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Harwood’s Mill Reservoir

This 265-acre impoundment is the terminal reservoir for the City of Newport News water supply system. Water is pumped into Harwood’s Mill from Chickahominy, Diascund and Little Creek reservoirs. Harwood’s Mill Reservoir provides a scenic fishing opportunity for anglers of the greater Newport News and Hampton area. The fishery receives a limited amount of fishing pressure. Copper sulfate is applied to the reservoir by the City Waterworks staff as needed to control nuisance algae. Oriana Road (Route 620) divides the reservoir into two sections, which also happen to differ in terms of habitat and fish population characteristics. The northern section has an abundance of cypress trees and is generally the better producer of bass, while the southern section has more open water and is generally better for yellow perch and sunfish species. A daily permit is required to fish the reservoir. The permit can be purchased from the concession buildings when they are open or from the campground store at Newport News Park.

Maps & Directions

The reservoir can be accessed from Route 620 off Denbigh Boulevard (Route 173) in Newport News. Map


The April 20th, 2018 electrofishing survey produced a total of 13 fish species. A summary of the main target species are as follows:

Largemouth Bass

The 2018 electrofishing survey revealed a quality bass population present within Harwood’s Mill Reservoir. A total of 105 largemouth bass were collected during the survey. The catch rate of 63 fish/hr rates higher than the historic mean CPUE of 55 fish/hr from past surveys of Harwood’s Mill Reservoir. The length frequency distribution ranged from 3 to 22 inches in total length. The average size bass measured 14.1 inches. A high proportion of the collected bass were in the 13 – 19 inch range. A total of 55 preferred-sized bass (≥ 15 inches) were collected, which yielded a respectable CPUE-P of 33 fish/hr. Relative weight values for the bass were in the 100 to 106 range and reveal that these fish were finding sufficient forage. The public boat ramp located on the lower basin allows anglers to explore the deeper water in search of a trophy bass. Rental boats on the upper basin allow anglers to search the cypress trees and thick aquatic vegetation for decent bass action.

Bluegill and Redear Sunfish

The bluegill fishery is somewhat limited on Harwood’s Mill Reservoir. A total of 310 bluegill were collected during the survey for a catch rate of 186 fish/hr. This catch rate showed a favorable increase from 2016 (CPUE = 145 fish/hr). The length distribution was 1 to 6 inches, with only 4 bluegill breaking the 6-inch length mark. Anglers fishing for bluegill will most likely catch their fair share of yellow perch in the process. The low productivity and high flow through nature of the system tends to limit the production of quality-sized bluegill.

The redear sunfish population showed some promise when compared to the bluegill population. A total of 160 redear sunfish were collected for a catch rate of 96 fish/hr. This catch rate showed an increase from 2016 (CPUE = 79 fish/hr). Length distribution ranged from 1 to 8 inches. The average redear sunfish measured 5.55 inches, with the largest measured at 8.34 inches. A few of these larger fish might come as a nice surprise to anglers.  

Yellow Perch

The yellow perch population revealed a decline in catch rate, going from 105 fish/hr in 2016 to 30 fish/hr in 2018. Some natural variability always exists between samples as it might be too early to conclude that the perch population is suffering from poor recruitment or pressure from overfishing. Several year classes of yellow perch were easily detected on the length frequency distribution. The largest perch measured 12.4 inches and weighed just shy of 1 pound. Angler reports have surfaced of even larger yellow perch being caught from the reservoir. Some of these larger perch may be foraging on juvenile gizzard shad and packing on additional mass. 

Chain Pickerel

The chain pickerel fishery is limited in terms of overall abundance, but has the potential to produce a few larger fish. The 2018 electrofishing survey collected only 14 chain pickerel for a CPUE of 8 fish/hr. The size distribution ranged from 2 to up to 22.5 inches in length. A few citation-sized pickerel have been caught by anglers over the years, but none were encountered during the survey. 

Additional Species Present

The 2018 electrofishing survey collected a total of 13 species. These species not covered above were: black crappie, creek chubsucker, American eel, pumpkinseed sunfish, gizzard shad, golden shiner, blue spotted sunfish, and warmouth sunfish. These species provide some additional diversity to the fishery and may provide excitement to anglers that try their luck on Harwood’s Mill Reservoir.

Biologist Reports


  1. Electric motors only
  2. Private boats need a permit that can be purchased at the Newport News Park when the concession buildings are not opened.
  3. Boat rental concession buildings are open on weekends and public holidays from May through October.
  4. Anglers should be off the water a half hour after sunset.
  5. All other fishing regulations are as those stated in the Virginia Freshwater Fishing Regulations booklet.


Department fisheries biologists conducted an electrofishing survey on April 20, 2018. The survey was conducted in an attempt to gather additional data on the current fishery. Three survey runs were conducted in the lower reservoir basin and two survey runs in the upper basin. Harwood’s Mill Reservoir is typically surveyed every other year in hopes of keeping a pulse on the state of the current fishery. The survey revealed a surprisingly high number of preferred-sized largemouth bass in the 15 to 21-inch range. The survey did not reveal any citation-sized bass which used to be a regular occurrence several years ago. 

The catch rate for bluegill was not that impressive and the size structure was nothing to brag about for this terminal reservoir. The redear sunfish showed an increased presence and a more favorable size structure when compared to the bluegill. Several year classes of yellow perch were detected with a handful of quality fish measured. The overall diversity of the reservoir was high with 13 fish species collected. The black crappie population was able to win the game of hide and go seek, as only 4 black crappie were collected. Additional black crappie were most likely staging in deeper water away from the sampled shorelines.

Facilities, Amenities, and Nearby Attractions

Boats can be rented from both sides of the reservoir on weekends and public holidays from May to October. Private boats can be launched from the ramp on the southern portion of the reservoir with a valid permit. The fee to launch a private boat is $5/day per fisherman. An annual pass costs $50.

Jon boat rentals are $6/day + tax per licensed fisherman or $3/day + tax after 3 PM. Trolling motors and/or batteries are available for rent at an additional cost. Anglers can use their own trolling motors if they desire.

Some shoreline fishing is available.

There are picnic facilities and a popular biking trail.

There are picnic facilities and a popular biking trail.

More Information

For further information please contact:

Newport News Department of Parks and Recreation
(757) 886-7912

For additional information on the fishery:

Department of Wildlife Resources
3801 John Tyler Hwy
Charles City, VA 23030

Phone: (804) 829-6580, Ext. 126