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West Virginia Stream Conditions

September 19, 2018


BEECH FORK – Anglers should call the Beech Fork Corps of Engineers office at 304-525-4831 and go to http://www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wm/?basin/twe/bbf for information and current lake levels.  Topwater lures early and late are great choices for bass right now.  It is wise also at this time to keep a soft plastic bait rigged to throw back if a bass misses your topwater bait.  Try near the dam for hybrids using minnows below bobber set-ups or free line them.  Small circle hooks will help increase the chance of survival for release.    

BLUESTONE With the nights beginning to cool, the fishing on the lake should begin to pick up.  Early mornings, fish will be shallow then move into cooler depths as the sun rises and return to the shallows as the sun sets.  For shallow water around laydowns, riprap, grass flats, or other structures, use buzzbaits, poppers, spinnerbaits, square billed crankbaits and swimbaits.  For deeper water around points, humps, and ledges, use deep crankbaits, Carolina rigs, jigs and pigs, or spoons.  Fall turnover is right around the corner so game fish will start to increase their consumption as fall nears.  Anglers will have to keep track of where baitfish are, and the game fish will be close by.  Bluegill can provide anglers with some fast action.  Best baits are worms and small jigs.  Channel Catfish are also hitting in the lake primarily at night on chicken livers, cut bait, and worms.  Flathead Catfish use live bait.  Carp and Channel Catfish are hitting in the tailwaters with best baits being corn and nightcrawlers.  Occasionally anglers have been catching some other species such as Smallmouth Bass in the tailwaters on jigs and minnows.

BURNSVILLE – The lake is at summer pool.  Bass are being caught near the surface holding to cover.  Look for brush piles adjacent to creek channels and downwind sides of wind-blown points.  For more information call Corps of Engineers at 304-853-2398 and go to:

EAST LYNN For information on current lake levels call the Corps of Engineers recorded message at 304-849-9861 and go to http://www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wm/?basin/twe/elt.  Topwater lures are proving to be a great choice early and late for bass, with anglers finding success with jerkbaits and soft plastics at other times of the day.  Sometimes boat traffic and high sun can put fish down during the day and make “catching” difficult.  During dark hours, try large spinnerbaits, and topwater, or any lure that gives off a lot of vibration fish can pick up on.  The reliable jitterbug is also a great choice for nighttime angling for bass, and in larger sizes for muskies. 

R.D. BAILEY – Some Spotted Bass should be hitting on the lake, but as cool nights increase in frequency, the fishing should pick up.  The bass will be found along the rocky drops with points another good spot to try.  Good lures are swimbaits in shad colors, crankbaits, plastic worms and crayfish.  Bluegill are providing consistent action in the standing timber.  Best baits are worms and small jigs.  Hybrid Striper and Channel Catfish fishing is good off shallow points at night.  Best baits are chicken liver and crayfish.  Anglers should concentrate their efforts early and late during periods of extreme heat.  Carp are also providing a lot of fun for night anglers.  Best baits are corn and dough balls.

STONECOAL LAKE – The lake is at normal pool.  Bass are in about ten feet of water and reports of lots of fish being caught.  Crappie, Bluegill and Yellow Perch fishing is picking up.  A few muskies have been caught trolling and casting to tree piles.  The Walleye bite is good, a few lunker-sized fish have been reported recently. Fish around tree/brush piles and you will find fish of all species.  Use the WVDNR map tool found here:  https://www.mapwv.gov/huntfish/map/?v=fish .  Find Stonecoal Lake on the map and zoom in to see the orange fish habitat markers!

STONEWALL JACKSON – The lake is at summer pool. Bass are in the top ten feet and holding to cover.  Fish of all species can be found in and around hydrilla weed mats.  Before heading to the lake please call Corps of Engineers at 304-269-7463.

