With little development or industry on the river, the Mattaponi provides a diverse array of scenery and angling opportunity. Beginning as a small, scenic, non-tidal stream draining much of Caroline County and serving as the border between King and Queen and King William counties, the upper Mattaponi has limited public access. Moving downstream from Zoar State Forest towards West Point the river changes character drastically from a small non-tidal stream to a large tidal river lined by vast expanses of marsh.
Zoar State Park – Aylett
A nice float fishing trip can be made by launching from the primitive canoe landing at Zoar State Forest and taking out at the public ramp at Aylett. This section of river is a meandering stream until just upstream of Aylett where tidal influences begin. Black crappie; catfish (blue catfish, channel catfish and white catfish); largemouth bass; redbreast sunfish; yellow perch; and spring runs of anadromous American shad, hickory shad, and striped bass provide fishing opportunities for those wishing to float fish this scenic river.
Aylett – West Point
Downstream from Aylett the Mattaponi increases in width, becoming a fairly sizable tidal river system, with expanses of tidal marshes. Largemouth bass fishing on the Mattaponi is best from Alyett downstream to Melrose Landing. Catfishing, particularly for blue catfish is excellent throughout this section of the Mattaponi.
The Mattaponi River provides excellent spawning and nursery habitat for several species of anadromous migratory fish including river herring (both alewife and blueback herring), shad (American and hickory), and striped bass.
Maps & Directions
For public boating access, consult this list of public boat ramps on the Mattaponi River.
There is also a ramp at Walkerton that can be accessed for a small donation of $3.00 to Walkerton Volunteer Fire and Rescue.
Moratorium on Possession of River Herring
It is now illegal for any person fishing tidal rivers to have river herring in their possession – this includes blueback herring and alewife. All river herring inadvertently caught by anglers must be immediately released back into the water. In Virginia, regulations regarding the harvest and possession of river herring are set by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. On January 1st, 2012, VMRC enacted a regulation which makes it unlawful to be in possession of river herring while on tidal waters. Anglers with concerns or questions should contact the Virginia Marine Fisheries Commission (VMRC) in Newport News at 1-800-541-4646. Additional information can be found on the VMRC website.
Stocked in 1985, blue catfish have become the dominant catfish species in the river, and provide abundant catches for anglers who target this fast growing species. Growth of blue catfish in the Mattaponi is slowing; this will impact the capacity of these rivers to produce trophy blue catfish. However, rapid growth in the recent past produced good numbers of fish to 50 pounds, with rare angler reports of fish to 80 pounds and above. Many of these fish remain in the river available for anglers to catch. Fishing for blue cats in the Mattaponi is best from Aylett downstream to Clifton.
Catch rates for largemouth bass in this river continue to be substantially lower than in the Pamunkey, James, and Chickahominy. When combined with slow growth, the size and number of largemouth available to anglers is not impressive. With the exception those who are aware of isolated “hot spots”, anglers should expect low catch rates for largemouth in this river. Largemouth are most abundant from just above Aylett downstream to Walkerton, with a fair number of largemouth found downstream to the vicinity of Melrose Landing.
During the open spring season, keeper striped bass are available throughout the river. During the fall season striper fishing is best in the lower river, and typically slacks off later in the season.
Note: The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) sets season and size-limits for striped bass in the Mattaponi. For information on these regulations contact VMRC in Newport News at 1-800-541-4646 or on the web: VMRC
White perch are common throughout the tidal river, and can be caught using plastic grubs, beetle spins, or grass shrimp.
This river supports an early spring (late-February to early March) run of yellow perch. Many anglers focus their efforts between Walkerton and Aylett using plastic grubs or small minnows. Citation-size perch are occasionally caught.
Black crappie, bluegill, chain pickerel, pumpkinseed, and redbreast sunfish, are fairly common in the freshwater tidal section of the river, particularly from Aylett to Melrose Landing.
In the vicinity of West Point, spring runs of croaker are excellent.
Canoe Float Trips
A nice float fishing trip can be made by launching from the primitive canoe landing at Zoar State Forest and taking out at the public ramp at Aylett. Those who float this section will experience a tree-lined meandering stream which lacks strong tidal influence until just upstream of Aylett. Black crappie; blue, channel and white catfish; largemouth bass; redbreast sunfish; and small striped bass provide fishing opportunities for those wishing to float fish this scenic river. During the spring spawning run, hickory shad will “stack up” here — try using shad darts or spoons to catch this hard fighting fish.
See the fishing regulations section.
There is a possession limit of one blue catfish larger than 32 inches per person per day. There is no creel limit for blue catfish less than 32 inches in Virginia’s tidal rivers.
Regulations regarding season and creel limits for American shad, hickory shad, river herring, and striped bass are set by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). For season information contact VMRC in Newport News at 1-800-541-4646 or on the web at: VMRC
NOTE: Above Route 360, fishing for American and hickory shad is strictly catch and release only — no possession.
For further information please contact:
Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources
3801 John Tyler Hwy
Charles City, VA 23030