Last Updated: July 7, 2017
2017 fishing licenses are available in our store. Also available online at Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Fisherman this week have reported great fishing on the section of river from the State Park to our base. Catches of over 50 fish were quite common for those using the best baits for the conditions that particular day. Sinkos and black frogs were good during the mid part of the day with spinners working just about everywhere. Early morning and early evening top water baits were the hit. Best top water action seemed to come on Tiny Torpedoes worked just below the riffles and moved into the calmer water below. One angler that was fishing for Carp caught a 32 pound big boy on oatmeal balls. One grandfather reported taking his grandkids out perch fishing and the kids caught over 25 fish in just a couple hours in the evening.
Needless to say the fishing has been great. We'll just have to wait and see what the weekend brings. With the slightly higher water and moderately cooler river temperatures the fish may turn on even more. You better get to the "Doah" and get some while it lasts.
Water: Clear, 68 degrees, Normal Range 2.3 feet, Slightly stained, about 4 foot visibility
Weather: Sunny, High Temp 90
Trip: SP2 - State Park to Karo Landing
After canceling two trips to the Shenandoah thus far this spring, I finally got back out on the water. My buddy, Eric and I put in at the Shenandoah State Park and took out at Karo Landing, (this is the SP2 trip). The water level had fallen nicely from the rain last week and the clarity was better than I had expected, with about 4 foot visibility. Furthermore with the water well over the 2.0 mark, at roughly 2.3, we didn’t have to get out and port the kayaks a single time during the day and I only rubbed some rocks about twice.
With the water a little higher, what would be unfishable when the water was low, was perfect. There really wasn’t a single area of the 4 mile stretch of water that we couldn't fish, which made it difficult to cover ground in a timely fashion because we just wanted to anchor up and fish every 50 feet. Also, if you have even been to the river in the fall, you know there can be long stretches that are overgrown with grass, again making them unfishable. But, this time of the year the grass is nowhere to be found, allowing you to fish and throw nearly every kind of lure and not having to worry about reeling in a ton of grass.
With that said, the fishing was amazing! We each caught roughly 25 plus fish and the overwhelming majority were bass. All day, I only caught 4 bluegill, while my friend caught 6, with one being larger than his open hand. We each caught one small-mouth bass at the 14 inch mark, while the rest where in the 8 inch to 12 inch range.
The first half mile of the river, when you are still within the Shenandoah State Park produced a number of fish as we caught our first fish of the day after being on the water no more than 10 minutes. One of the 14 inchers was also caught in this area, which increased our excitement about how the day would play out.
The next area that we really slayed-em in was before and directly after the Indian River Dam, which is located about 1.5 miles downriver from our put-in spot and has a number of homes running along the left-hand side of the river. We caught a few before the dam, but after rolling over top of it, I caught 3 bass in about 6 casts while Eric caught 4 in 4 consecutive casts.
The following mile produced very few fish, but that could have also been because we simply floated and fished that stretch since we needed to make up sometime after anchoring and fishing for a while at the State Park and the dam.
The final stretch, when your roll over the last little rapid and hit the slow moving, deep water before Karo landing produced two very small bass and 3 of my four bluegill, which were also very tiny. This area and right around the dam where the only two spots on the river that you couldn’t see the bottom due to how deep those spots are and the water still being slightly stained.
We caught fish on a number of different lures, but the rooster tails and the green pumpkin colored plastics worked the best. It was best when we used the rooster tails in the faster moving water, while throwing different plastics in the slow moving parts of the river and up against the banks. There really wasn’t a time of the day that the fishing was better or worse, it really just depended on where we were in the river.
All in all, considering how great the weather, water level was, and of course not to mention the fishing, the river was much less congested than I had expected. Besides a few guys who had driven all the way from Alabama being on the water with us, we didn’t see anyone until we got to the flat, slow water just up river from Karo landing.
We fished a number of different lures including 5” Senkos worms and Superflukes both in (green pumpkin), a silver spoon, a white and a pink rooster tail, Mepps #2 white rooster tail, Minnow colored Mepps #2 comet, a few different color and size crank baits, and a handful of other soft plastics. Eric also threw some flies, Olive bead-headed wooly bugger (for sale at FRO) Clouser Minnows, both white and chartreuse and white and blue, he said they seemed to prefer the white and blue Clouser, and he even tried some poppers but said when he was trying those the water was moving too fast and they were ineffective. Eric also found a half-eaten crawfish inside the mouth of one bass, so he switched to a claw pattern soft plastic and had a few takes, but couldn’t get them into the boat.
The rods and reels used were as follows; Shakespeare Ugly Stick 6-15 pound 6 foot rod with a Penn Fierce FRC200 reel and 6 pound mono line, and a Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2 6-15 pound 6.6 foot rod with the Shakespeare GX235 reel and 10 pound mono line. Eric's Spinning tackle was a 6.6 foot rod, a 2000 series reel and 8lb line. His fly fishing gear was an LL Bean 8wt Streamlight Ultra, floating line, with 9’-10’ Orvis nylon 3x leader and tippet (no need for Flourocarbon on the Doah).
Water: Clear, 42 degrees
Weather: Windy & cool
Trip: Fishing from our landing
Water: Clear, 54 degrees, Normal Range 1.45 feet
Weather: Partly Sunny, High Temp 76
Trip: SP2 - State Park to Karo Landing
After canceling a trip to Shenandoah two weeks ago, I finally got back to one of my favorite fishing spots in Northern Virginia. My buddy and I put in at the Shenandoah State Park and took out at Karo Landing, (this is the SP2 trip). The water was much higher than my last trip about a month ago and while that was nice because we only had to get out of the kayaks about 3 times to pull ourselves over the rocks, it gave the fish more room also. When the water is low, if you can find nice hole, you're more likely to find a in it. With the water a little higher, what would be unfishable and too shallow for fish to hang out in, is now a place a fish can hang out in. This makes it a little more difficult to find where the fish are and one of the big reasons our yield fell from over a combined 50 fish caught in one day by the two of us a month ago to just a dozen bass (11 small mouth anywhere from 8 inches to 12 inches and one 15 inch largemouth) for the two of us on Sunday. The other issue we had fishing was the cooler water temp. While the bass may not mind the cold water, the brim we none existent on Sunday, we didn't catch a single one, nor did we see any.
We caught bass on a number of different lures, but the rooster tails and Senkos worked the best. The striking force was rather weak and fishing the Senkos took more patience and technique than when fishing in warmer water. We had to really let the Senko sit and soak and then just slowly reel it back in while occasionally jigging it in order to force the fish to swallow the whole worm. A few times I wouldn't even notice the fish was on the line until starting to reel it back in and noticing the line moving upstream. Lots of fish were lost due hooks not being set because the fish wouldn't fully commit and swallow lures. For some, that may make for a frustrating day of fishing, but for us it just made those that we caught even more satisfying and rewarding. As usual the fishing was better in the morning and early afternoon, with us only catching one small mouth bass from 1pm to 3pm.
It was a little chilly in the morning when we first got to Front Royal, but by the time we loaded up and got out on the water, the air temp was already heating up and by the end of the day, with the sun on our backs, we were both warm and sweating.
We fished a number of different lures including 5" Senkos (green pumpkin), green squirrel tail, a silver spoon, a white generic brand rooster tail, Mepps #2 white rooster tail, Minnow colored comet, a few different color and size crank baits, and a Biwaa Seven Swimbait. We also even fished with live worms from time to time.
The rods and reels used were as follows; Shakespeare Ugly Stick 6-15 pound 6 foot rod with a Penn Fierce FRC200 reel and 6 pound mono line, and a Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2 6-15 pound 6.6 foot rod with the Shakespeare GX235 reel and 10 pound mono line.
Water: Clear, 75 degrees, Low Range 1.20 feet
Weather: Partly sunny, high temp 88
Trip: State Park to Karo Landing
My second straight day on the Shenandoah River was just as good, if not better than our first for fishing. I and one other friend fished about a four mile stretch of water from the canoe put-in take-out spot at the Shenandoah State Park to Karo Landing. The water was slightly higher than the previous day but despite that and having very little gear for two of us in a canoe we had to get out and walk over rocks more than a dozen times. There were a few kayaks on the water that seemed to have better luck getting over the rocky areas but did not talk to them about their experience. The grass was again high in spots and thick, making some stretches of water nearly unfishable.
Despite the forecast calling for a storm the weather was rather pleasant. Very sunny and hot at times and overcast at others. We did get a five minute rain shower around 10am but not enough to cause concern or stop fishing.
The fishing was better in the early part of the day, but we caught fish the whole time we were on the water. Between the two of us we caught 40 to 50 fish, mostly smallmouth bass between 6 to 10 inches. We did catch a few Bluegills, but we had caught so many the day before and because we wanted to target bass, we used larger hooks and lures to avoid the smaller fish. The day also produced 6 smallmouth bass over 14 inches, weighting 1.3 pounds to 1.75 pounds.
We mainly fished 5" Senkos (green pumpkin), green crawdads, green super-flukes, a silver spoon, a white generic brand rooster tail and a large green, a light colored Strike King Shad, and brown jig and pig.
The rods and reels used were as follows; Shakespeare Ugly Stick 6-15 pound 6 foot rod with a Penn Fierce FRC200 reel and 6 pound mono line, and a Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2 6-15 pound 6.6 foot rod with a Plueger President reel (not sure of model #) and 6 pound mono line.
No relation to Ed. T
Water: Clear, 78 degrees, Low Range 1.17 feet
Weather: Partly sunny, high temp 84
Trip: Bentonville Landing to State Park
The Shenandoah produced another great day of fishing. I and two friends fished about a four mile stretch of water from Bentonville Landing to the canoe put-in take-out at Shenandoah State Park. The water was low, but with two of us in a canoe and little gear, we only had to get out and pull the boat over the rocks 3 or 4 times all day. My friend in the kayak had to get out about the same number of times.
The weather was good, sunny at times and overcast at others, with a few wind gusts during the day that made staying in one spot impossible without anchoring.
The fishing was definitely better in the earlier part of the day, but remained good throughout. Between the three of us we caught 70 to 80 fish, mostly smallmouth bass between 6 to 10 inches and bluegills. We did however catch four smallmouth bass 14 inches and above, weighting in around 1.5 to 2 pounds. There was no real rim or reason on the larger bass, sometimes in deeper holes, but others in 1 to 2 foot of water. The fishing was great if you just wanted to catch fish, despite the size. Quantity was much better than quality.
We fished a number of lures and baits but found the best luck on Mepps #2 rooster tail (white) and 5" Senkos (green pumpkin). Other colored rooster tails and small silver spoons worked, but not as well as the Mepps #2. The same goes for other soft baits. crawdads', tubes, and super-flukes worked, but the senkos brought in more fish consistently throughout the trip. Other baits used that caught fish were a green and brown jig and pig, a dark black Heddon spook, and dark colored Mepps comet Mino.
The rods and reels used were as follows; Shakespeare Ugly Stick 6-15 pound 6 foot rod with a Penn Fierce FRC200 reel and 6 pound mono line, a the Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2 6-15 pound 6.6 foot rod with the Shakespeare GX235 reel and 8 pound mono line, and a Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2 6-15 pound 6.6 foot rod with a Plueger President reel (not sure of model #) and 6 pound mono line.