SUMMERSVILLE – The lake is at summer pool.  All boat ramps are open.  Fishing is good and getting better.  Most fish are in 30 - 60 feet of water.  Look for some of the new habitat structures in the Battle Run and McKees Creek areas.  There are over 200 new habitat structures.  Walleye regulation signs are posted around the lake, please take notice.  Trout were stocked in the tailwaters May 25, 2018.  For more information contact the Corps of Engineers at 304-872-3412 and go to: 

SUTTON – Bass are being caught suspended around 25 feet.  Crappie and Bluegill fishing has picked up with warmer water temperatures, look for natural downed trees with the tree-top still present.  Before heading to the lake please call Corps of Engineers at 304-765-2705 and go to:

TYGART LAKE – The lake elevation is about two feet above summer pool and will be slowly rising over the next couple of days.  Fish for Smallmouth Bass in early morning or late evening along the shoreline.  White Bass can be seen chasing shiners throughout the lake and can be caught using minnow imitation lures such as Kastmaster spoons. 

The tailwaters are clear and are currently at about 1,400 cfs but is predicted to rise over 3,000 cfs in the next couple of days.  This time of year, Tygart River downstream of the dam is typically cooler due to a deep-water release and has more flow than other rivers due to minimal flow requirements of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  These conditions provide reliable Smallmouth Bass fishing during the summer from the dam to the Camp Towles public stream access.

Call the Corps of Engineers telephone hotline at 304-265-5953 for daily lake and tailwater conditions or visit the Tygart Lake, USACE Facebook page.


OHIO RIVER (New Cumberland, Pike Island, and Hannibal pools and tailwaters) –  Water temperatures are warm, and flows are low.  However, anglers have reported decent catches of Hybrid Striped Bass below the locks and dams.  Hybrid Striped Bass and White Bass can be seen chasing baitfish near the water surface and often hold in eddies and back current sections.  Flathead Catfish are very common in the Ohio River with some giants available to anglers.  Channel Catfish are also common, but do not grow as large.  Blue Catfish have been stocked for the last few years in upper Ohio River and some anglers have reported catching some.  Areas to target catfish are deep pools at tributary mouths or outside bends and tailwater areas below dams. 

MONONGAHELA RIVER – Channel Catfish are abundant throughout the river and can be caught with stink baits, chicken liver, and cut bait.  Flathead Catfish are much less common, but can be caught on live bait, but sometimes cut bait will work.  Watch for baitfish breaking the surface and cast a surface lure or small spoon toward the area to catch White Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass below the dams.  In the Opekiska pool, very little dissolved oxygen is below 20 feet in the river currently, so be sure to not fish in depths greater than 20 feet. 

CHEAT LAKE – Cheat Lake has an excellent Channel Catfish population.  This time of year, look for Channel Catfish in deeper sections towards the head of the lake.  Smallmouth Bass can be found throughout the main lake, especially in the upper riverine section.  Largemouth Bass are abundant in the embayments toward the lower half of the lake.  The Cheat Lake Park and Ices Ferry fishing access site is a convenient place for shoreline anglers to catch bass, sunfish, and crappie.      

The fishing pier below the dam is still closed for repairs and most likely will be for the remainder of the year.

RIVERS and STREAMS – Be sure to check USGS website: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wv/nwis/current/?type=flow,
for river/stream conditions.  If streams are too low to float, wade fishing for Smallmouth Bass and Channel Catfish can be very effective and fun ways to explore streams.  Use the WVDNR online fishing map to find stream access information at:  http://www.mapwv.gov/huntfish/ .  Recently, anglers have reported catching Walleye in the Cheat River Canyon.  If Walleye are caught in this area or upstream, please report to the WVDNR District 1 office at 304-825-6787.  Angler information will help manage and improve this unique resource.

