Harrisonburg and the North River Experience

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel up to Harrisonburg, Virginia, and fish through a portion of the North River. The section of the river that we were camped out on was a fairly shallow spot, some small rapids, but also included a small creek and water fall flowing right into it. This kept all parts of the river moving at a fairly quick pace, with few areas of calm and smooth surface water.

Area where the creek ran into North River (sadly the kayaks were our neighbors)

From what we had heard prior to trying out the waters, small mouth bass was what most people were catching in that area, and an occasional trout if you tried going up the smaller creek that was flowing into it. So with that in mind, we used spinning bait, fake crawdads, and small artificial minnows to see what we could get. The whole time consisted of fishing off the banks edge, though kayaks would have been great to get to deeper and possibly more populated areas for the bass we wanted. With the stream pulling the line constantly, and thick grass located in the middle of the water, reeling it in fairly quick was necessary in order to not get your hook tangled in anything.

First we caught multiple small mouth bass. Nothing over a foot long, though still enjoyed reeling them in compared to something like a tiny perch. Most all of the small mouth were on the opposite bank, directly in the path of where the small waterfalls were pouring in, I’m assuming under rocks that were blocking the rushing waters. They hit anything we caste towards that area, but they really went for the fake crawdads for the most part.

Small mouth caught with spinner bait

A friend of mine caught a decent sized croaker or possibly redhorse fish, though I was not able to see where he snagged it. This was what I had caught many times before at the Maury River, just south in Lexington Virginia weeks prior. Though there was no sign of trout, and that could be because we did not try hiking up the creek where they were said to be located.

First small mouth caught as soon as we arrived

One of the better catches of the day was caught under a large fallen tree right near our camp spot. It was hard to tell if it was a young large mouth bass, or so we believe it to be, though it was the heaviest fish we reeled in. It hit the fake minnow bait that included two treble hooks attached to the front and back, and was almost instant as it hit the water.

Young large mouth bass

With catching around a dozen decent fish overall that day, I would recommend to anyone try fishing the North River, and there are plenty of places to stay right on the banks overnight if you wanted to keep going for a couple of days. With fall, a great fishing season starting up, this is the best time to get to it!

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Best Time of the Year to Fish

Most people that rarely fish would assume that summertime is the best season for fishing. Though depending on what body of water you are fishing in, seasons and timing can really effect results of catching something worth your while.

For example, in lakes, where I tend to fish most often, Summer can be a hard time to catch good sized fish because of a couple of reasons. First, boat traffic is at its highest point of the year. This makes it hard to find a quiet and calm spot in the water where fish are closer to the surface not being disturbed. A second factor that makes it even worse, is how hot the surface water gets to during hot sunny days. By the end of the season during August, top water this year at Smith Mountain Lake was usually in the 70-75 degrees by midday. Unless there is a perfect moment of seeing a bass going for minnows at the surface, larger fish are down below where temperatures drop greatly. Including the boat traffic keeping them deeper as I stated before. Though during the day it is difficult to have great success, if you go for an early morning attempt, this would increase your chances extremely. The same goes for late evening runs, less boat traffic and cooler water at the beginning and end of the day is just what is needed.

The best time of the year for fishing in my opinion is this upcoming season, fall. This is when the water is not too hot or cold, and boat traffic is mainly other people fishing as well, keeping the waters much calmer than recreational summer boaters. Shad (small minnows used for bait) tend to leave the deeper waters and head for shallow coves or banks, which draws the larger fish in towards places that are easier to catch with simple casting. Fall is very similar to springtime, due to similar reasons and conditions.

Next, there is fishing during the winter. For the most part, fishing around this time of the year can go both ways. Personally, I have caught some great fish in December and January, but it takes a little dedication to go out boating when it is extremely cold and doing an activity that requires a lot of patience. Even more so when winds pick up and you can barely feel your hands and face by the time to find a spot to stop and cast your lines in. For the most part, I use live bait during this time, and make sure they are weighted down just enough to where they aren’t trolling in the icy/slushy surface water.

Overall in my opinion, any seasons a good season to go fishing. Though this advice is fully from personal experiences and what I have heard from those I have fished with before. You truly never know what you’ll catch at any point in the year, and that’s what makes it an exciting hobby.