No relation to Ed. T
Water: Clear, 78 degrees
Weather: Partly sunny, high temp 84
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing
The Shenandoah is at a pretty good water level through this section of the South Fork. Might have to portage through one or two spots if you have a lot of stuff in your boat, but otherwise its fairly easy to get through. Starting to see more grass and algae in the water and growing on the bottom, but its not much of a hassle at this point. Catching a few fish was no problem in the morning. I caught lots of big bluegill and lots of smaller bass in the morning. I was tossing a #3 Mepps inline spinner (gold), usually working it across the river between rock ledges. The smallmouth were on the small side, most were around ten inches. Every once in a while I caught something twelve or even a little bigger. Ran into Will (one of F.R.O.’s drivers) and a buddy out fishing. He informed me senkos were working quite well, so I started using 4” senkos (green pumpkin). Turned out to be a good tip, started getting a few larger smallmouth, particularly in the deeper area out in front of all the houses. Wish I could say I did as well as Will. I watched him catch several nice size bass. I did finally manage to catch a fifteen inch smallmouth in that same area, the only midsize smallmouth I caught yesterday. Soon after that, I had to cut my trip short. At one-thirty, I paddled on in. Yesterday was a four hour trip that produced a dozen bluegill and over twenty smallmouth, but not much of any size. It was that same summer problem of catching lots of small bass but not a lot of size. Some folks are better at working around that problem. Other people, like myself, just try to be satisfied with catching lots of bass. One final note. After over ten years writing this report, this is my last one. For personal reasons, I’m going to bid you farewell. Its been fun. I hope some of you found some small enjoyment reading those reports. Good luck with your fishing.
Water: Slight stain, 77 degrees
Weather: Sunny, high temp 89 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing
The SP2 section of the South Fork is at a real nice level, high enough to get through without any canoe dragging, low enough to show some rocks. There was some grass and debris in the water, not much of a problem. Aquatic grass is starting to grow in the lower part of this stretch. The fishing was fairly good. It started off well enough in the morning. I was fishing a #3 Mepps inline spinner (gold blade) and a 7 inch Berkley Power Worm (green pumpkin) on a 1/8 oz. Carolina Rig. Right off the bat I started to catch some big bluegill on the spinner, several went eight inches. Turned out that would be going on all day. I caught more big bluegill yesterday then I’ve caught in a long time. I was also catching smallmouth at a nice steady rate through the morning fishing. Most of my fishing followed my usual pattern of working the spinner across the river in the slack water around rock ledges. When I got into flat areas of water, I usually bottom fished the plastic worm in the deeper holes. Most of the smallmouth were in the ten to twelve inch range, the bigger proportion towards the ten inch side of the ruler. Not particularly large smallmouth, but still aggressive and fun. Like I said, the fishing was not a red hot bite, but it was steady. Never a long wait for a fish. Occasionally got a midsize smallmouth here and there, one sixteen inch around eleven o’clock. All but a couple of smallmouth were caught on the spinner. The bluegill were tearing the spinner up. The afternoon fishing was essentially more of the same. I did catch a few fish with a Bandit 100 crankbait (shad), but switched back to the spinner. It was just hard to find something that worked better than the Mepps. End of the day, a few less than forty smallmouth and almost twenty bluegill. A good portion of the bluegill were around eight inches. An eight inch bluegill puts up a surprising fight. Needless to say, there were many more fish that hit, but never made it to the boat. But then, that’s fishing as usual, right. Well, not exactly. They were tapping and smacking the spinner constantly without hooking up. More so than usual yesterday. Reeling the spinner in I would constantly feel taps and swipes without getting one on. But fairly often someone would slip up and get the hooks. Game on. Varying the speed while reeling in helped. Go fast, then slow. Occasionally just stop reeling for a second. All in all, it was a fun day of fishing. I would rate it as about average for this time of year on the South Fork. Fairly steady bite, not a lot of large bass. Good fun and reasonably easy to catch some fish. Satisfactory for all but the hardcore who demand big fish. Weather wise, it was HOT. Just shy of the 90’s when I checked my phone. When its hot like that, its hard to beat a day on the South Fork. When it gets too hot you just wade, or if you’re like me, you just do a little swimming, then get back to fishing. A hot summer day on the Shenandoah is a special treat. A beautiful and unique way to get away from it all. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 6/22/16, 9:30 – 5:30
Water: Slight stain, 77 degrees
Weather: Overcast, high temp 82 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing
The water level was a bit higher than usual, so it was easy to paddle through this section of the South Fork. Some algae and debris in the water, but not much of a problem. Good conditions. I caught most of my fish in the morning with a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). Caught a couple on a Bandit 100 crankbait (rootbeer) and a few on 4” senkos (green pumpkin). Spent most of my time working around the rock ledges with the spinner. But I also had some luck tossing flukes up near the banks. Fishing the banks resulted in my biggest morning smallmouth, a sixteen inch. I did catch a two foot catfish, which hit a spinner as soon as it hit the water, but I don’t put that in the same count as the rest of the fish. The bluegill were hitting pretty well, some as big as eight inches. The fish were hitting steady, caught almost twenty smallmouth by noon. However, there was a little bit of a problem. Most of the smallmouth were, in fact, small. A lot of them were about ten inches, only a few were even twelve, fewer yet over twelve. After noon, I switched over to fishing the 4” senkos most of the time. I was fishing them in some ways like I fish flukes, in that I would give them a good jerk on the surface before letting them sink. After they sank down, sometimes I let them drift, sometimes I swam them around, sometimes pulled them back up and worked them on the surface. Worked them around different ways. I seemed to have better luck that way instead of using just one type of presentation. Around two o’clock, I also started using a Rapala Floating Minnow (silver). For some reason, the minnow was producing really aggressive strikes, sometimes on the surface, sometimes as I cranked it back. They were really smacking the minnow, loved seeing that rod bend when they got a hold of it. The rest of the afternoon I divided my time between the senkos and the minnow. The latter part of the trip I was having about as much luck fishing the flat areas of water as fishing the areas close to the rocks. The last couple of hours I ended up using the minnow most of the time. The afternoon fishing produced several decent midsize smallmouth, including one seventeen inch. But much like the morning, the majority of my bass were under a foot. So I caught a lot of smallmouth yesterday, over forty, but not much weight. I often have that problem in summertime fishing, and from talking to others, I don’t think I’m alone in that regard. But then again, most of us are just everyday average fishermen. I am certainly in that group. Once a week fishing during the season, weather permitting. Don’t fish other places much, never fished in a contest. To put that in perspective, a local pro (you know, one of those guys that actually participates in competitive fishing) went out on the same section of river last Saturday and caught several smallmouth over twenty inches. Several. If you watch for them, you can spot smallmouth over twenty inches in the South Fork frequently. And obviously, they can be caught. Keep in mind when you read my reports that there are much more talented fisherman out on the South Fork of the Shenandoah and some of them are catching more and bigger smallmouth than I could ever hope to match. I’m just telling you this so you know the potential for catching large smallmouth in the South Fork is without question. You just need to be a little more skilled than me (or lucky, it really doesn’t matter which) to bag citation size smallmouth. That said, I had a fun trip yesterday. Pretty good weather and pretty good fishing. We always dream of that big lunker, but catching over five bass an hour was not all that bad either. Summertime season makes it easy to catch a lot of fish, about as easy as it gets. So make some time to get out for some fun fishing on the South Fork. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 6/16/16, 9:30 – 5:30
Water: Very slight stain, 76 degrees
Weather: Partly sunny, high temp 94 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing, 5 miles
The river is at a good level. High enough to get through this section without any portage duties, but low enough to show some rocks. It was nice to see the rock ledges again because more often than not the best pattern for fishing the South Fork is fishing the areas right around them. That was where the majority of my fish came from yesterday. Took me all of two casts to get my first fish yesterday, a nice size bluegill. By noon I had caught eight bluegill and thirteen smallmouth. I caught a couple of the smallmouth with a Super Fluke (green pumpkin magic). The rest of them, plus the bluegill, were caught with a #3 Mepps spinner (copper blade). Toss the spinner at about a forty-five degree angle to the rock ledge, reel in at varying speeds and cross your fingers. The majority of the bass I caught before noon were eight to ten inches long. Only a few fish were bigger than twelve inches. The bite remained about the same after noon, but they quit hitting the spinner. Fortunately, they were hitting the fluke pretty well. I was still catching mostly eight to ten inch smallmouth, not much in the way of twelve or bigger. Then, shortly after two o’clock, I caught a nineteen inch smallmouth on a fluke. Got it just past the big rock ledge that’s midway between the houses and the twin islands. Tossed out the fluke and wham, nailed it. Let out the drag, let it play a bit, and just reeled her in. Not near the fight I would have expected from a big fish, but I was happy just to get a lunker after a day of so many smaller ones. Shortly after that a storm front moved through. Although it spared me with just a couple of drops of rain, somehow or another it kinda’ put the brakes on the fishing. They quit hitting the flukes and I switched lures again, that time to 7” Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin) on a 1/8 oz. carolina rig. I finished out the rest of the trip slow bottom fishing plastic worms. The bite was steady, but hardly what one would call fast paced. Mostly eight to ten inch fish the rest of the trip. Summing up, I caught a little over thirty smallmouth yesterday, plus nine bluegill. Out of over thirty bass, only five or six were twelve inches or more. However, one of the smallmouth was only an inch shy of citation size. So other than that one lunker, which was obviously the high point of the trip, it was a so so day of fishing. Not a real big count, and mostly smaller bass. But after nearly two weeks since my last trip, and scoring that nice big one, it felt like a great trip. The fish are in summer mode. That usually means you catch a lot of smallmouth, but more often than not you will get a smaller percentage of big ones. That’s just the way it works. The small ones way outnumber the big fish. They are hungry and less cautious than the older and smarter big bass, so they beat them out to the lures most of the time. As the water gets warmer, the lunkers get less aggressive about their feeding, so you catch the smaller ones instead. No biggy, you catch more fish instead. So, let’s cross our fingers on weather for the next week ( it looks good for the next five days after we get past today) and get out on the South Fork of the Shenandoah. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 5-30-16, 9:30 - 5:30
Water: Stained, 72 degrees
Weather: Partly sunny, high temp 88 degrees
Trip: SP2, five miles, State Park to Karo Landing
