VIRGINIA: 2013 Fishing Outlook

The 2013 fishing outlook for the tidal James River and its tributaries is very good. This fishery compares favorably with some of the best lake fishing in the state. Boat electrofishing catch rates of largemouth bass have been stable over the last decade ranging from 54-89 fish/ hour.

In 2012, overall catch rates of largemouth bass were 83 fish/hour. Favorable fishing conditions are based on (1) catch-per-unit-effort of preferred size bass (CPUE largemouth bass ≥ 15″) and (2) an index of the proportion of largemouth bass ≥ 15″ in the population (RSD-P). In 2012, catch rate of largemouth bass ≥ 15″ was 12/ hour. This is a slight decrease from 2011; however, it is still very good compared to other fisheries around the Commonwealth. The proportion of preferred size bass in the James River was slightly lower in 2012 (RSD-P = 21) but should still provide good numbers of bass ≥ 15″.

The Chickahominy River continues to be a popular destination for many anglers and has sufficient submerged aquatic vegetation to provide anglers with a great place to target largemouth bass.

The 2012 electrofishing surveys yielded great diversity with 37 species and a bass catch rate of 66 fish/hr. The catch rate of preferred bass (≥ 15 inches) was 14 fish/hr, and several strong year classes of juveniles were observed. Threadfin shad provide a great forage base. The largest bass of the survey weighed 8 lbs., 5 ounces, and numerous 4 – 6 pound bass were collected. For action besides largemouth bass, a variety of other fish species are present. Many enjoy fishing for abundant blue catfish, and the river provides great black crappie and yellow perch action.

Largemouth bass fishing on the lower tidal Rappahannock River (east of Port Royal) may be slow in 2013. Electrofishing surveys in 2012 produced a catch rate of only 15 fish/hr. Bass abundance in certain tributaries such as Gingoteague Creek was higher (47 fish/hr). Submerged aquatic grass growth was limited to only a handful of the areas sampled – Hydrilla provided some habitat in Pee Dee Creek, Baylor’s Creek and Drake’s Marsh. Preferred-sized bass (≥ 15″) were collected at 5 fish/hr. Anglers may want to target bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish which were abundant in areas with a significant amount of flooded shoreline timber and yellow perch in Drake’s Marsh. Many of the tidal tributaries provide exciting opportunities to catch a bowfin, as 157 were sampled mostly in the 20 – 24″ range.

Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries