Claytor Lake, a 4,363-acre impoundment of the New River, stretches northeastward across the Pulaski County countryside for 21 miles.
Possible catches from Claytor Lake range from bass to carp. Smallmouth, Largemouth, and Spotted Bass (collectively called “black bass”) are the “bread and butter” fishes of this lake. About 67 percent of the anglers at Claytor Lake fish for “black bass.” Alabama Bass are found in Claytor Lake. Since Alabama Bass are not easily distinguished from Spotted Bass, size and creel limits on Spotted Bass are no longer in place at Claytor Lake. Anglers can now keep unlimited numbers of Spotted Bass of any size. While there is no minimum size limit for Largemouth Bass, the Smallmouth Bass minimum size limit is 14 inches. The combined daily creel limit for Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass is 5 per day. Anglers are encouraged to continue practice catch-and-release of trophy-size bass from the lake. Claytor’s steep and rocky shorelines make it particularly good for Smallmouth Bass. Good areas for Smallmouth Bass are the shoreline across from the mouth of Dublin Hollow, the shoreline between Spooky Hollow and Texas Hollow, and in Dublin Hollow.
Maps & Directions
Southeast on Rt. 660 of Dublin
Harry DeHaven Park
Claytor Lake holds fewer Largemouth Bass than other Virginia lakes, and they grow slowly in this mountain reservoir. Anglers can find Largemouth Bass in coves throughout the lake, but the best places to fish are Peak Creek, Clapboard Hollow, and large coves in the lower lake area. The Claytor Lake record for Largemouth Bass was a 14- pound, 6-ounce giant caught in June 1991.
Spotted Bass in Claytor are generally smaller than the other black basses. Spotted Bass in Claytor Lake do not grow as large as Largemouth and Smallmouth bass, rarely reaching 2 pounds in size, although the state record 4-pound, 12-ounce Spotted Bass was caught at Claytor Lake on January 1, 2020.
Anglers fishing for black bass in the lake can use information collected during a bass food habits study at Claytor Lake to select lures and techniques for these species. Smallmouth Bass and Spotted Bass have very similar diets, with both relying mostly on crayfish. Techniques and lures that mimic crayfish are most likely to be successful in producing catches of these fish. Both of these bass species eat a lot of Bluegill as well as some Alewife and Gizzard Shad, so they may also hit lures that imitate fish. Largemouth Bass diets are quite different than from Smallmouth and Spotted bass diets, which may be one reason they are doing so well in the lake. Largemouth Bass eat Bluegill, Alewife, Gizzard Shad, and crayfish, depending on the season of the year and whether these prey are abundant in a given year. Lures that imitate fish are the best choice for Largemouth Bass, but they may also hit crayfish imitations.
Catfish angling is an emerging fishery at Claytor Lake, with 13% of anglers pursuing catfish in the most recent angler survey in 2017, and an estimated annual catch of almost 6,000 channel catfish. Channel Catfish up to 15 pounds are available throughout the lake. Flathead Catfish are also sought by Claytor Lake catfish anglers. The lake record Flathead Catfish of 58 pounds, 8 ounces was caught from the upper area of the lake.
Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass combine to create an important fishery at Claytor Lake, with nearly 6% of anglers fishing for these 2 species. Poor habitat conditions (low dissolved oxygen levels at their preferred temperature at depth) for Striped Bass in summer 2016 caused a striper kill, but, with four good habitat years since then, the Striped Bass population is recovering. Claytor Lake bait populations (Alewife and Gizzard Shad) are high, aiding in the restoration of the Striped Bass fishery. Water temperatures below 70 degrees produce the best striper Striped Bass and hybrid striper Hybrid Striped Bass fishing. While most anglers troll or float live Gizzard Shad and Alewife for stripers and hybrids, many are taken with topwater baits (Redfins, Rapalas, etc.) and bucktails in the spring and fall. Trolling bucktails and umbrella rigs in 20–60 feet of water can produce good catches. Since they can tolerate higher water temperatures, hybrids often chase schools of shad at the lake’s surface at night in the summer months. Claytor Lake is the top destination for hybrids in Virginia, setting a new state record with a hybrid weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces caught by local angler Don Jessie on March 16, 2016.
New size and creel limits for Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass were implemented on January 1, 2019. From September 16 to June 30, Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass must be 20 inches long to be harvested and anglers are allowed to keep 2 per day combined. From July 1 to September 15, there is no minimum size limit for Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass and anglers are allowed to keep 4 per day combined. White Bass are regulated by a creel limit of five per day, with no size limit. Anglers should study the differences between these fish carefully. Helpful identification information is available on the Department website.