Almost two weeks since my last trip. The weather this year has been something else. So much rain, so much high water. Yesterday the South Fork was at a fairly high level, higher end of the “normal” level. A bit pushy and not many rocks showing. A breeze to get down the river, hardly stuck a paddle in the water. Just float and fish. As I’ve pointed out in past reports, when the water is fast and stained its time to get out the action lures like spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Soft plastics are darn near impossible for that situation. I caught two or three smallmouth with a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). I only used the spinner a few times. The rest of my fish were caught on various medium sized crankbaits. I used various colors of Bandit 100 and Bandit 200 crankbaits. The bite was good from the get go, scored several smallmouth in the State Park. The bass were scattered and roaming around chasing food, typical behavior for the high water we’ve seen lately. I had to search a lot of water with the crankbaits. There was not a real strong pattern to where the bass were, but I got most of the better ones in the slack water pockets below the rock ledges. On the other hand, I caught plenty of nice smallies in the flat areas as well. About the only area that was not working was along the banks. Bottom line, just search all over the place with crankbaits. The bass were hungry and aggressive, really slamming the lure. During the morning I lost two crankbaits to large bass that just tore the lure off in the blink of an eye, the second they hit it. Not much chance to get the drag loosened. It’s a catch 22 situation. You got your drag set tight so you can set your hook, but then you have about two hundredths of a second to loosen said drag when a lunker hits. Otherwise, it will make short work of your little monofilament fish line. Also takes off with your lure. But I did manage to land an eighteen inch smallmouth in the second set of rapids below the State Park. Morning fishing was pretty good, fifteen bass by noon. Size was all over the place. About half of my catch was under ten inches, but there was a nice chunk of good size ones as well. By the same token, I was kissing off crankbaits at a rather alarming rate. By noon I’d lost two to big fish and one to a snag. The bite remained about the same in the afternoon, good steady fishing. Never caught a bluegill yesterday, I think the crankbaits were a little large for most bluegill. It was a nice hot sunny day and the fishing was decent, a fine afternoon. I got another eighteen inch in a hole past a ledge just up from the twin islands. Tossed the plug back into the same hole and pulled out a seventeen inch just moments later. Did that feel good or what. Managed to get twenty-one more smallmouth in the afternoon. Again, the size was all over the place. Everyone was out to play, big guys and little guys, everyone was hungry. So over half my bass were under ten inches, but I got several fourteen inch and a few bigger. I also managed to go through three more crankbaits. Watched a very large bass fly out of the water with my crankbait in its mouth, flip its head hard to one side (if fish had fingers it would have flipped me the bird) and swam away with yet another one of my lures. By this stage in the trip, those Bandit crankbaits were getting rather precious. I had already lost a fourth to a snag. Near the end of my trip I lost the sixth and last one to a snag and had to finish up the trip using spinners. Sure helps to have a few extras when you start losing the one type of lure that seems to be working. Lost a lot of lures, but what a day. I heard about some guys fishing that same stretch of the Shenandoah on Sunday. Said it was one of their best trips in years. It was sure kickin’ butt yesterday. I got an unusually large smallmouth my last trip two weeks ago, but yesterday was definitely the best day I’ve seen this year. The water is nice and warm now, so even if the conditions are not what one usually sees this time of year, the smallmouth are hungry and biting hard. If the weather will just play nice for a change, you can get out on the South Fork of the Shenandoah and catch yourself a few. Solid fishing yesterday. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 5/19/16, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Water: Stained 58 degrees
Weather: Partly cloudy, High temp 75 degrees
Trip: SP2, five miles, State Park to Karo Landing
Almost a month since my last trip. Thought about building an ark at one point. The river is still pretty high, not many rocks showing. Stained and a bit cool as well. On the way to the State Park I asked my driver if anyone had been fishing lately. He said a group went out over the weekend for about four fish between them. Hmmm, just let me catch a few fish today.... Fast stained water means action lures, soft plastics are pretty useless. I used two lures yesterday, a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade) and a Bandit 100 crankbait (silver minnow sparkle). For once I didn’t rummage about in my tackle box. Used those two lures all day. First fish was a nice twelve inch smallmouth. Second smallmouth, about ten minutes later, was nineteen inches. Biggest smallmouth I’ve caught in a long time. To say I was excited doesn’t even start to cover it. I had a pretty slow season so far, so it was nice. Both fish were caught on the spinnerbait. Rest of the morning was decent fishing. The bass were scattered, not much pattern. So I had to search a lot of water, but I did alright. Just casting my lures different directions, different locations. Shotgun fishing and floating downriver at a fair speed. Caught eight more bass and one bluegill before noon. Caught a nice sixteen inch smallmouth. Most of the time I depended on the spinner. The bite slacked off a bit after noon, but picked up again about an hour later. Afternoon fishing was a lot like the morning except a bigger percentage of the bass were under a foot. l caught sixteen more smallmouth and one more bluegill in the afternoon. Got out at four because I had already floated down to Karo Landing. Very little paddling all day. So, twenty-six smallmouth in six hours with a nineteen inch in the mix. Not a bad day of fishing. When I hit the water yesterday, I was not real optimistic. All that rain and high water the last few weeks plus the lower water temp, didn’t look promising. You never know. It turned out to be a trip I’ll remember. Had a good time for sure. Getting that lunker in the first half hour of the day just made the rest of the trip a bonus. To top it all off, the weather was perfect. After all that crap for weeks, it was perfect. If the weather doesn’t get crazy again, the fishing is sure to improve. Do yourself a favor and get out on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River for a beautiful and peaceful day of fishing and relaxing. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 4/20/16, 9:30 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 61 degrees
Weather: Sunny, 78 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing, 5 miles
The water level is still reasonable through this stretch of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. I was able to get through without dragging the canoe over shallow spots, but it was a close call in a few places. The water is still clear of floating debris. Throw in some nice sunny weather and it all adds up to real nice conditions. The water had warmed up somewhat, so I was expecting to see improved fishing. Instead, it was somewhat slow. In fact, the fishing was very similar to my trip last week. I used mostly a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade) and small crankbaits, mixed in with a couple caught on Zoom Super Flukes (green pumpkin magic). The smallmouth were in a roaming mood. I saw them swimming around, dashing here and there, all over the place, sometimes in schools. Saw some fairly large bass in the mix. I caught most of my bass fishing the edges of fast water below rock ledges, so there was some pattern working. Not much luck around the banks or the deeper pools. So many times I saw smallmouth following my lure, only to turn away. Even more irritating were the fish that would swim up, tap the lure, then swim off. Lots of that junk going on yesterday. Caught four smallmouth before noon, three on the spinner and one on a bottom fished fluke. One was a little eight inch smallmouth, the others ran twelve to fourteen. I was hoping the bite would pick up after noon, but it remained about the same. A fish every once in a while, but not very hot fishing by my standards. Caught a couple in the afternoon on a Rebel Wee-Craw crankbait (ditch). Caught a fifteen inch smallmouth on a fluke that I let drift for lord knows how long. Turned out to be the biggest fish I caught yesterday. The rest of the afternoon catch was a result of the spinner. I hooked up with one truly large smallmouth with the spinner. I know it was a big bass because it nearly cleared the water when it burst out and shook the spinner loose. Oh yeah, I got a good look at it, but only from a distance and only for a second. Just like last week, another one that got away story. Just about all the fish I caught yesterday were very aggressive. Fought hard when hooked and were quite the handful getting unhooked. Size was decent yesterday. Like I said, a fifteen was the biggest, but the eight inch in the morning was the only bass under twelve inches. I caught one nice size bluegill on the spinner. End of trip count was twelve smallmouth, one bluegill. A so so day of fishing, when I started out with the hope of something a little better. In all honesty, I was very surprised not to catch more fish yesterday. Good conditions and warmer water temperature suggested it was time for this fishing season to ramp up. I sill feel it is an any day situation. That is, any day now the bite is bound to gear up and we start catching smallmouth in the numbers the South Fork is known for. Still, I had a good time fishing yesterday. I mean it when I say its not all about how many fish I caught. Its hard to beat a day on the South Fork, even if the fishing was not the best. As I said, I'm pretty sure the fishing will take off any day now, so don't hesitate to get out for a trip. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 4/14/16, 10:00 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 54 degrees
Weather: Sunny, high 70 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing, 5 miles
First trip in a couple of weeks. High winds and cold water last week did not look like a lot of fun. Yesterday was a different story. Nice weather and low wind. The river was in good shape as well. Good water level, still high enough to get through this stretch of the South Fork fairly easy. Clear water with almost zero floating debris. Nice conditions. Fishing is still slow, but has improved somewhat from my last trip. My first bass was a ten inch smallmouth I caught in a shallow pool near the bank at the State Park. I was tossing a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). I was trying various crankbaits at the same time, and occasionally 4" senkos, trying to get a feel for what might work. Next bass I caught was a sixteen inch largemouth in the first creek past the park. Got that one bottom fishing a 4" senko (green pumpkin). The rest of the morning produced three more smallmouth, all caught with the spinner. Two of them, a thirteen and a fourteen inch, were caught in the same hole just past a rock ledge, the other one near the bank. Not much of a pattern going and not easy fishing. So many times yesterday I would see a bass, or in some cases several bass, chasing the lure like crazy, closing in on it as I reeled in, only to suddenly stop and veer off. Happened time after time. So when I would catch one I felt like jeez, he sure screwed up, forgot to leave it alone. After noon, the bite remained about the same. A fish here and there, but more than a little bit of waiting between bites. I caught most of my fish after noon with several sizes of Bandit crankbaits (silver minnow sparkle). I was mostly fishing around the rocks, but I caught a couple in flat water areas as well. Total count at day's end was fourteen bass. Best smallmouth was a seventeen inch caught on the crankbait. I know you get tired of the one that got away stories BUT, I hooked up with a very large fish yesterday on the crankbait. It tugged like crazy and I immediately loosened the drag. It ran the line something fierce for several minutes, swam all over the place. When I tightened the drag back up, nothing!!! It was gone, it shook the lure off while I was letting it run. Could have been should have been. Oh well, fish gotta' win sometimes. I missed my big one, but the size overall was good. Out of fourteen bass, only two were under twelve inches. Not a great day for quantity, but not bad at all as far as size. For this early in the season and considering the up and down nature of the weather the last few weeks, I figure it was a fair day of fishing. I also figure the fishing will surly improve as the weather improves and the water gets warmer. Some fine weather for the weekend and Monday its gonna' hit 80, so maybe its time for you to get out for a little fishing on the Shenandoah. It's hard to beat a day on the river for putting your mind in the right place. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 3/30/16, 9:30-1:00
Water: Slight stain, 55 degrees
Weather: Sunny, high temp 70 degrees
Trip: SP2, state Park to Karo Landing
The river was at a nice water level, easy float all the way through. Almost no plants or debris in the river, good conditions in every way. But the fishing was quite slow. Not a bite for the first hour. I tried different lures and patterns. Slow going. I finally caught a twelve inch smallmouth on a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade) in a shallow pool near the bank. A little while later I got a ten inch smallmouth, same lure, same pattern. Around noon I caught a fourteen inch bass on the spinner, just past a mid river rock ledge. And that was it, my third, and last, fish for the day. After an hour without another bite, I called it quits and paddled on in. Maybe I should have stayed at it longer and waited for the bite to pick up, but the wind was getting kinda gusty and I figured I have plenty of trips ahead this year. I talked to a guy in a group of kayakers, shortly before the end of the trip. He told me his father had bagged an eighteen inch smallmouth that morning on a nightcrawler. That was so perfect, just perfect. I end up barely a notch above "skunked" and this guy gets a near citation bass on an earthworm. Oh well, not one of my more memorable trips. Still, it was fun just to get out on the South Fork. No such thing as a truly bad day when I get out on the Shenandoah. The bite should pick up soon. The water was warm enough that I expected it to maybe be a little better yesterday. Oh well. I expect to do better next week. Good luck with your fishing.
Staff note: Several paddlers caught some nice fish yesterday. We saw a picture of the nice 18 inch fish that Ed mentioned, and a picture from a regular customer that had a great day. Hopefully we'll have a few pictures to post soon.
Date: 3/23/16, 9:30-12:30
Water: Slight stain, 52 degrees
Trip: Karo Landing to Front Royal Outdoors.
Front Royal Outdoors opened early this year when the weather got warm. I heard about some guys catching some smallmouth last week with spinners. But last weekend a cold front came through for a couple of days. That's not good this early in the season. I was not overly optimistic yesterday, so I took a short trip. I tried various lures and various patterns for three hours. Skunked! Not a single fish. Beautiful conditions. Good water level, great weather. Felt very nice to be back on the South Fork. Fishing should improve as the water warms. Spinner are usually the best bet this time of year. Good luck with your fishing.
Saved 2015 Fishing Reports below:
Date: 10-27-15, 9:30 – 12:00
Water: Clear, 56 degrees
Weather: Overcast, 55 degrees
Trip: #1, Karo Landing to Front Royal Outdoors Landing
Last trip of the year for me. FRO is closing shop next Sunday. Decided my last trip would be a short one. Weather forecast called for a good chance of rain after noon. The water level was still nice, I had no trouble getting through this section of the South Fork. Only problem was all the debris in the water, lots of dead leaves (it was Fall after all) and lots of dead grass. The cold water had killed a lot of the aquatic grass, so it ended up floating in the water. All that trash made it almost impossible to reel in a lure more than a foot or two before it was choked up. Between cold water and choked up lures I had a pretty hard time yesterday. Compounding the problem was the fact that soft plastics rarely work when the water gets that cold. End result? I just kept tossing a #3 Mepps spinner over and over and cleaning it off almost every cast. I caught two smallmouth yesterday, both twelve inch, both caught in shallow pools of slack water near the banks and between rock ledges. I think about the only thing that might have improved my chances was live bait like big shiners or better yet mad toms. Live bait works even in the dead of winter. The leaves were pretty and the air was reasonably warm. I did not get rained on. So even though the fishing was decidedly lackluster, I enjoyed my last trip on the river. It's always nice to be on the Shenandoah, it's a beautiful and peaceful place. I drove home with a nice used kayak I purchased from FRO, I plan on getting in some paddling this winter. FRO still has some nice used or new watercraft for sale if you are in the market. Anyway, that's it for my reports this year. I hope you have enjoyed them. I'll be back next April. 'Til then, good luck with your fishing.
Date: 10/20/15, 9:30 – 1:30
Water: Crystal clear, 52 degrees
Weather: Sunny, 65 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing
The river is at what I consider perfect water level. Some rocks showing, but it was easy to paddle through that section of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Very little debris in the water, only had to clean off lures occasionally. Really good conditions. Started out with my trusty #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). I caught seven smallmouth the first hour, most of them were in the deeper pools near rock ledges. Not a single bass was under ten inches, most were right around twelve. I was happy about that, 'cause my last trip involved too many dinks for my taste. Seven fish in the first hour is not a bad count either. So then I caught two fish in the next half hour. Slowing down a little, but it would pick up again right. Wrong. An hour went by without a bite. After it got so slow, I paddled down to the section in front of the housing development. That's where I usually have my best luck, but they weren't hitting there either. While I was sitting there talking to a friend that used to drive for F.R.C.C., I caught my biggest bass for the day, a fourteen inch. But that was the last fish I caught. Could have kept trying and maybe it would have picked up later in the afternoon. I decided to call it a day and paddle down to F.R.R.C. Leave early enough to beat the rush hour traffic in D.C. Tried fishing a few times on the way down, but nada. Don't have a clue why the fishing started out so promising, only to shut down in a couple of hours. The water is getting pretty cold. The bite will eventually slow down as a result of cooler water temperature. But how does that explain good fishing in the morning before it shut down? If you have been reading my reports for very long you know that there have been situations which I confessed were a mystery to me. Well, you can file yesterday in with those previous mysteries. Beautiful day in spite of lackluster fishing. Great weather. I enjoyed just paddling down the river. I always have a nice day on the Shenandoah. Next week will be my final trip this year. Crossed fingers for next week. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 10-14-15, 9:30 – 4:30
Water: Clear, 65 degrees
Weather: Sunny, 70 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing
The river rose recently to a very nice level. It was easy to float through this section of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Not many rocks showing. There was quite a bit of floating grass and leaves, so I was constantly cleaning off lures. One good thing though, most of the algae is gone. Not bad conditions at all for this time of year. Figured it was Fall, figured the bass were probably chasing baitfish, so I started off with a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). Spinners are good imitations of fleeing baitfish. Morning fishing was somewhat slow. Only got a dozen fish before noon. Best pattern was fishing slower water around the rock ledges. Most of the rock ledges were under water, but I could still spot them out and I could still see where the slack water was. I gotta say most of the bass were on the small size, mostly under ten inches. A scant few up to thirteen, but most were ten or less. Tried other lures of course, hoping for more fish, hoping for bigger bass, but the spinner was the only lure working for me. Well at least it produced a few nice size smallmouth and also some large bluegill. Still, not a real exciting morning session. But fortune smiled and after noon the bite picked up significantly. In the rocky areas in front of the housing development the fishing turned on real nice. Started getting lots of smallmouth, size bucked up some as well. Still mostly fishing the spinner, but occasionally getting a few on 5" Zoom Super Flukes (green pumpkin). I had my best luck with the fluke by swimming and drifting it near the bottom in deeper pools. The spinner was still responsible for the vast majority of the smallmouth. I caught some large bluegill in the afternoon, both on the spinner and the fluke. The afternoon bite never got real hot, but it was steady and there were enough smallmouth twelve inches or bigger to make it a good day of fishing. End of the day count was just shy of forty smallmouth and about a dozen decent bluegill. Two biggest bass were a fifteen inch on the spinner and a sixteen inch on a fluke. I dead sticked that sucker for at least three minutes in a deep hole. Never underestimate the power of letting a soft plastic lure just drift and drift and drift. It may not be exciting at first, but it gets exciting real quick when you feel that tug. Still haven't caught my fall lunker, (although I have heard and seen evidence of others who have). At this point in the season I must admit my optimism is beginning to fade in relation to nailing the BIG one before the season is over. Because as you know, the season is fast drawing to a close, and as such, the odds are dwindling. I must say, yesterday was a lot of fun. That cool fall weather is always a treat, and the fishing was very enjoyable. Saw one other boat on the river yesterday, a kayak piloted by one of the drivers for F.R.C.C. on his day off. We had that section of the river to ourselves. What can you say about good fishing on a river that's darn near empty of other people. Kind of makes everything make sense. Try to get out on the South Fork before the season ends. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 9-22-15, 9:30 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 70 degrees
Weather: Overcast, 72 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing, 5 miles
The river is shallow through much of this section of the South Fork of the Shenandoah, I had to get out and drag the canoe over a couple of the worst spots. Lots of rocks showing. Algae and grass growth seemed somewhat diminished, but I still spent considerable time cleaning off lures. The water is cooling down and the bite is picking up. I used a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade) for almost all my morning fishing. My main pattern was working the spinner around the rock ledges, but I also had pretty good luck fishing the slack water pools near the banks. The smallmouth were very active and aggressive. Only problems I had were bass that fought so hard they shook the lure loose. I caught some small bass, but I would say about two thirds of the count were ten to thirteen inches. I was also fishing 4" Bass Pro senkos (green pumpkin), but that only produced a couple of fish. The morning fishing was quite nice, steady results and decent size for the most part. I caught over twenty smallmouth and about a half dozen bluegill by noon. After noon they started hitting the senkos, first in the deeper water in front of the housing area, then even better in the rock ledges that follow. Most of the bites came after I let the senko just drift along the bottom, but pretty often it only took a few seconds for a hit. There was one ledge in about three feet of water with a large hole in one spot, almost like a little cave. I kept drifting the senko around that hole. The end result was a fourteen, a fifteen and a sixteen inch smallmouth, all in a pretty short time. I fished that series of ledges for an extended period of time, the fishing was so nice it was really hard to force myself to get on down the river. Switching to mostly fishing senkos upped the size somewhat. Most of my fish were in the ten to twelve inch range, a few thirteen inch. I also caught some nice size bluegill with the senkos. I still tossed the spinner occasionally in shallow spots and I did get a fourteen inch smallmouth that way, late in the afternoon. The afternoon fishing was mighty fine. Caught over thirty smallmouth. No big ones, no lunkers, but enough medium size bass to satisfy. Speaking of lunkers, some of the guys that work for Front Royal Canoe Co. scored some big smallmouth last week. I saw a photo of one of them, a twenty-one inch smallmouth. You might think I was jealous. Well, yeah, I was. Anyway, fall fishing is well known for producing lunker size smallmouth. So what are you waiting for? I'm headed out of town for a couple of weeks, but I urge you to get in on some fall fishing on the South Fork. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 9-16-15, 9:30 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 82 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing, 5 miles
Not much change in water level through this section of the South fork of the Shenandoah, it is pretty darn shallow. If you are in any way adverse to dragging a canoe over the rocks a few times, this might not be the best choice. Still lots of algae and some grass growth as well, but at this stage of the game cleaning off lures has become second nature. No big deal. I started off fishing with a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade), fishing parallel to rock ledges. My first fish was a smile provoking fourteen inch smallmouth. First fish! The morning fishing was fairly good, I was getting lots of bass, lots of bluegill, and they were hitting hard and aggressive. I'm pretty sure the cooling water has got them already out hunting baitfish, already thinking about storing up for the winter. Only problem was I was getting a high percentage of smaller bass. The morning catch ran from six to thirteen inches (except the previously mentioned first bass), but the majority were under ten inches. I caught over twenty smallmouth, plus a lot of bluegill, before noon, almost all of them by working the spinner around rocks. Not much luck with soft plastics or other lures. Afternoon fishing was petty much more of the same. I tried fishing senkos in the deeper water out in front of the housing development, but only caught a couple of smaller bass. I went back to fishing the spinner along the rock ledges. The bite picked up a little bit and the size was maybe a little better, but I was not getting many twelve or thirteen inch smallmouth. The bluegill were hitting pretty good though. Around two o'clock I switched over to 5" Zoom Salty Super Flukes (green pumpkin) and started getting better size smallmouth. Nothing over thirteen inches, but most of my bass were over ten. A few were topwater hits, but most of the time I got them after it sank or swimming it below the surface. By the way, I have better luck with flukes if I use a large swivel and about a twelve inch leader. I get a better sink rate and it makes it easier to swim a fluke under water. Could be just a whacky preference, but it seems to work for me. I put the spinner away and fished flukes for the rest of the day. The last few hours of the trip were the best. Not red hot fishing by any means, but steady and decent size bass. So often I find the last few hours of my trips are the best part of the day. I caught quite a few smallmouth yesterday, over forty bass. Lots of bluegill as well. But the size was somewhat shy of memorable. That first fish was the biggest I caught all day, which I find rather humorous in hindsight. It was a beautiful late summer day. There was no one else canoeing down this part of the South Park. The fishing was tons of fun, it usually is. I had a heck of a good time. Time is starting to get short for doing a trip with Front Royal Canoe Co. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 9-8-15, 9:30 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 78 degrees
Weather: Sunny, 95 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo, 5 miles
