The warm summer climate of Virginia limits the potential for development of good trout populations in lakes. Numerous small ponds and lakes are stocked under the catchable stocking program (see Trout Stocking Plan), however, very few provide good, year-round trout habitat for management of wild or put-and-grow trout fisheries. In order to provide adequate coldwater habitat in Virginia, a lake must either be located at high elevations where cool summer temperatures prevail, or be deep enough to maintain a cold layer of water. Virginia has five small lakes at sufficient elevation for trout and one reservoir deep enough to provide a two-story fishery. Two-story reservoirs stratify during summer months, providing an upper, warmwater layer where fish, such as bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish exist and a deep, coldwater layer suitable for trout.
Laurel Bed Lake (Russell County)
Laurel Bed Lake is a 330-acre, mountaintop impoundment located approximately 10 miles northwest of Saltville. The lake is located in the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area and, in addition to providing a unique fishery, is used to augment the flow to Big Tumbling Creek during summer months. Until 1999 Laurel Bed Lake was part of the fee fishing area, but the lake no longer requires a daily permit or a trout license. The fishery is based on stocking sub-catchable brook trout in the fall. Fishing is usually excellent through June, with limits of trout being common. The favored fishing methods include nightcrawlers, mealworms, flies, and spinners. Fishing usually becomes sporadic as the lake temperature increases, with fish hitting well for a few days, then slacking off for several days. Favorite summer fishing spots are located around coves where spring branches enter. Late summer and early fall fishing is dependent on the number of fish that survive through the summer, and this changes significantly from year to year. Limited camping is permitted on the management area and a concession is in operation.
Lexington City Reservoir (Rockbridge County)
The Lexington City Reservoir is a 22-acre, high elevation lake located in Rockbridge County. It is a put-and-grow lake that is stocked annually with brook trout. The brookies have done well in the reservoir and many measure 9-13 inches in length.
It is a long hike across USFS lands to the reservoir and primitive camping is permitted. General fishing regulations are in effect, and no trout stamp is required.
Mills Creek and Coles Run Reservoirs (Augusta County)
Mills Creek (17 acres) and Coles Run (13 acres) are located in the Pedlar Ranger District of the George Washington National Forest. They are both old Augusta County water supply reservoirs that were first opened to fishing in 1990.
The lakes are managed as put-and-grow lakes and are stocked annually with small brook trout. Samples collected show good populations of 10-12 inch brook trout.
There are no facilities and access by foot is about a half mile to Coles Run and 1.5 miles to Mills Creek. For more information, call the Glenwood/Pedlar Ranger District at (540) 291-2188. Access is west of Route 664 at Sherando off Forest Service Road 42.
Skidmore Lake (Switzer Dam)
Skidmore Lake is a 104-acre impoundment located off Route 33 west of Harrisonburg. The dam was built by the Soil Conservation Service for flood control and water supply, and it is now managed by the City of Harrisonburg. An access road is available off Route 33. A concrete boat ramp with gravel parking area is located mid-lake off of Forest Road 227. Gasoline motors are prohibited, but electric motors are allowed. Fingerling brook trout have been stocked since 1976, and fishing has been permitted since 1979. Angler success has been good, with most fish in the 8-14 inch range and an occasional large brook trout of 2-3 pounds. New regulations posted in 2002 require release of all trout less than 10 inches. In addition, the lake has developed a fairly good population of largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie. In recent years, the city has drawn more water from the lake, and it is not unusual to find the lake well below full pool in late summer and fall, which can make boat access very difficult. No camping is permitted at the lake, but primitive camping is available in the National Forest nearby.
Lake Moomaw (Alleghany/Bath Counties)
This flood control reservoir was completed in 1981 with the closing of the Gathright Dam on the Jackson River. It resulted in the formation of a 13-mile long, 2,530-acre reservoir with more than 43 miles of shoreline.
Much of the shoreline is adjacent to the 13,428-acre Gathright Wildlife Management Area, which is owned and managed by the Department. The average depth of the lake is 80 feet and flow augmentation results in a normal 5 to 15-foot draw down by late summer. Trout management at the reservoir consists of stocking sub-catchable brown trout and the McConaughy strain of rainbow trout. Regulations were changed in 1995 to reflect the potential of this lake to produce trophy-sized trout. The creel limit was reduced to two trout per day with a minimum size limit of 16 inches. Brown trout fishing has been good in recent years with large numbers of 3-5 pound trout reported caught. McConaughy strain rainbow trout are doing very well, also. Most trout are caught by trolling with shad imitation crankbaits; some are caught still-fishing with live shad 25 feet down and others by jump fishing. Some are caught incidental to bass fishing.
The area around Moomaw provides nearly year-round opportunities for boating water sports, fishing, camping, picnicking, hiking, birding, sight-seeing, photography and hunting.
Boats are restricted to a maximum length of 25 feet. No house boats are allowed and excessive noise is prohibited. Trailer-launched boats must be launched at ramps at Fortney Branch, Bolar Flat or Coles Point. Canoes and cartops can be launched at Coles Mountain Fishing Access, McClintock Bridge, McClintock Point, and Midway.
The lake is open 24 hours a day, year-round. There is a 12-inch size limit on bass. Neither a trout license nor a National Forest stamp is required.
The Bolar Mountain Recreation Area provides camping, swimming, beaches, restrooms and picnic grounds. Bolar Flat has a picnic area, a four-lane boat dock, a courtesy dock, a marina and restrooms. There are primitive camping areas at Greenwood and McClintock Point. The Morris Hill Campground and picnic area, the four-lane Fortney Branch ramp and courtesy dock, and the Coles Mountain Area are located on the south end of the lake in Alleghany County. A daily fee is charged for swimming, picnicking, camping and use of boat ramps.
For facilities information, contact the James River Ranger District in Covington (540) 962-2214; the Warm Springs Ranger District in Hot Springs (540) 839-2521 or 839-2442; or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Covington (540) 962-1138.