A Trip to the Maury River

This past weekend I had the opportunity to fish in a small section of the Maury River in Lexington Virginia. Though I was only able to in a short period of time, I found that even the smallest parts of that river had plenty of fish hiding around. Next time, I plan on bringing a kayak so I can go downstream where the river widens up, the section I was fishing off the bank was fairly thin, almost as if it were a large creek instead.

Photo of the area we fished (Maury River, Lexington, VA)

We started off by using mule worms, tiny hard shelled bait that is great for smaller fish. This was chosen because we were at such a small area and did not believe anything would be larger than half a foot. First we caught many perch, typical in shallow water. So we decided to switch up the baits, this time artificial instead. I began using the smallest fake minnows I had ever seen, which are packed in jars full of scented liquid that supposedly attracts the fish. We also added a second weight on the lines to help them drag the river bed to see if other fish would start hitting it instead of just perch towards the top water. This worked out greatly, though all the catches were still fairly small in size.

First we caught a couple of what we thought were very young red eyed bass, though I could be wrong since they were so skinny and differently colored (but the red eyes was obviously what made me believe that).

Shortly after we caught three of these small “sucker” fish which I believe were a certain type of Redhorse fish. They were mostly hiding under large rocks or ledges underwater that we had to drag out bait by to get them to actually come out. There were dozens of them, and that was the main fish we caught during out time there. There were many different appearances for these sucker fish, some with very light pink colored stomachs, and some with brighter golden bottoms.

The best part about using the fake minnow baits was that we rarely lost them off the hook. They stayed on very well for their small size, unlike the mule worms that fish could easily keep taking small bites out of till it fell right off. Though we continued to switch back and forth till we completely ran out of the mule worms. Overall the most success was with the artificial, but that may be because we never ran out of those.

Fishing in the Maury River was a great experience, and now that I know what the terrain is like and what species are plentiful there, I will return one day with more gear to catch bigger fish in a different area. I would highly recommend anyone to take a rod out there and give it a shot.

Live or Artificial Bait?

When it comes to fishing, everyone has their own levels of success with many different types of bait. There are many types of artificial and live baits that you can always rely on for a fish to bite. For me personally, I started out with the simple earth worm and stuck to that for years. Though using a worm would get old fast due to having to put a new one on the hook almost every time a fish would go hit it. So that is when I began looking in to artificial baits, figuring they were easier for the fish to see under water, and easier to keep on a hook for re use.

There are hundreds of options to choose from with artificial bait, and it sometime takes a series of trial and errors till you find the right one for the right type of fish you want to catch. The size of the fish also determines what should be used so they actually will go for a bite. When fishing in shallow streams or creeks, I have luck using small artificial minnow. Though if you want to use live bait, I would suggest using mealworms. Mealworms are great for getting bites, though due to their texture and small size, can easily fall off if it gets a hit or drags the bottom too much.

Bucktail (top) and medium sized fake minnow (bottom)

With larger fish such as bass, depending on the type you are fishing for you would need to step up to a large fake minnow. Also, putting a bucktail on the fake bait helps it gain more attraction from the fish. Bucktails are feathery looking pieces that appear as a thin moving tail when under the water which you can buy as a full jig, or add to your own. These work great with striped bass specifically from my personal experience at Smith Mountain Lake, they have helped me catch multiple fish. Though on the contrary I have also had great success with fresh caught shad. By using ones personally caught in a cast net, they still swim around in the water while trolling behind a boat. As bass see them, they realize it’s an easy target and go for them quickly.

More benefits come with using artificial baits, like specific types that have great movement under the water. From fake minnows that look identically like a live one swimming one, to simple spinner bait that attracts fish with a rotating shiny piece of metal. Though to get the best results using these baits, it also takes a bit of practice to learn how to reel and work the bait in a manner that makes it appear like something moving through the water and not just drifting.

Spinner with artificial worm bait

Overall when it comes to baits that work best, you have to try out a couple different ones to find out just what the fish want to hit. After gaining experience with all types, you will figure out which works best for you. Everyone has their own opinion on which is the perfect type to use in a specific environment, these examples are all ones that have worked great for me and hopefully for you too.