Anglers will also find schools of Walleye and Yellow Perch in Claytor Lake. During fall, winter, and summer months, look for schools of these fish in the same areas where stripers hang out. During the spring spawning run, look for Walleye where the New River enters the lake near Allisonia. A new size and creel limit is now in place from Claytor Lake Dam upstream to Buck Dam on the New River in Carroll County year round (formerly a seasonal size and creel limit). No Walleye 19 to 28 inches may be kept and anglers are limited to 2 Walleye per day year round. This size and creel limit is designed to protect large female spawning Walleye in Claytor Lake and the New River, while allowing some harvest of the more abundant male Walleye.
The Black Crappie population is not large compared to other lakes, but they average a little less than a pound in size. Bluegill and Rock Bass are numerous throughout the lake, providing fishing action when other species are not biting. With catches of 20 to 30 pound Carp possible, anglers from as far away as England come to fish for them at Claytor.
Claytor Lake Fish Habitat Enhancements
In partnership with Appalachian Power Company, Claytor Lake State Park, Friends of Claytor Lake, and the Virginia BASS Nation, DWR fisheries biologists have worked to enhance fish habitat across Claytor Lake. A variety of artificial habitat structures have been used since habitat efforts began in 2001 including spider blocks, dumbos, rock piles, Mossback habitat structures, and Christmas tree reefs. Since 2017, fish habitat enhancements have consisted primarily of the Mossback fish habitats and Christmas tree reefs.
All of these fish attractors are places where anglers can find black bass, sunfish, and Black Crappie. In early spring and fall, Walleye and Hybrid Striped Bass may use them as well.
Locations and coordinates of fish habitat structures developed since 2012 can be seen in the maps below:
- Claytor Lake Habitat Enhancement Projects Map (2012–2016)
- Claytor Lake Habitat Enhancement Projects Map (2017–2021)
Black Bass (Smallmouth, Largemouth & Spotted)
- Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass: 5 per day in the aggregate
- Spotted Bass: No size or creel limit
- No Minimum Size Limit for Largemouth Bass
- No Smallmouth Bass less than 14 inches
Striped Bass/Hybrid Striped Bass
- September 16 to June 30: 2 per day in the aggregate, minimum size limit 20 inches
- July 1 to September 15: 4 per day in the aggregate, no minimum size limit
- 5 per day, no length limit
- 50 per day in aggregate
- No length limits
- 25 per day
- No length limits
Claytor Lake and the New River upstream of Claytor Lake Dam to Buck Dam in Carroll County:
- Year-round: 2 walleye per day; no walleye 19 to 28 inches
- 1 per day
- No Musky less than 42 inches
- 20 per day
- No length limits
All Other Species
- Consult Creel & Length Limit Table in Regulations
Facilities, Amenities, and Nearby Attractions
- Fee ✔
- Parking ✔
- Handicap-Accessible ✔
- Food Concession ✔
- Picnic Tables ✔
- Grills ✔
- Restrooms ✔
- Hiking Trails ✔
- Bike Trails ✔
- Viewing Blinds ✘
- Observation Platforms ✘
- Fishing Pier/Platform ✔
- Boat Ramps ✔
- Motorboat Access ✘
- Horsepower Limit ✘
- Electric Motor Only ✘
- Paddle Access ✔
- Camping ✔
- Primitive Camping Only ✘
Claytor Lake State Park, located on the north side of the lake, provides 497 acres of park with camping, cabins, picnic areas, and a swimming beach, as well as a marina. For more information on the park, call (540) 643-2500.
Boat access to the lake is available for a small fee at private ramps at Claytor Lake State Park, Lighthouse Bridge, and at Conrad Brothers and Rockhouse Marinas on the Peak Creek arm of the lake. The Department maintains ramps at Allisonia (in the upper lake area) and near the entrance to the state park (Dublin Ramp). Harry’s Point boat ramp, a no-fee ramp located in the mid-lake area within Pulaski County’s Harry DeHaven Park, has a double ramp and courtesy piers. Harry’s Point also has a handicapped-accessible fishing pier, where many of the lake’s species can be caught throughout the year. During the fall and winter months, anglers are likely to catch Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass swimming near the pier.
The easiest way to get to Harry’s Point from I-81 is to take the Route 605 exit (near the south end of Radford), and then follow the brown trailblazer signs to Harry DeHaven Park. From the I-81 exit ramp, take Route 605 (Little River Dam Road). Follow Route 605 until you reach Route 663 (Owens Road), go right on 663, then look for signs marking the park when you get near the lake.
Please contact the Marion Regional DWR Office.