SMALL IMPOUNDMENTS – Great Largemouth Bass and Bluegill fishing can be had in many of our small impoundments across northern West Virginia.  Additionally, many of these small impoundments are stocked with Channel Catfish, providing excellent summer time fisheries.  Use the WVDNR fishing map tool to find a small impoundment in your area.   http://www.mapwv.gov/huntfish/  


South Branch and Cacapon Rivers – Flows have increased substantially, and water conditions are muddy.  Opportunities for fishing do not currently exist.  Additional rainfall is expected throughout the week and into the weekend.  Flow conditions must improve to allow fishing opportunities.  Considering the increased flow and depth in pools for this time of year, stopping on float trips to more thoroughly fish pool habitats may be very important to catching fish!  Additionally, feeding and cover habitats may expand to locations that typically wouldn’t hold fish, such as slower riffles, runs, and stream margins around vegetation.  Diet studies focusing on Smallmouth Bass consumption have highlighted the importance of crayfish as a staple diet item!  Large Smallmouth Bass can be caught on soft plastic and skirted jigs, crankbaits, weighted chatter baits, and weighted plastics.  Do not discount the importance of fish in Smallmouth diets, however.  Alternate the speed of swim baits as an alternative to fishing slow, deep plastics during periods of warmer water conditions.  As water depth declines and water clarity increases, consider the use of top-water plugs and small buzzbaits for more aggressive fish.  Channel Catfish greater than 30” in length have been captured in sampling gear from Petersburg, WV all the way down to the mouth on the South Branch.  Not surprisingly, Channel Catfish over 25” have been reported recently by anglers as high in the watershed as Petersburg.  Over 2,380 Channel Catfish have been angler reward tagged since 2012, so please keep an eye out for these tagged fish and know what to do if you encounter one http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/Fish_Tagging.shtm.  Our research suggests that Channel Catfish become much more active during elevated flows and turbid water conditions, so fishing during safe flows as waters are coming down from rain events may increase catch rates for anglers.

Shenandoah River – Flows are high and turbid, allowing no fishing opportunities currently.  Forecasted rainfall and rising flows will certainly eliminate any conditions that would allow fishing this weekend.  Considering that flow is higher, and habitats have more water than they typically would for this time of year, fish may be utilizing habitats such as slow riffles, runs and stream margins along vegetation than they typically would for this time of year.  Smallmouth can be caught on soft plastic and skirted jigs, crankbaits, weighted plastics, chatter baits, and crayfish imitation crankbaits.  Lures that balance lifelike characters and allow a variety of retrieve speeds, such as weighted swim baits, may be the answer to carefully feeding fish.  Swim baits imitating forage fish higher in the water column would be a wise switch occasionally from deeper fished lures.  Recent reports for Channel Catfish larger than 28” have been reported, as well!  The Shenandoah River is a phenomenal Channel Catfish fishery.      

North Branch River – Flows are expected to stay between 1,000 – 2,000 cfs throughout the near future.  Such high flows will eliminate opportunities for fishing.  Please follow Maryland DNR creel and gear regulations for this stream.  Check the Corp of Engineers webpage for specifics or schedule changes concerning whitewater discharges.  Flows in the North Branch can be monitored by watching USGS stream gages (http://www.nab-wc.usace.army.mil/northBranch.html) or by calling (410) 962-7687 for a three-day projection of outflows.

Small Impoundments – Cooler water temperatures and reasonable water clarity in our small impoundments in District 2 should be providing awesome conditions to catch warmwater sport fish!  Additionally, as stream flows increase, and fishing opportunities are eliminated at those fisheries, small impoundments still provide still-water fishing as an option.  These small, easily accessible impoundments provide some of the best opportunities for catching high quantities of quality-sized Largemouth Bass, Bluegill and Channel Catfish in the state!  Not surprisingly, several trophy fish citations have come in over the past couple of months indicating trophy-sized Largemouth Bass, Sunfish and Channel Catfish.  Although they cannot reproduce (natural lack of spawning habitat and predatory Largemouth Bass densities), many of these impoundments are stocked with larger Channel Catfish by WV DNR staff to generate fisheries for this species. 