The river is pretty shallow through this stretch of the South Fork of the Shenandoah. Lots of rocks poking out. Got my share of dragging the canoe over the shallow spots. Loads of algae, but less grass than we usually see by the end of summer. But you still end up cleaning off your lure constantly. Not the easiest conditions for fishing, but I've seen worse for sure. I caught quite a few fish in the morning, fishing a #3 Mepp's spinner (gold blade). Mostly fishing it parallel to rock ledges. The only problem was most of the smallmouth were small, a lot of them around eight inches. Only a few were up to twelve inches. Some decent size bluegill in the mix. Later in the morning I started getting some better size smallmouth by tossing 7" Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin) with just a large swivel and leader, no weight. Some folks call that a "swimming rig". Anyway, I was tossing the worms very close to the banks, especially under overhanging trees. I caught some nice smallmouth that way, including a couple of thirteens and a fourteen inch. I continued to use the spinner around rock ledges and fished the worm near the banks. By noon I caught over twenty smallmouth, a pretty good count if you don't care that the majority were small bass. One or two of the bluegill I caught were as big as a lot of the smallmouth. So, you know, I was hoping things would improve in the afternoon like they so often do. Well, let me tell you, nature has a mean sense of humor. About twelve-thirty the bite took a real nose dive. I caught three bass and a few bluegill in the next two hours. S-L-O-W fishing to say the least. And the killer is that when it gets that slow for a couple of hours, that little voice in your head starts saying "Great. That's it. It's gonna' suck for the rest of the day." But fortunately it picked back up some at around two-thirty. By that time I was fishing 4" Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin) on an 1/8 oz. Carolina rig. Started getting a few hits working the worm in deeper slack water. Gradually picked up to a reasonable bite. Caught a fish here and there with the spinner, but they were all small, so I mostly just concentrated on the worm. Best bass were still the smallmouth hanging in deeper pools near the banks. And the size was up to snuff. Most were ten to twelve inches. I ended up getting a couple of thirteen and two more fourteen inch smallmouth, which vastly improved my outlook. Not too bad a day of fishing, but certainly not one of my better days. Plenty of bites in the morning, but plenty of small fish. And even though I've had plenty of sudden slow downs for a couple of hours, for some strange reason it still bugs me, what can I say. But at least it picked back up. Oh well, you know about fishing. No guarantee that it will be top notch every time. The only real guarantee is a good time. If you can't have a good time spending a day fishing on a beautiful river, you need help. So I look forward to my next fishing trip on the Shenandoah, just as I look forward to your next fishing trip on the Shenandoah. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 9-1-15, 9:30 - 5:30
Water: Clear, 78 degrees
Weather: Partly cloudy, 95 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing, 5 miles
The river is quite shallow through this section of the South Fork of the Shenandoah. Rocks all over the place. I had to get out and drag the canoe over a lot of shallow ledges. It was good exercise I guess. Still plenty of grass and algae. cleaning off lures over and over, but it actually seemed not quite as bad as it has been. Morning fishing was a little slow for the first hour or so, getting almost all my smallmouth with a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). The fish were somewhat scattered, but working the rock ledges was the most promising pattern. When I hit the first big set of ledges, just past the first creek, things picked up. I started getting nice smallmouth, the majority around twelve inches, working the ledges with the Mepps. Most hits came working along the edges between fast and slack water in the pools between ledges. Aggressive hookups, the bass were really chasing the spinner down. Some good tail dancing and such. Good fun and the count was going up. By noon I caught 15 smallmouth and a few nice size bluegill. All on the spinner. Size was fair, every thing from a few dinks to thirteen inches. Most of the smallmouth were ten to twelve inches. A little bit better than I do most mornings. Right after noon I was fishing the deep area in front of the housing development. I was fishing that area like I usually do, slow drifting weightless 4" senkos (green pumpkin). I made sure I hit one of my favorite holes, a spot in front of a small stone wall. Paid off with a sixteen inch smallmouth. Its hard to beat a slow drifted senko in the deeper pools. After I got past the deep stuff and back on the shallow ledges, I went back to working the spinner around the rocks. The bite was nice and steady, never much of a wait between bass. Size held up as well, most were in the ten to thirteen range, a lot of eleven or twelve inch smallmouth. I started using 5" Zoom Salty Super Flukes (green pumpkin magic), swapping off with the spinner. By two o'clock I switched off to using the flukes. The spinner still worked well, but the flukes were getting better size and I really enjoyed the occasional topwater smackdowns. Nothing like seeing a smallmouth burst and boil on a lure. Caught a ton of smallmouth yesterday afternoon, mostly on the fluke and mostly nice size bass, including a fourteen and a second sixteen inch. Beautiful day, even though it got mighty hot. Incredibly pretty black butterflies, with amazing color markings on the edges of their wings, were everywhere. All over the place. It was such a nice day to end what has been a pretty fine summer season. I caught over fifty smallmouth yesterday with some nice size for summer season. Ear to ear smile riding my motorcycle home to D.C., already thinking about next week's trip. That's the South Fork for you, a drop dead pretty river with some very fine fishing. After Labor Day Weekend, you will find very little traffic on the river, especially on weekdays. So if you like solitude along with good fishing, not a bad time to get out on the Shenandoah. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 8-25-15, 9;30 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 78 degrees
Weather: Partly cloudy, 85 degrees
Sp2 Trip, State Park to Karo Landing
The weather was just beautiful yesterday, about as good as it gets. The river level was about the same as last week, meaning I had to get out and drag the canoe over a few of the rock ledges. Lots of rocks showing all the way down this stretch of the South Fork of the Shenandoah. Got to really read the river and do a good bit of paddling to find your way through the rocks and ledges. Plenty of grass and algae, cleaning off lures is a constant labor. Part of late summer fishing. First cast with a #3 Mepps spinner landed a nice big bluegill. Got a few more bluegill and a couple of medium size smallmouth with the spinner before I switched to 4" Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin), 1/8 oz.Carolina rig. The worm was working pretty well, catching a fair count of smallmouth during the first couple of hours. Size was so so, some decent size up to thirteen inches, but also including a number of bass under ten inches. Also including some straight up dinks. I was fishing a variety of areas, both the rocky areas and the flat water. Around the rocks the most productive pattern was fishing the very bottom of the slack water, just above the next ledge. In the flat water the best luck was fishing around submerged rocks and structure. I was also using a Rebel Wee-Craw crankbait (ditch) in the shallower water, particularly around rocks. The worm was much more productive, but it was fun to occasionally get a crankbait hit around the rocks. I fished 4" Bass Pro senkos (green pumpkin), in the deeper area out in front of the housing development. By the way, I always fish senkos weightless. They still cast a mile, and I think they get better action weightless, especially if you are drifting them a lot like I do. Only caught a couple of fish that way, but one of them was my biggest smallmouth yesterday, a fourteen inch. Went from the senko to 7" Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin), same 1/8 oz. Carolina rig, when I got past the deeper section. Still tossing the Craw in the shallower spots. The bite improved somewhat in the afternoon, but it never got up to the level of fishing I saw the last few weeks. I did not catch the number or the size like my last five trips. Fair number of eleven to thirteen inch smallmouth, but I would say about a third of my catch was under ten inches. About two-thirty I started fishing 5" Zoom Salty Super Flukes (green pumpkin magic) with fair results. Some smallmouth were hitting them on the top, some were hitting them after they sank. Fluke fishing is always fun, especially the topwater strikes. At day's end I wound up with a reasonable count, down from what I saw the last few trips but still pretty good fishing. Size was ok, some nice twelve to fourteen inch bass, but mixed in with a substantial portion of small fish. A good day of fishing, for sure, but certainly not great by any means. I have seen some really good fishing the last month, maybe my reference point has stepped up a little too high. Like I said, the weather was amazing. The water was crystal clear. The South Fork is one beautiful place to spend a day. I always enjoy a good day of fishing on the Shenandoah, it helps the rest of the week make a whole lot more sense. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 8-18-15, 9:45 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 80 degrees
Weather: Rainy until two o'clock, then sunny. 85 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo, 5 miles
The water level was down some from last week, I had to get out and drag canoe over a few spots. Lots of grass and algae, cleaning off lures all day long. Part of the game when you are fishing this late in the summer. It was sprinkling when I hit the water. Pretty soon it was raining. It rained all morning. I started out with a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). I only caught a couple of smallmouth and bluegill before I started using 4" Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin), 1/8 oz. Carolina rig. Started getting nice smallmouth in no time. Most of them were right around a foot. Only a couple of fish were under ten. I caught the majority of them in flat water areas or the tail end of large pools between rock ledges. A lot of the hits were right after the worm sank or right after it got down to the bottom. Once the worm got on the bottom I fished it slow, either slow dragging or small hops off the bottom. The bite was pretty good. By noon I had caught a fair number of smallmouth, better count than usual for morning. Nice size as well, like I said, mostly eleven or twelve inch fish. A few a bit larger, one fourteen. Around noon, because I was in deeper water, I switched off to 4" Bass Pro senkos (green pumpkin), hoping to get bigger fish. I was slow fishing, often dead sticking, deeper water. The senko worked ok, I managed to get another fourteen inch, but no lunkers. After an hour with the senko I switched over to 5" Zoom Salty Super Flukes ( green pumpkin magic). Started catching bass at a nice pace. Fair number of bass tried to hit the fluke soon as I jerked it on the surface. But most of them missed it or just hit the tail and let go. Nice boils and all but I only got a good hook set on a few fish right on the top. Most of my good hits came after I let it sink down. So most of the time I gave it a jerk on the top, let it sink, swam it a little, then pulled it up for another little jerk on the top. In other words I was swimming the fluke at different levels in the water. Some of my bigger fish actually hit when I was drifting the fluke or just twitching it on the bottom. I was fishing the tail end of the pools between the rock ledges for the most part, but I had pretty good luck fishing flat water spots as well. From one o'clock on the fluke was just about the only lure I used. Afternoon fishing was nice, plenty of smallmouth and the size was good. I could count the number of fish under ten inches on one hand. Chalk that up to fishing soft plastics. You just don't get as many dinks on soft plastics as you do on spinners or small crankbaits. Got another fourteen inch bass in the afternoon, so that made the three fourteens the day's best. But I was ok with that because I caught so many twelve inch smallmouth and so few under ten. I was a little worried when it stopped raining around two. Smallmouth often hit flukes and topwater lures well when its raining. I think the rain keeps them looking up at the surface. So sometimes when it stops raining they stop hitting flukes. Yesterday they kept right on nailing them. In fact, the fishing got better late in the afternoon. Overall I averaged about six fish per hour yesterday. The afternoon bite was better than the morning, but it was pretty good all day. I'm not crazy about fishing in the rain, who is, but yesterday was worth the effort. Week after week of quality fishing for the latter part of this summer, hard to beat the last month or so here on the South Fork of the Shenandoah. If you did not get out on the South Fork during the last month you missed out on some really fun fishing. Reading about it is one thing. Doing it is way better. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 8/7-8/8-8/9-8/10/2015 Four days of fishing
Water Clear, 79 degrees
Trip Hazard Mill Landing to State Park
Day one, put in about 1:00pm at Hazard mill with friend James out of Idaho. Fishing with 5” zoom Lizard (green pumpkin) starting getting hard strikes right away in the fast water just above the first rapid, then stopped on top of the rapid to fish the churning waters below, lots of little bass in these sections, 6” to 8” fish. Further down we drifted in some slow water with deep pockets all over, second fish in this area was a 3 pound beauty, a couple fish later another then another, I would like to say the rest of the day was like that but you know that’s not what happens, we had a great first day, lots of fish in the 8” to 12” range, saw lots of Carp in this section causing some grass and moss to be churned up. Overall Friday was spectacular fishing
Day two; 8/9/15 Saturday;
Saturdays are always great days to float along with other Canoers and Tubers, and today was no exception, put in at my private camp (Jim Guys Estate) and floated down to the state park along with several friends, we started out fishing with 4” lizards (green pumpkin of course) knowing this section very well, we know we can pick up a bunch of smaller fish in the first quarter mile then it’s a bit slow until you get past the campground, once past the camp I switch to a 5” or 6” green pumpkin fishing every deep pocket, ledge, and fast section of water I can find. We like to fish baits slow in the deep holes along submerged ledges for the lunkers, just bouncing the bait across the bottom and picking up the bait then allowing it to fall again, the bigger fish hide in these areas just waiting for a meal to swim by. we found the waters to be full of floating grass and moss today mostly due to all the additional people on the river, and of course less fish caught today but we all did very well with lots of fish in the 8” to 14” range and countless more in the 6” to 8” range and only a couple above 16”.
Fish fry material above, boy were they tasty…..Yummmmm!!!
Sunday and Monday were both great days as well, we continued to catch fish left and right almost to the point of fished out but not quite. (don’t thinkl that will ever happen)
Would love to meet you Ed T.
Date: 8-12-15, 9;30 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 79 degrees
Weather: Cloudy, 82 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing, 5 miles
According to the gauges, the river level was down a little from last week. It seemed to me it was actually just a little higher. Either way, I got through this stretch of the South Fork without having to get out and drag the canoe over a shallow spot. This late in the summer that was a minor miracle. The grass and algae was bad, lots in the water and the bottom was pretty mucked up as well. Its near the end of the summer. At this stage of the season there is always a lot of junk in the water. All I can say is it was way better than it usually is around this time of year. You just have to clean your lures all the time and it makes you a little more choosey about which lures you want to throw. I started out tossing a #3 Mepps (gold blade), cause I heard one of the guys at F.R.C.C. mention he had done well with a spinner the day before, and anyway I start off with a Mepps at least half the time. I did pretty well in the morning, caught quite a few smallmouth mixed with a few bluegill. I was leaning towards my usual pattern of fishing around the rock ledges, but I can't say it made a lot of difference because I did just about as well when I fished the flat water. I got a fairly good count for the morning with the spinner, but not so hot on size. A lot of my smallmouth were under ten inches, caught a few straight out dinks. I caught a few eleven to thirteen inch bass on 4" senkos (green pumpkin), but the operative word here is few. It was hard to get a hit with the senko. After noon the spinner was less effective and was mostly catching smaller bass and the occasional bluegill. I started using 5" Zoom Super Flukes (green pumpkin). (By the way, for those of you who wonder why I use green pumpkin so much, well because it's a very natural color for the South Fork and it WORKS.) The fluke did not get me a lot of fish, but (1) the smallmouth really slammed it, sometimes topwater, and (2) I started getting bigger bass. Most of the fluke hits were around twelve inch smallmouth. But it was a pretty long wait between fish using the fluke. Meanwhile the spinner was not producing much at all. After about an hour with the fluke, I switched to 7" Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin), 1/8 oz. Carolina rig. I ended up using plastic worms the rest of the day. The rest of the afternoon was nice fishing. Steady five an hour and some really nice size. Most of the smallmouth were ten to twelve inches, plus a few bigger ones. Best three were a sixteen, a seventeen and a seventeen and a half, all caught on the worm. People have different approaches to fishing a worm, my style tends towards slow and not a lot of fast movement. But there are at least a dozen different ways to fish plastic worms. I really enjoy fishing plastic worms, so I had a really good time yesterday. I did not get a lot of fish yesterday. I caught a lot during the morning with the spinner, but they were mostly small bass. I felt better about the afternoon, catching less bass but getting some better size. Anyway, it was my fourth week in a row of unusually good fishing on the South Fork of the Shenandoah. Beautiful day, top notch fishing = happy boy. I heard about a freakishly large smallmouth, several inches past "citation", caught on the South Fork a few days ago. It was caught on a Torpedo topwater lure, can you believe that! Boggles the mind. There are some really big smallmouth in the South Fork, that's for sure. I have seen some really big bass in that river. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 8-4-15, 9:30 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 79 degrees
Weather: Partly cloudy, 90 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing. 5 miles
The water level in this part of the South Fork of the Shenandoah is still getting lower. Big surprise, huh. I had to get out and drag over a couple of the worst spots. Grass and algae were getting worse as well, which meant I spent a lot of time cleaning off my lures. Bit of a hassle, but you play what you're dealt. As I pointed out last week, its better conditions than usual for this time of year. I used a Rebel Wee-Craw crankbait (a natural brown color called "ditch") for the entire day. In the morning I was also using 4" senkos (green pumpkin). Caught most of my smallmouth on the crankbait, but I did get a few nice size bass with the senko. I was fishing the crankbait around the rock ledges for the most part, using the senko in the flat water and deeper areas. Not a real hot bite for the first few hours. About average morning fishing, a few fish per hour. Size was ok, mostly ten to twelve inch smallmouth, not a lot of dinks. I only caught a few bluegill yesterday, just not biting for some reason. The few I caught, on the crankbait, were pretty big. Too bad I only caught a few. The fishing improved after noon. I switched from the senkos to 5" Zoom Super Flukes (green pumpkin). Still tossing the crankbait, switching off with the flukes. The rocky area in front of the little housing community was very productive. A nice seventeen inch smallmouth hit the Wee-Craw in a very small, shallow, pool between a couple of ledges. Pretty wild stuff, sure surprised the heck out of me. Quite a nice treat, the high point of the day. Afternoon fishing was about average as far as count, four or five fish an hour. Size was pretty good, not many dinks. A fair number of the smallmouth were right around twelve inches. First few hours of the afternoon it was about fifty-fifty between the crankbait and the fluke, but the last hour and a half or so, I was doing better with the fluke. Managed to get a fifteen inch with the fluke. Pretty good day overall. Morning was not half bad and the afternoon was very satisfying. I was pleased with the size all day. Got to tell you, I've been riding home a very happy boy the last few trips Everyone I talked to reported getting some nice size bass in the past few weeks. Not uncommon to catch mostly small bass and dinks during the summer season, so its real nice to see decent size this time of year. On a bit of a side note, I can hardly believe how many catfish I saw yesterday. School after school. Some of them are nearly as big as carp. Every so often I think about doing a trip just for catfish. Can only imagine how many I could catch. The last three trips I've made on the South Fork have been darn good fishing. Last week was exceptional. Maybe you should make a trip to the South fork and get your share of the action. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 7-28-15, 9:30 – 5:30
Water: Clear, 78 degrees
Weather: Partly cloudy, 90 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing, 5 miles
The river was somewhat shallow through this section, had to drag the canoe through one little spot. If you come through this section of the South Fork two up and with an ice cooler and your boom box, it will be a bit harder. The grass and algae is getting thicker as summer wears on, so I was constantly cleaning my lures. All things considered, conditions were much better than usual for this time of year. Morning fishing was a little slow. I was fishing a Mepps #3 spinner (gold blade) and 4" senkos (green pumpkin) for most of the morning. The blue gill were biting well, mostly hitting the Mepps. The senko was getting most of the smallmouth. I was mostly fishing the slack water around the rocks, but the flat areas produced somewhat as well. Some of the bluegill were over eight inches. I was getting good size bass as well, most were ten to twelve inches. Later on in the morning, I switched from the Mepps to a Bandit 100 crankbait (silver minnow sparkle). I continued to catch bluegill, even using a crankbait. I caught a couple of bass on the Bandit, but they were mostly interested in the senkos. Right around eleven-thirty. I caught a nice eighteen inch smallmouth with the senko. Its been a while since I caught a smallmouth that large, so when I first hooked her, I thought I had a catfish. Imagine my surprise. The bite continued to improve and by one o'clock it was pretty hot fishing. I switched from the senkos to 5" Zoom Super Flukes (green pumpkin) and was occasionally getting topwater bites. I was still getting bass and bluegill with the crankbait and sometimes they would hit it right when it landed. Aggressive! I caught a seventeen inch bass with a fluke in about a foot of water right next to a rock ledge. The afternoon fishing was just so nice, some of the better fishing I've ever seen in summer. Most of the smallmouth were ten or better, a lot of them twelve, several thirteens and fourteens. I hardly ever see that kind of size in warm water summer fishing. Numbers? I caught over fifty smallmouth and over twenty bluegill. Late in the afternoon they slowed up some on the Bandit, so I switched to a Rebel Wee-Craw (brown) for the last couple of hours. Got some nice fish on the crawdad, especially in the shallow rocky areas. Got some nice big bluegill on the Wee-Craw. But tossing the senko in the slower deeper spots netted the bigger smallmouth. One flat medium deep area just upriver and on the left hand side of the twin islands produced a bunch of good size smallmouth on the senko. A regular honey hole. Late in the trip I tossed the crankbait near this really small island with a single tree, tossed it in a couple of feet of water, and got a fifteen inch smallmouth about six feet from the canoe. It was that kind of day. Do I want to rave about yesterday? Yes. Indeed. It was hands down the best trip I've had this year. No question about that. Before I even hit the water I heard about three guys a few days ago caught almost three hundred smallmouth between them. Darn near everybody has reported very good fishing in the South Fork lately. Its on, my friends. I won't even hazard a guess about why the fishing got so good, and I sure as heck won't complain about it. Guess how many other people I saw fishing this stretch? I saw two teenagers anchored in a jon boat out front of that little housing community. That was it, they were the only people I saw out on the river yesterday. Peaceful doesn't start to describe the situation. When you have a good day of fishing on a peaceful quiet river, you can't help but feel everything is as it should be. Yesterday was such a fine day of fishing. By all means, try to get out to the South Fork of the Shenandoah for some fishing. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 7-22-15, 9:30 – 5:00
Water: Slight stain, 79 degrees
Weather: Sunny, 88 degrees
Trip: Front Royal Canoe Co.'s Landing to Front Royal. 4 miles
I decided to do a little bit different trip yesterday. Did this stretch of the South Fork a couple of times last summer, figured it was time to try it again. The river was at a nice level, had no problem getting through this section. The water was pretty clear of floating debris, but there was a lot of algae on the bottom. It was that almost black, old dead kind of algae. Its not very high off the bottom, but anytime my lure got close to the bottom it came up gunked up. Spent a lot of time cleaning off lures. Other than that, fishing conditions were pretty good. Morning fishing was so so, a bit on the slow side. Honestly, slow fishing in the morning is not all that unusual on the South Fork. A Rebel Wee-Craw crankbait (in a brown color called "ditch") was my main tool. Mostly fishing my go to pattern of dragging the lure at a slight angle back towards the rock ledges. I was getting most of my fish in the back edges of the slack water, the deeper the pool the better. I also got a couple of smallmouth on 7" Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin) on a 1/8 oz. Carolina Rig. By noon I had only caught nine smallmouth and a few bluegill. Only good thing was that almost all the bass were ten to twelve inches, a couple a little bigger, so I was happy with the size. Given that my last trip was a dink festival, it was nice to see some decent size smallmouth. But the count made me hopeful that things would improve in the afternoon. By noon I was in the prime area for that stretch of the river, about a quarter mile or so piece of the South Fork with one nice rock ledge after another, beautiful little pools in between. But the bite sure picked up slowly. I was still fishing the Wee-Craw, still fishing the same pattern for the most part, but the afternoon fishing was not much better than the morning. By about two o'clock I had managed about twenty smallmouth. I did get a fourteen incher by that point, but the bite still seemed slower than I had hoped for. In what seemed like no time at all, the smallmouth just started whacking that crankbait like crazy, like somebody flipped a switch. I still had about the bottom third of that rocky stretch of river left, and I ended up staying there for the next two hours, 'cause the fishing was really hot. In that next two hours I more than doubled the number of smallmouth I caught in the five hours before that. Nice size too, only got a few dinks the entire day yesterday. Ended up with another fourteen inch, a couple of thirteens and several twelve inch smallmouth. No big ones yesterday, but still, not bad for summer and 79 degree water. Only caught a few bluegill yesterday, but that was ok. Yesterday was all about the smallmouth. Caught a few more the last hour, which was in deeper and slower water with not much in the way of rocks showing. But I did get a few nice ones tossing the Wee-Craw up under overhanging branches and just twitching it on the surface or barely submerged. I used the same Wee-Craw the entire day yesterday, never lost it. However, it was a little worse for wear by the end of the day. It got snagged several times, but it always came loose eventually. One problem with crankbaits is you got to be real careful getting them loose from the smallmouth, especially since that fish will sometimes shake twist and fight with everything he or she has to get loose. End result is that sometimes you might end up just as caught on that crankbait as the bass, and there is nothing quite like the surprise of finding one of the treble hooks buried up well past the barb in your finger or hand with a fish on the other set of hooks shaking around like crazy. Its an experience like no other. First you get the fish loose. Then you push the hook through your finger, or whatever, with your needle nose pliers 'til it pokes out, because there is no way you can pull a barbed hook back out. Bend the barb flat to the hook, then pull it back out. Its just so much fun! So after I got through doing said procedure, the Wee-Craw had one hook that was now barbless. Which turned out to be very fortunate, 'cause a while later when the same thing happened again and the hook was stuck in my thumb... Well, son of a gun, that was the hook I had already rendered barbless, so I could just pull it right out with the needle nose pliers. The Lord works in mysterious ways. It was a little strange that the smallmouth were so active and aggressive and hitting the crankbait so well yesterday since the water was pretty darn warm at 79 degrees. Usually that would be the time for soft plastics. And yet I only caught a few fish on plastic worms. Instead, smallmouth were just clobbering the crankbait all day long. I was impressed how hard they were hitting. I saw a lot of airborne bass yesterday, some nice tail dancing. All in all, a darn fine day of fishing. In closing, same advice as usual, get out on the South Fork and have some fun. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 7-7-15, 9:30 - 5:30