Searching for SML Stripers

Whenever I find myself back home from college, whether it is summer, fall, winter, or spring, I will always try to go fishing while at Smith Mountain Lake. Typically fishing for striped bass is one of my favorite things to go for. Also know as Stripers, these are a great fish to try and catch because they keep up a pretty good fight once hooked, and are great to eat if you know how to cook them well. Though personally I usually go by the catch and release method, every once in a while when a large one gets caught, it gets cooked that same evening.

There are multiple ways to go for these larger breed of bass, and depending on a couple of environmental factors, you may have to switch around to see which will actually get a hit from one. For example this past summer at Smith Mountain Lake, there were many boats out as typically any lake is over warm seasons. This constant traffic can cause the fish to dive deeper into parts of the lake, forcing you to go deeper with your bait. This is also a solution for when the water warms up to higher temperatures during this season, because of the cooler conditions down below, that’s where you will most likely find a striper. Though you still can have those lucky moments when stipers will attack schools of shad at the surface. You will know when they are feeding because the school will break water repeatedly making loud splashes like a pack of piranhas going for its prey.  

Usually you don’t see a swarm of striper hitting bait or shad in top waters till the water is cooler during fall from my personal experiences. That’s when I would recommend using a fake minnow with a buck tail attached, or an umbrella rig with minnows to cast right where I see the stripers hitting the surface. Typically that will always get hit if they are already going at a school of bait because these fish like to attack quickly when they do.

Our cast net pulling in a bait ball of Shad

Striped bass love shad, which in Smith Mountain Lake are typically smaller, minnow sized fish that form “balls” of bait near the surface. When you see a larger sized circle of tiny ripples moving at top water, that is most definitely shad. You can catch live ones by using a cast net. After catching a good net full of them and keeping those in an air filtered tank, hooking them through the top lip/tip of the shad can give you a great live bait that in the right areas will guarantee a striper to attack.

During my last fishing trip on SML, we used the deep water fishing technique due to many boats being there to celebrate Labor Day. With a decent sized weight and live shad on the lines, we trolled this cove located in a deeper area around 9 in the morning. There were many boats around us using the same game plan, but we seemed to have the most luck in the short amount of time we were there. I caught a striper around 28 inches long swimming about 40 feet deep. Since it had been one of the better bass we caught this busy summer, it was kept and pan fried for a delicious dinner.

Striper I caught recently at SML

Introduction Blog

Smith Mountain Lake from Above

Welcome to my new blog that will be discussing my personal passion of fishing the fresh waters of southwest Virginia. From Smith Mountain Lake near Bedford, to the Maury River in Lexington, each post I make will mainly focus on the details of fishing in specific areas. Between these posts concerning my fishing trips and experiences, I will also be writing about tips and tricks related to fishing gear, spots to look for in certain bodies of water, and even the most effective seasons that you can plan your own fishing trips around in the future.

I have always enjoyed fishing as a hobby, considering I grew up in a rural town just north of Roanoke where rivers, creeks, ponds, and nearby lakes are spread across the area. It wasn’t until I was close to finishing high school that I began fishing as much as I do today. This was mainly due to moving right on the edge of Smith Mountain Lake. This was the start of a new form of fishing personally, because prior to that, I had only fished from kayaks, docks, or simply standing on the bank. Using a boat to track down sweet spots where fish are hitting for the day seemed way more effective than the other ways I fished. With the ability to keep moving around the lake till finding our next catch, I finally realized how much I enjoyed doing this, feeling very rewarding compared to simply casting off a bank and hoping something takes your line.

Since taking my simple hobby to new level of passion, I have fished all across the state of Virginia, and have hopes to spread that reach to all parts of the world throughout my lifetime. Though I have experience in saltwater fishing in some states on the east coast, I believe freshwater fishing is a lot easier to get started up on. With it being easy to start, I wanted to get more friends into picking up this hobby.

Fishing in different parts of Virginia has introduced me to dozens talented individuals that have taught many tips and tricks for fresh water fishing. I plan to share some of these lessons passed down to me throughout this series of post. This includes recommendations on specific lures to use in order to catch the right fish, rods and reels that have given me the most success, and even movement of the bait in order to lure a fish into a catch.

The state of Virginia provides great public areas for recreational or tournament fishing. With many different types of species such as bass, trout, carp, catfish, crappie, and perch it can become a great sport to catch something new every trip. I hope to use this blog towards bringing more people into the passion of fishing with discussion of upcoming experiences, and interesting tips I used to have a successful time on the water.