Jennings Randolph Lake – Jennings Randolph Lake is currently about nine feet below conservation pool.  However, with approaching storms, lake level will likely increase over the coming days.  Recent surveys have uncovered high densities of Smallmouth Bass 15” and greater and Walleye longer than the minimum size limit.  Additionally, WV DNR has been stocking catchable-sized Channel Catfish in this lake.  On a recent stocking trip, staff noticed a considerable amount of surface striking of forage fish schools by Smallmouth Bass, potentially indicating that late summer focus on shiners high in the water column is occurring.  This location may be becoming a destination for quality-sized Yellow Perch, as two anglers recently filed citation reports for perch greater than 13” from this lake.  Both the West Virginia (Howell) and Maryland boat ramps can receive boat traffic and are open at this time.     http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Missions/Dams-Recreation/Jennings-Randolph-Lake/Fishing/
Additional recreational information can also be found at (http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Missions/DamsRecreation/JenningsRandolphLake.aspx).

Mount Storm Lake – Anglers at Mount Storm Lake should target Striped Bass, Black Bass, and Walleye.  Additional Christmas tree reef structures have recently been added as fish attractors and habitat on the western side of the lake.  WVDNR staff has recently embarked on efforts to map this popular fishing lake to provide visual depth and bottom contour information for anglers.  Recent surveys revealed greater numbers of quality-sized Channel Catfish, which are overly abundant in this lake, and good densities of both Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. Harvest of Channel Catfish in Mount Storm is promoted to improve this population.  Additionally, recent biological surveys have revealed plentiful citation-size Striped Bass (greater than 25” in length)!  Large Striped Bass from Mount Storm have recently been reported for citation certifications; there have been 4 over the last year.  An individual recently checked in a Striped Bass from Mount Storm Lake that was 37.2” long, weighing 24.9 pounds!  This population is maintained through WVDNR stocking efforts!  Trolling minnow and shad patterns (crankbaits, jigs, inline spinners, and stick baits) should prove successful for targeting Walleye and Striped Bass. 

For detailed information about stream flow, water clarity, and temperature, visit this United States Geological Survey (USGS) page for available stream gauge data:  http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wv/nwis/rt


If you are looking for a place to go, please check the fishing regulations and the WVDNR website for a list of public access sites or call your local WVDNR district office for some advice on places to fish.  The USGS WaterWatch website:   https://waterwatch.usgs.gov/?m=real&r=wv is a good tool for real-time stream conditions while you are planning your fishing trip.


The New and Greenbrier rivers are providing some good fishing for Smallmouth Bass and Red Eyes.  Anglers should try white/chartreuse buzzbaits, white plastic grubs, or small crankbaits or live bait.  Spots below or above shoals are good spots to try your luck.  Fishing is still best early and late in all the small impoundments in southern West Virginia and you should catch some fish.  Try spots at the end of points, weed beds, or fallen timber.  Best baits are plastic worms fished slowly along the bottom; spinnerbaits are also good choices.  Lakes such as Plum Orchard, Horse Creek, Hawks Nest, and Pipestem will all provide good bass fishing.  Channel catfishing is good in areas like Hawks Nest Lake and some of the other small impoundments.  Best time to fish is late night and very early morning with chicken livers or cut bait.  There is no better way to introduce a child or novice to fishing than to take them out for an evening of carp fishing.  Try chumming with creamed corn upstream of where you are fishing and use shredded wheat doughballs or whole kernel corn for bait.      


Lower Ohio and Kanawha Rivers – Anglers are doing well below locks on the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers for a variety of species.  Hybrids, Blue Cats and bass catches have been reported regularly.  Winfield locks especially has been proving to be a good choice for all species this summer.  Anglers use bait and lures to catch nice Smallmouth, Hybrids, and Flathead, Channel, and Blue Catfish from below the locks.

Other Southwestern Rivers – Check the USGS website ( http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt ) for river/stream conditions and check local landings visually before wasting a trip.  Water levels are beginning to stabilize for float trips after a very turbulent spring.  Good catches of a variety of fish species have been reported from anglers floating and wading.  The Tug Fork, Guyandotte, and Coal rivers have recently given up nice Smallmouth catches.  The ned rig, spinners and topwater seem to be leading producers for Smallmouth anglers recently.

Small Impoundments – Bass and Bluegill can be targeted right now using lures and/or bait.  Try fishing very early and late to beat the heat and pressure from other anglers.  Try downsizing your lures, sometimes into the summer as water levels go down and angling pressure increases, smaller offerings tend to do better.  Try small rattletraps, topwater, and crankbaits for success.  A simple bobber set-up or bait fished on the bottom are great choices for Channel Catfish found in all small impoundments.  Try fishing during low light periods (dawn, dusk) and if allowed (check your regulations) at night for greater success with catfish, and all species as we move into the summer.  Many make their own smelly concoctions to lure Catfish in to bite their hook.  Hot dogs soaked in jello mix or anise (licorice) are also effective baits for Channel Catfish, give them a try. 

Reservoirs – Check the USACOE website (http://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/) and the USGS website (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt) for reservoir and tailrace conditions.

Largemouth Bass fishing has been good in area impoundments.  Soft plastics, crank baits, spinner baits, and jig-and-pig combos are good choices for tackle.  Area lakes with good bass angling opportunities include Elk Fork, Woodrum, and O’Brien lakes in Jackson County, North Bend Lake in Ritchie County, Mountwood Lake in Wood County, and Charles Fork Lake in Roane County.  PLEASE NOTE:  Special Regulations are in place for black bass in Elk Fork, Woodrum, O’Brien, and North Bend lakes.   http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/Regs18/specregs.pdf

Fishing below Ohio River tailwater areas has been slow for some species due to water temperatures.  However, recent flow increases and drops in water temperature may entice some species to strike.  Anglers fishing in tailwaters areas at Belleville and Willow Island Dams have been catching White Bass, Hybrid Striped Bass, and catfish.  Areas to target include eddies, back-current sections, and anywhere that river flows appear unusual.  White Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass can often be seen feeding on the surface.

Larger streams in the district hold Channel Catfish and Flathead Catfish.  Tactics used in lakes (chicken liver, scented baits, etc.) often work well for Channel Catfish in these streams, but Flatheads prefer live bait.  The Ohio River is an exceptional Flathead Catfish fishery for both numbers and size.  Additionally, fishing for Blue Catfish on Ohio River has been improving, and it should only continue to get better over time.  Good locations to target catfish include deep areas along islands, outside bends, and near tributary mouths.  Clever anglers are using side-scan sonar units to locate areas that have potential for holding big catfish.  PLEASE NOTE:  Special Regulations are in place for Flathead Catfish from the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers.  http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/Regs18/specregs.pdf

Most area musky streams are high and muddy.  Anglers typically use glide baits, bucktails, and swim baits during this time of year.  Anglers should focus effort on fishing structure, such as fallen trees.  Middle Island Creek, Little Kanawha River, and the Hughes River system hold naturally reproducing populations of musky.  Additionally, North Bend and Woodrum lakes are also good bets for anglers wanting to catch muskies when streams are too muddy.  Post-release mortality for muskies is exceptionally high during the summer months, owing to water temperatures.  Anglers lucky enough to hook into one should do their best reduce handling time, limit stress on the fish, and keep it in the water.

There are several useful tools available to West Virginia anglers.  Use the WVDNR interactive fishing map to help locate and get information on a lake or stream near you.  As part of an ongoing DNR project, some lake maps showing contour and bottom structure have been uploaded to this website (look for more in the future).  Use the following website to reach the interactive map:  https://www.mapwv.gov/huntfish/map/?v=fish .  Also, the USGS stream gage website is a very helpful tool for anglers wanting to check river/stream conditions prior to planning a fishing trip:  https://waterdata.usgs.gov/wv/nwis/current/?type=flow .  USGS stream gages have recently been added to our interactive fishing map.

Conaway Run Lake in Tyler County is currently closed to boating due to repairs being made on the dam.  The lake will be reopened to boat traffic in November.

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