Fishing Conditions

Last Updated: May 3, 2019

2019 fishing licenses are available in our store. Also available online at Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

May 3, 2019
The river has hit the magic temperature of 68 degrees and I'm telling you the fish have responded. The last two evenings the bite has been out of this world great, with big numbers being reported. The Mayfly hatch continues along with some other unknown insect reported last evening after a brief shower.
Topwater action is returning as a good producer and as always a favorite way to fish around here. Nothing like seeing that big Smallmouth smack that lure on the surface!
Come on out and grab some of this early season action while it's hot! See you on the water!


May 1, 2019
Fisherman out yesterday reported the best fishing day of the season with big numbers being landed. One fisherman boasted landed over 60 smallmouth on a trip from Bentonville down to Karo Landing. He also said he caught several huge catfish in the mix. Another fellow was out fly fishing and said he had qyite a good day with a hatch happening as the end of the day coming on. Other people we have heard from have reported the same action .... good to great bite.
I was out after work and I can say that there was some definite hatch of some sort happening as the river was covered with hatchlings. Fish were jumping everywhere. Just my luck, I was out for a relaxing float and not a fishing trip.... no pole :(.
If you have thoughts of fishing over the next couple days, then I think you should kick those plans into high gear a get out here before the conditions change.


Water temperature is approaching the magical 60 degree mark during the day when the sun has been shining the past few days. Anglers have reported the bite being a little slow, but the trade off is that they are catching big smallmouth. Biggest reported so far is a 22" whooper!

Water clarity has greatly improved to over four feet and mid-day water temperatures are getting above 54 degrees, which is getting both the Smallmouth and Largemouth moving. Anglers are reporting improved bite and better numbers landed. Again the best trips have been the trips starting at the Shenandoah River State Park, SP2 & SP3, as well as the custom trip from our base to Front Royal landinding, trip #C1. Remember that we now stock the red hot NIKKO Next Generation Soft Baits in our store, which have been working great on the river for smallmouth. Next hot bait we will be carrying is the Ned Rig. Come on out this weekend and soak a line.

Fishing picked up over the weekend with catch numbers improving, but the high winds greatly effected total catch numbers. Most anglers ended their trip earlier then planned due to the wind just pushing them all over the river and blowing them off holes they wanted to fish. The speed of the river also had a impact on productivity. Some big fish were reported, biggest being a 22" smallmouth. Make plans to get out here and start casting for that Spring lunker Smallmouth!


With the water having warmed to 52 degrees and the clarity improved to over three feet, the fishing has started to pick up a bit. We'll see what anglers report today when they return from their trips. Today’s conditions look to be perfect, warm daytime temps, little bit of intermittent cloud cover, three plus feet of underwater visibility and water temperatures on the rise. Now's the time to get out here and take that fishing kayak trip to explore the remote spots you haven't been able to reach yet.

Last Years Reports

Date: 8/18/18, 8:00-5:30 and 8/19/18, 8:30-1:30
Water: Murky but Clearing , 72 degrees, Normal High Range 2.45 feet and 2.22 feet
Weather: Cloudy, High Temp 82, Light rain in morning on Saturday - Rolling clouds but mainly sunny on Sunday, High Temp 81,
Trip: Saturday - Hazard Mill to State Park and Sunday SP2 - State Park to Karo Landing

About once a year I do an two day overnight trip on the Shenandoah and after talking to a few friends we picked the weekend of August 18 and 19. There where five of us on this trip and we camped at the Shenandoah River State Park on the 17th and had arranged for Front Royal Canoe to pick us up at the Park and drop us off at Hazard Mill on Saturday morning. It was lightly raining when we woke up and that continue for about half the day, but the temperature outside was warm, so the rain never really bothered us. It had also poured the night before, so the river was a little higher and dirtier than we would have liked, but that didn’t stop us from venturing out.

The first hour on the water Saturday was tough fishing due to the clarity and speed of the river, but we soon figured it out. Fishing a Senko near the shore, slower moving water and just letting the current carry the worm produced the first few fish. Adding either a split shot or an inline weight helped slow down the Senko’s which helped catch a few fish in the faster moving water.

Once a few of use had caught fish we pulled off to the side of the river to have lunch and discuss tactics that where working. While there a few guys fished Senko’s, free lining it in the current, and they pulled a few more fish in. A few more fish were caught with a swim bait and a crank bait while we ate lunch on the shore.

After getting back in the boats, the river seemed to start clearing up, we floated and fished for a mile or so with success on the Senko’s and Flukes. The river was flowing quick so it was difficult to fish spinners because they just seemed to constantly get hung up. A number a lure’s where lost during this past of the trip.

After passing under the Bentonville bridge, the water seemed to dramatically slow down and the fishing certainly started picking up. We found fishing right before or after riffles and allowing the lure to roll through the rapid was a productive tactics, but the best spots was the slack water around riffles. Throwing a soft plastic into that slack water was where we caught the largest fish the whole weekend.

As a group we boated about 50 fish on Saturday and about the same on Sunday, but in about half as much time. For the most part we caught smallies in the 8 to 12 inch range, but the largest fish of the weekend was 17 inches and a number of 14 to 16 inch small mouth bass where boated. A number of pan fish were also caught, but none of any real size. The SP2 trip from the State Park to Karo landing is always my favorite stretch of water to fish, probably because I have the best luck there. Since the water was above a 2.0 on the hydro reading, we never had to get out of the boats to cross the riffles but at the same time, we still had some fun with some of the rapids. Besides a few bad decisions on where to anchor, the water level and speed was never a real concern, even for the less experienced kayaker’s in our group.

On Saturday when we put into the water it was lightly raining and that continued on and off until about noon. Then the sun came out and besides a few rolling clouds, it was a beautiful day on the water. We never got cold from the rain but also no one ever complained about being too hot. On Sunday, the sun was shining through the whole day but there where passing clouds. Again, we never got cold, even in the early morning or hot. All in all, the weather really was perfect on Sunday and besides the rain mudding up the water a little on Saturday, we couldn’t complain much.

We fished a number of different lures including 5” Senkos (green pumpkin), a few different colored flukes (green pumpkin, pink and chartreuse), different creature baits like hogs, craws, lizards (pink, green pumpkin, and blue), a black generic brand rooster tail, Mepps #2 white rooster tail black and chartreuse), a few different color and size crank baits, swim baits, and some different colored spinners.

The rods and reels used were as follows; I mainly used a Shakespeare Ugly GX2 Stick 6-15 pound 6 foot rod with a Penn Fierce FRC200 reel, 15 pound braided line and 8 pound mono leader and a four piece travel rod with a Penn Battle 2 2000, 15 pound braided line and a 8 pound mono leader. The other anglers pretty all had Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2’s, 6-15 pound 6.6 foot rod with the Shakespeare GX235 reel and 8 pound mono line.

Matt T.

7/29/18 9:00 - 5:30
Water clear to mild stain - 77 degrees
Partly sunny/low 80's
SP2 , State Park to Karo
The SP2 section of the South Fork is at a real nice level, high enough to get through without any canoe dragging. 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. 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. Good fun and reasonably easy to catch some fish. 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 7/18/18, 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. 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.
Update: Lunker fish reported being caught on Thursday and Friday. Will update weekend activity later.


Check out some photos submitted by Guests:

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Fly fishing on the Shenandoah

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