Virginia is blessed with a wide variety of great fishing, from native trout in the western mountains to monster striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay. And state parks give you access to the best the commonwealth has to offer.
Try your hand at native brookies or stocked fish in the creeks at Grayson Highlands. Base camp and fish the many trout streams in the national forest lands around Hungry Mother, Douthat, Natural Tunnel or Shenandoah River. Douthat has a great put-and-take fishery in its lake as well as more than three miles of stocked creek waters, including a special section just for kids.
There is at least one state park on each of Virginia’s four major impoundments: Claytor Lake, Lake Anna, Buggs Island Lake (home of both Staunton River and Occoneechee parks) and Smith Mountain Lake. All of these lakes are famous for bass fishing, including striped bass, as well as their healthy populations of panfish. The big-lake parks offer camping, rental cabins, ample boat ramps and loads of family activities. They also have bank fishing, to one degree or another, and several have fishing piers and boat rentals.
Smaller lakes don’t mean less fishing fun. Many of Virginia’s parks offer fishing opportunities in waters ranging from one-acre ponds to 150-acre lakes. And don’t think you can’t find a big fish in a small pond. Former state record northern pike and chain pickerel came from state park lakes. But probably the most fun you’ll have small-lake fishing comes during a family outing, just relaxing on the bank and dunking worms for pan-sized bluegills and crappie. Most parks have plenty of fishing spots from the shore, and you can often rent a small boat or canoe during the summer and on weekends in spring and fall. For small lakes, check out Bear Creek Lake, Douthat, Fairy Stone, Holliday Lake, Hungry Mother, Pocahontas, Twin Lakes and York River state parks.
Virginia has some of the best smallmouth bass fishing rivers in America, and you can get to many of them in a Virginia State Park. James River, New River Trail and Shenandoah River state parks provide car-top launching (and sometimes areas for small trailers) and wading access to their namesake rivers, and they all have camping. You can even get a cabin at James River State Park to fish hard by day and relax each night. The campground at Natural Tunnel State Park, while not next to the water, provides a great base camp for the nearby Clinch River.
The tides run all the way to the fall-line in Virginia, so you can find freshwater and saltwater tidal rivers. Mason Neck and Leesylvania state Parks are on the freshwater portion of the Potomac River and provide boating access to some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the area. Leesylvania also has a small fishing pier. Caledon is on the brackish portion of the Potomac River and allows fishing on open sections of the shoreline. Westmoreland (lower Potomac), Belle Isle (Rappahannock) and York River (York) are along the saltwater portions of their rivers. York River has a small public fishing pier (no fishing license required), but the best opportunities at these parks are for boaters using the parks’ boat ramps. The fishing changes by season but generally follows the pattern of striped bass in the spring, fall and early winter, and bottom-fishing for flounder, spot, and croaker during warmer months.
Boaters love Kiptopeke and First Landing state parks because they offer direct access to the great fishing of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean… striped bass, flounder, spadefish, cobia and all the usual suspects. But the parks are also great for land-bound fishermen. Kiptopeke has a large, lighted fishing pier (no fishing license required), and First Landing has almost a mile of bay beach along the park campground. Both parks have cabins or lodges and large, well-equipped campgrounds.
|Park||water type||boat rental*||launch|
|Claytor Lake||lake||row, motor, pontoon||marina, launch|
|Douthat||lake, stream||row, canoe, kayak||car top|
|Fairystone||lake||row, canoe, kayak||car top|
|Hungry Mother||lake||row, canoe, kayak||car top|
|New River Trail||river||canoe, kayak, raft, float trips||launch|
|Bear Creek Lake||lake||row, elec., canoe, kayak||car top|
|Holliday Lake||lake||row, elec., canoe, kayak||car top, launch|
|Lake Anna||lake||(motor boats permitted)||launch|
|Occoneechee||lake||pontoon, runabout (motor boats permitted)||launch|
|Smith Mountain Lake||lake||(motor boats permitted)||launch|
|Staunton River||lake||(motor boats permitted)||launch|
|Twin Lakes||lake||canoe||car top, launch|
|Belle Isle||salt, fresh (river)||fishing, canoe, kayak||na|
|Chippokes Plantation||salt, fresh (river)||na||na|
|False Cape||salt, fresh (ocean, bay)||na||na|
|First Landing||salt (bay)||(motor boats permitted)||launch|
|Kiptopeke||salt (bay)||kayak (motor boats permitted)||launch|
|Leesylvania||fresh (river)||(motor boats permitted)||launch|
|Mason Neck||fresh (river)||canoe, kayak||car top|
|Westmoreland||salt, brackish (river)||(motor boats permitted)||launch|
|York River||fresh (pond), salt (river)||(motor boats permitted)||launch|
|*Generally available Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day and on weekends during spring and fall.|
For more information about fishing at a particular Virginia State Park, visit the park’s individual web page using the “Park Locations” tab above. Fishing licenses are required at all parks except at the Kiptopeke and York River piers where a fee is charged to fish. The fee covers users. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website has information about freshwater fishing licenses. Visit the Virginia Marine Resources Commission website for information about saltwater fishing. Saltwater fishing also requires an annual free registration as explained on the website.