Water: Light stain, 78 degrees
Weather: Sunny, 90 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing
I found nice conditions when I hit the water yesterday. The river level was a little below the two foot level, fair amount of rocks showing but still easy to float through this section of the South Fork. The water was lightly stained and not much algae or debris. You won't see river conditions much better than that for summer fishing. Got a nice ten inch smallmouth on my very first cast with a #3 Mepps inline spinnerbait (gold blade). Yes! Let's get this party started. I fished the rest of the State Park with the spinner, mostly running it at a 45 degree angle or near parallel to the rock ledges. I had little luck near the banks, but I did get a couple in areas of flat water. By the time I floated out of the park I had caught nine smallmouth and a few nice bluegill. Pretty good, right? Well, here's the qualifier. Six of those nine bass were less than eight inches long. Some of them were absolute dinks, about six inches long. If I had been fishing for dinner I would have been in bad shape. It was a good thing I only do catch and release. I figured part of the problem might be the spinner since sometimes it seems to get only smaller bass. I had already tried soft plastics, with no luck, so I tied on a Bomber Square Bill crankbait ( a silver color called Foxy Momma) (Where do they get these color names?). I was catching smallmouth with both the spinner and the crankbait. The crankbait was getting slightly larger fish occasionally, but not much. It was a little weird to catch a six inch smallmouth on a fairly large crankbait. By eleven o'clock I caught thirteen smallmouth, the majority were eight inches or smaller. I call that a dink swarm. Sometimes while watching the lure coming up to the canoe, I could see four or five other little dinks chasing the one that was on the hook. Not too long after I started using the Bomber I had snagged it and had to dive down under water to get it out of the rocks. Shortly thereafter I snagged it again and lost it. I had just bought it at Bass Pro two days earlier. So I tied on a Bandit 200 (silver shad) and lost that after about ten casts. Bought the Bandit same time as the Bomber. After losing those two, I tied on a Bomber Shallow A ( a citrus color I think they call Oxbow or something). Shortly after eleven the Shallow A got me a sixteen inch smallmouth. After so many small bass, it looked like Godzilla. Was it time for some good size bass? Well, no. After noon I started getting a few more in the ten to twelve inch size, but the operative word here is few. I continued fishing the same pattern, catching most of my fish in the slack water around the rock ledges, a few on the flats. I had very little luck in the deeper pools and no luck with soft plastics. I did get a nice big smallmouth in one deep pool on the spinner. I played it a long time with the drag loosened. Tightened the drag up and got it about six feet from the canoe, where it tugged real hard and snapped the line. Bye bye (followed with a short burst of cursing). I was catching LOTS of smallmouth during the afternoon hours, but the majority were under eight inches. I was switching back and forth between the Shallow A crankbait and a Rebel Wee-Craw crankbait (ditch). When the smallmouth seemed to slow up a little on one crankbait, I would switch off to the other. Kept using the spinner as well. At one point, around three o'clock, I caught a few on 7" Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin) on 1/8 oz. split shot rig. Seemed to get some better size, including a fifteen inch smallmouth. But after a few bass in that one medium deep flat area, no more more bites on the worm. Went back to throwing crankbaits and spinners for the remainder of the trip. I caught over fifty smallmouth and a handful of bluegill yesterday. The majority were eight inches or smaller. I could have filled a few sardine cans with some of the really little guys. Its been awhile since I caught so many dinks on one trip. Back in the 90's, that was a pretty standard affair. Most of the time back then I would catch tons of fish every trip, but most of the bass were small. It was rare to catch larger bass. Gradually the bass population changed in the South Fork to less fish, better size. So it was kinda' odd to catch a bazillion small fish yesterday and it brought back memories of when I first fished this river. Have no fear, there are way too many large smallmouth in the Shenandoah at this point for that to become the norm. It was just a freak day. It was fun, too, in its own way. It was the most smallmouth I caught in a single day in a really long time. I caught a couple of nice size fish as well. Nice hot sunny day. How many of those have we seen lately? In closing, may I remind you of a couple of things dear to my heart? Number one, most important, don't litter the South Fork. It's a beautiful place, a gift. But every year the trash gets a little worse. Take your trash home with you, including your castoff fishing line and cigarette filters. Number two, catch and release, especially the big ones. When you catch a big one, throw it back in and give someone else a chance to enjoy the same pleasure. My advice is make some time to get out on the South Fork for some good fishing and a peaceful time on a beautiful river. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 7-1-15, 9:30:5:30
Water: Stained, 75 degrees
Weather: Partly sunny, 82 degrees
Trip: SP2, State Park to Karo Landing
The river level was above normal, about a foot higher than my last trip. Not many rocks showing and super easy to float down this stretch of the South Fork. Most of the algae and debris had been flushed out as well. The water may have been pretty stained, but there wasn't much junk in it. When it's high and stained so called search baits like spinners and crankbaits are usually the best bet. Fish are drawn to them by vibration and sound rather than sight. I caught my first couple of smallmouth on a Bandit 200 crankbait (silver shad). It got snagged pretty soon. Goodbye! Switched to a Bomber Square Bill (dark crawdad). Caught a few more smallmouth on the Bomber. Also caught a nice size catfish. What!? Yeah, I caught a catfish on a crankbait. There wasn't much of a pattern to the smallmouth. I was getting most of my fish near rock ledges or the flat water between ledges, but they were scattered all over the place. Not catching a lot of bass either, about two per hour. They ran the whole range in size from dinks to fourteen inches. Shortly before noon I snagged the Bomber. Rats! Switched off to a Rebel Wee-Craw (ditch). Strangely enough I started catching more smallmouth around twelve inches. Strange because the Wee-Craw was a smaller lure, and yet it was getting better size. I also caught a catfish on the Rebel Craw that went over thirty inches. Try landing that sucker on 8 pound test. I let him run on the drag for-ever. It was slow fishing all day, never caught much more than a couple of fish per hour. I also managed to lose the Rebel Craw, but fortunately I had one to replace it. The high point of the day was a sixteen inch smallmouth I caught with a Chatterbait on a 3/8 ounce jig, (black and blue skirt and green pumpkin Zoom Super Fluke trailer). After that, I never got another bite on the Chatterbait. Finished up the afternoon catching a few smallmouth and bluegill on the spinner. Also caught another catfish on the spinner. Time to tally it all up. Caught a total of eighteen smallmouth, a few bluegill and three catfish. Not a big count by any means, but actually a little better than I had expected. I also lost three crankbaits and three spinnerbaits. One interesting note, apparently catfish are into hitting lures now. Anyway, I had a blast. I was just hoping to to get a few fish. That's what I did and I had a lot of fun lot of fun fishing somewhat harder conditions. It's always fun. More rain in the forecast, so we'll just have to wait and see how that effects the fishing in the next week. Hope you get on the river soon. Good luck with your fishing.
Date 6-24-15, 9:30 - 5:30
Water clear, 78 degrees
Weather partly cloudy, 84 degrees
Trip SP2, State Park to Karo Landing
The river was getting just a little shallow through this section, but not too bad. Had to drag the canoe over the rocks a couple of times, but maybe could have avoided it if I had been a little more careful where I was going. Lots of algae. The bottom is pretty much covered in a lot of places and there’s plenty floating in the water as well. It’s a drag, but what are you gonna do, its summer. You just got to clean your lures a lot, that’s all. Started out fishing a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). Caught a couple of smallmouth and a couple of bluegill pretty quick. I only stayed with the spinner for a little while, then switched to a Rebel Wee-craw crankbait (brown crawdad), alternating with a 3” Zoom Fat Albert grub (green pumpkin) on a 1/8 oz. Texas rig. I was fishing the Craw around the rock ledges and throwing the grub up near the banks. The craw was catching a mixture of smallmouth and bluegill. Most of the time the smallmouth hit the lure in the slack water just upriver of the ledges. In other words, in front of the ledges instead of past them. The crankbait fishing was fun, but tossing the grub up under overhanging tree branches was much more productive. Either way, the bass were mostly around ten to eleven inches, I only caught a couple that went twelve. The morning fishing was ok, not great but not bad. By noon I had boated eleven smallmouth and a few bluegill. From twelve to one, I caught twelve bass, a few with 4” senkos (green pumpkin), most of them with the Craw around the rocks. A few bluegill in the mix as well, though I gotta say the bluegill were not biting as well as the last couple of times I was out. The crankbait fishing was lots of fun ‘cause the bass were nice and aggressive, really hitting the lure hard. Coming out of the water, dancing around. Mostly ten and eleven inch fish that felt a lot bigger. There were times when I was worried about breaking the line only to find a twelve inch fish when I landed it. Really, you’re only a foot long bass? The bite slowed down after one o’clock for a couple of hours. During that time I was mostly fishing 4” and 7” Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin) on 1/8 oz. split shot rigs. You know, slow bottom fishing. It was slow and I wasn’t getting near as many fish as I had right after noon, but when the bite slows, you have to go with the flow. Eventually I switched back to the spinner and started getting hits both around the rocks and up near the banks as well. And once again they were hitting the lure hard and aggressive. After the bite picked up a little more, I started using Zoom Super Flukes (green pumpkin). Smallmouth were hitting them nice and steady, fair amount of topwater action. Since they were hitting the flukes so well, that was all I fished the rest of the day. I must say I’m rather partial to flukes. As often happens, the bite was steady getting better right up to the end of my fishing. I scored twenty-three smallmouth from noon ‘til four-fourty, which was when I had to stop fishing and paddle on to Karo Landing for my pickup. I caught my last three fish in about the last five minutes of fishing just above Thunderbird Farm. Interesting day of fishing. I had to change lures and patterns several times during the day. It was decent fishing in the morning, pretty hot for an hour after noon, then slow, then warmed back up to decent fishing again. I never caught a bass over twelve inches, and the majority were an inch or two smaller than that. That was not all that surprising, warm summer fishing is not what anyone considers lunker time. In fact I’m always a little surprised if I catch a large bass in the summer. I had a good time fishing yesterday. Nice weather, good fishing. Hope you get a chance to get out on the South Fork. Good Luck with your fishing.
