fish up to a whopping 4 ½ pounds, with 1-2 pounders fairly common.
Fish near any bridges, main-lake points, creek channel edges and brush piles you can locate. Tributary arms of the lake are also good where they spill into the main lake in fall. Try Bluestone, Eastland, Rudds, Butchers and Beaver creeks.
Smith Mountain Lake: Though it’s most famous for its landlocked stripers, this 20,600 acre lake in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Roanoke is a top crappie spot as well. Some years it yields nearly as many “citation-sized” specimens as Buggs Island Lake.
It is a much clearer lake than Kerr, with fewer flooded trees, so if you do manage to find a brush pile, it may well have crappies holding near it. Docks can also be good, particularly when they extend into deep water. Use live minnows or small jigs with plastic tails. The best fishing is found in the upper lake in the Roanoke River arm most years. Expect the average crappie here to run 2/3 to 1 pound.
Lake Anna: This power company lake southwest of Fredericksburg holds an abundance of crappies. Expect the fish to average slightly smaller than Kerr or Smith Mountain, typically 1/2 to 2/3 pounds. But they make up for it in numbers.
The deep outer edge of beaver huts can produce in fall, but bridges are especially hot. Creek channel drop-offs are also good bets, as are the outer pilings of boat docks. Anna is one of the favorite destinations for Shenandoah Valley anglers seeking crappies, bass and stripers.
Lake Moomaw: This lake near Covington is well known for its trout fishing. Lots of hefty browns and high-jumping McConaughy-strain rainbows are pulled from its glass-clear waters each year. But the lake also has some very respectable crappies.
Don’t expect large numbers of fish, but they’ll be good-sized, right in the one-pound range. Black crappies are the dominant species. Use live minnows or tiny jigs around docks and offshore structures planted by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Corps of Engineers.
Lake Orange: This is a fairly small body of water, but the state-owned lake yields topnotch sport for crappies. Handicapped and shore-bound anglers have a floating fishing pier they can cast from and crappies like to hang out around this structure.
Anglers using boats will find a number of fish attractors planted in the lake that hold the speckled perch. Finally, don’t neglect the beaver huts near shore. These are especially good crappie hangouts early and late and on cloudy or rainy days.
Chickahominy Lake: Located near Williamsburg, this 1,500 acre lake looks like a body of water you’d find much farther south. It’s filled with cypress trees draped with Spanish moss and the lake is full of crappies (as well as bass, pickerel, catfish and bluegills.)
Try fishing soft plastic grubs, spinner-jig combos or live minnows. Several private marinas offer access to the lake as well as bait and boat rentals.
Occoquan Reservoir: Even though the sprawl of Washington, D.C., has just about overtaken this area, Occoquan continues to produce good crappie fishing. I like to fish near deep sunken brush, bridge pilings and sharp channel drop-offs. Drifting with live minnows is the best bet, but jigs can also produce. Boats can be rented at Fountainhead Park, near Woodbridge, off of Va. 123.
Don’t be surprised if you latch onto some nice largemouths here when trying for crappies. And this lake has also given up flathead catfish tipping the scales at over 50 pounds.
Try landing a bruiser like that on a light crappie outfit.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.