Shenandoah River Fishing Report

Updated March 30, 2022


2022 fishing licenses are available in our store. Also available online at Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Date: 3/30/2022
Water: Clear & 45 Degrees
Expected to warm significantly in the next couple weeks

The South Fork Shenandoah River is known by anglers as a “numbers” fishery, meaning anglers can expect to catch a reasonable amount of bass and sunfish on any given day. During our 2021 fall sampling we collected 1,192 Smallmouth Bass from nine sampling sites. About 19% were 11” or greater with only 6% topping 14”. We found low numbers of memorable fish with only 1% measuring 17” plus. Overall our sample yielded high numbers of smaller fish, with a majority falling short of the 11” mark. This is pretty typical for the South Fork, fantastic catch rates with low numbers of quality sized fish. Anglers can expect to catch high numbers of 7-10” fish. Currently there are several strong year classes recruiting into the smallmouth fishery (2014, 2015, and 2019). Typically this results in above average catch rates of quality sized bass within the system. We saw a slight dip in the number of quality fish present after the high water year of 2018, however anglers can expect above average catch rates of fish over 11” during the upcoming season. The South Fork has had its fair share of struggles over the years with fish health problems, but by in large the fishing on the Shenandoah should be excellent in the coming years. Largemouth Bass also present quality opportunities for anglers, as this river harbors a quality population. Finding 2 to 4 pound fish should not be difficult in deeper, slower sections when woody debris are targeted. Overall, 69% of our sample contained quality sized fish (>12”) with a majority falling into the 12-17” size range. The Shenandoah River is a sleeper largemouth fishery for quality bass. Our heaviest fish weighed in at 6.4lbs. Although there has A quality Smallmouth Bass collected during 2021 Electrofishing surveys on the South Fork Shenandoah River been a reduction in overall numbers of largemouth, anglers can expect an increase in the number of 15-20” bass in the coming years. There is also the opportunity to catch Musky in the longer and deeper pools. VDWR periodically stocks fingerling-size musky on the South Fork Shenandoah River at 15 sites stretching from Port Republic to Front Royal. It was last stocked in the fall of 2021 with 453 advanced fingerling musky (approximately 8”). There has been limited evidence of muskies reproducing naturally in the South Fork, therefore they must be stocked to sustain a fishery. Musky are stocked to increase diversity to the fishery and provide a challenging trophy fish for anglers to target. Adult musky densities are not as high as some of the other rivers in the state due to the lack of consistent pool habitats. However, when you come across a pool on the South Fork, anglers have a good opportunity to come in contact with one. Our biologists and technicians typically sample the river for musky in January or February. They sample 4 sites using three electrofishing boats. During the last sampling event in early 2021 they collected a total of 36 fish with a majority falling in the 36 – 44” range, which is typical for the South Fork. Anglers should be pleased with the current population level. Overall numbers were similar to previous samples and the number of quality fish are above average, with many musky measuring 40” or greater. Anglers will notice that there are younger year classes missing from the population as a result of poor spawns caused by higher than normal flows and skipped stockings. In the next few years, we may see a dip in overall numbers as some fish age out of the population. However, we should see a good number of young fish in the coming years. The river received repetitive stockings in 2018, 2020, and 2021. This is a good sign for the future. Musky grow fast in Virginia, with females reaching citation size (40”) in 5-6 years. To learn how to fish for musky, please visit: dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/fish/muskellunge/ Channel Catfish in the 2 to 6 pound range are common, and anglers should concentrate on the lower South Fork. Don’t be surprised if you catch quality-sized Redbreast Sunfish, Pumpkinseed, Bluegill, Green Sunfish, Fallfish, or Black Crappie.

Courtesy of the Department of Wildlife Resources