Date: 6-17-15, 9:30 – 3:00
Water: Clear, 76 degrees
Weather: Showers, 71 degrees
Trip: State Park to FRO's Landing
The river was in good shape. Still high enough water level to get through with no real hassle. No dragging the canoe over the rocks. Its still very clean as far as debris or plant growth. Nice conditions. It was raining before I even got in the water. But you know, sometimes you can get some pretty good results fishing in the rain. So I was game for it. Sure enough, first cast got a bluegill with a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). Started catching bluegill darn near everywhere I felt like casting. Size ran the whole range from small up to eight inches. Couple of smallmouth mixed in. For fun I switched off to a Rebel Crickhopper crankbait (the small size, in the grasshopper color). Tossing it out and just twitching it on the top or pulling it underwater a little bit. The bluegill were tearing it up, especially when I tossed up under overhanging trees. Funny thing though, some nice smallmouth started hitting it as well. Problem was the Crickhopper has really small hooks, so I was only landing about one out of three of the bass. The others would just shake the hooks loose. Since the smallmouth were hitting it right on the top, I switched over to Zoom Super Flukes (green pumpkin). Game on! I started catching smallmouth like crazy. Just toss the fluke in slack water and whamo! Most of the time they either hit it soon as it hit the water or right after it sank. Bass after bass on the fluke and lots of bluegill on the Hopper near the banks. The smallmouth were all in the ten to twelve inch range, except for a few dinks (as usual) and one fourteen inch. One bluegill was nine inches. I was really enjoying the fishing for a couple of hours. It was such hot fishing, its hardly ever that good in the morning. Then it started to really pour down. Drenching. It was hard to fish in that kind of rain. At one point I had to stop on some rocks and bail some of the water out of my canoe ‘cause my tackle box was floating around. But the biggest aggravation was the fish just completely stopped biting. The rain settled down after awhile, eventually it even quit. But the bite was gone. After about an hour just to get a couple of bluegill, I just gave up and started paddling down to Front Royal Canoe Co.’s landing. I fished a few spots here and there on the way and caught a couple more smallmouth and bluegills on the way, but the bite was pretty much gone. I talked to a couple of guys fishing a little ways down from Karo Landing and they said the same thing had happened to them. Good fishing in the morning, then the heavy rain just killed it. So let’s just say it was an unusual day of fishing. I was very surprised at how good it was during the light rain in the morning. Catching all those bass topwater with the flukes was some really fine fishing. But I was also surprised at how the heavy rain just turned it off. Oh well, I still had a good time just because the morning fishing was so good. Fishing is a funny sport at times. So many variables can make a difference, especially when it comes to the weather. You have to take the good with the bad and sometimes you get both on the same day. Its all fun. That said, make some time to get out on the South Fork. Summer fishing is pretty steady, more good days than bad for sure. Pretty safe bet you’ll have a good time. Beats the heck out of nine to five every time. Good luck with your fishing.
A message to Ed T.
Good to see Ed is back on the river, we were starting to wonder.
Dad and I fish the Shenandoah all the time, we put in at Jim Guys place which is about 500 yard south of the new 613 bridge (Indian Hollow Rd) and float down to the State Park. We don’t get many Bluegills, course were not fishing for them either. I fish mostly with a 5” Zoom Lizard in green pumpkin on an offset worm hook and an 1/8oz bullet weight, fishing it slow in the deeper holes and off ledges. I’ve stopped counting years ago but I’ll bet I still average about 100 fish a trip. Dad tends to play with other baits all morning and eventually reverts to my way of fishing for the afternoon bite which is the best bite of the day anyhow. We both pick up a couple big guys each trip and a few in the 2lb range but most are in the 8 to 12” range.
Be safe and buy stock in sun block.
Date: 6-10-15, 10:00 – 5:30
Water: Light stain, 76 degrees
Weather: Sunny, 85 degrees
SP2 Trip, State Park to Karo Landing
First trip in two months. I was going through some medical procedures trying to fix up the skin on my face. The result of fifty years of surfing, fishing, assorted outdoor activities, and a general disregard for sunblock. One hint I must pass on. Use sunblock and whatever else you can think of to protect your skin from sunlight. You will save yourself a lot of hassle. Anyway, it was very nice to get back on the South Fork. The river was at a pretty good level, never had to drag over a shallow spot. Started out in the park tossing a #3 Mepps spinner (gold blade). Caught a nice bluegill first cast. Third cast got a smallmouth. Fourth cast got another bluegill. Caught a bunch of nice bluegill by the time I left the park. Biggest went eight inches. I caught plenty of bluegill yesterday, they were biting pretty much nonstop all day long. Got most of them pulling the spinner across the river, parallel and relatively close to the rock ledges. But after that first smallmouth, the bass fishing was slow going for the rest of the morning. By noon I had only caught four more bass, all with 4” senkos (green pumpkin). However, after noon the smallmouth started hitting pretty good. I was fishing 7” Berkley Power Worms (green pumpkin) on a 1/8 oz. splitshot rig. Fishing the worm in my usual way, moving it pretty slow on the bottom. Just a little drag, a bit of a twitch here and there. Slow and easy. Best pattern was working deeper holes around the rock ledges. Like I said, the smallmouth were hitting pretty good the rest of the day, about five fish an hour. I caught almost all the smallmouth with the 7” worms, although I did catch a few with Zoom Super Flukes near the end of the trip. By the end of the trip I caught a pretty fair number of smallmouth. Most of the bass were around twelve inches, with a few bigger ones in the mix. I must mention one area that was especially productive. A little ways past that small housing community there is a very large ledge that pokes out pretty good and spans the entire river. Its maybe a couple hundred yards above the twin islands. I pulled up on that ledge and started throwing the spinner and pulled out one bluegill after another, mixed in with several nice smallmouth. About twenty or thirty feet past that ridge is another small ridge with a few rocks that poke out near the middle of the river. I hit the deep pools below that with the worm and pulled out a half dozen smallmouth including a sixteen inch and a fourteen inch. So nice when you find them pooled up in a hole. The fishing in the afternoon more than made up for the slow morning. It was not great or super hot or anything, but it was plenty good enough to put a big smile on my face. All in all, a very pleasant first trip after such a long absence. Great weather all day and plenty of good fishing. It sure was good to be back on the river. Good luck with your fishing.
Date: 4-12-15, 9;30- 1:30
Water: stained, 56 degrees
Weather: sunny, high 75 degrees
Trip SP2 from State Park to Front Royal Outdoors landing
First trip of the year for me, finally got back on the South Fork of the Shenandoah. Really nice day weather wise. Started out a little cool but turned into a beautiful Spring day. The river had come up about 3/4’s of a foot and was quite stained. The water temperature had dropped some as well. Chalk all that up to the rains farther upriver last Tuesday and Wednesday. Not the best conditions for fishing. So I was not surprised when it turned out to be a pretty slow day. I ended up with a total of three smallmouth, two eleven inch and one twelve, all caught on a #3 Mepps inline spinnerbait (gold blade). All three were caught in shallower areas near rock ledges fairly close to the bank. I got one fourteen inch largemouth in the second creek across from the houses on a 1/4 oz. jig (green pumpkin and brown). Sum total of four fish. Still, four fish is better than none, and believe me, I’ve had my share of none days. I did get one other fish out near the middle of the river just below a rock ledge. I figure it was a decent size smallmouth, ‘cause I barely started reeling it in before it snapped off with a couple of solid jerks. Yeah, that really made my day. I ended up coming in pretty early compared to my usual departure time. That was because the river was flowing pretty fast and carried me all the way down to FRO’s landing in a matter of a few hours. But you have to keep in mind the fishing usually gets better in the afternoon, especially after three, so yesterday’s fishing may have been better after I left. Who knows. I headed home so I could get in a massive traffic jam starting about fifteen miles outside of D.C. because everybody wanted to see the cherry blossoms. All in all my first trip this year was not a huge success. But I still had a great time just getting back on the river on a warm beautiful Spring day. You have no idea how much I missed my weekly fishing trips through that crappy winter. And I’m pretty sure the fishing will be better next week. The water temperature is up pretty good so I figure once the river settles down I can look forward to some good fishing. Spring is one of the best times of the year for getting your bigger smallmouth, so don’t miss out. Good luck with your fishing.
Water: clear, 56 degrees
Weather: mostly cloudy, 72 degrees
Front Royal Outdoors landing
Clyde once again reports improving action, mainly using spinners and the occassional shallow diving hard plastic minnow. He caught several smallmouth in the 11" to 13" range with a couple that came in at 16". He also reported that he lost one that was bigger than any he landed this year. A couple guys were evening fishing just upstream from our landing and catching some really nice looking catfish. By all early signs it looks like we may be in for a great fishing season!
Ed T called and said he would be on the river next week so get ready for his great reports.
See you on the river.
Remember this fish catch last spring at the beginning of April? Those Spring lunkers are getting hungry and will be biting anyday. Where are you going to be?
A beautiful 5 pound Smallmouth Bass!
Date: 3/26/2015, 3:00 - 4:00
Water: clear, 44 degrees
Weather: mostly sunny, 72 degrees
Front Royal Outdoors landing
Clyde reports nice action while fishing from our landing on Thursday afternoon. He was using several spinners and getting nice bites and landing some smallmouths of various length, most small. After about 40 minutes of trying different spinners, he tied on a 1/16 oz Worden's Rooster Tail, single golden blade with tan hair and almost immediately landed a real nice 13" smallmouth. He kept throwing that lure for a while with limited bite action. Changing again to a 1/8 oz Worden's Sonic Rooster Tail, single golden blade with white hair and after a few casts landed a nice 12" smallie.
Fishing is just starting to pop and once warmer days start to run together we will see some real nice action on the river. Ed T will be on the river soon so we can all look forward to his weekly reports. Hope to see you on the water soon.
Check out some photos submitted by Guests: