The Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries says one of the most popular fish in Smith Mountain Lake is the striped bass. This is not a surprising fact since there are Striper Clubs in the area and much talk of striper fishing among the folk who can always be found with a pole in hand. What goes into proper methods for keeping the lake stocked with this particular type of bass, is an interesting read.
The striper fishery has to be the most notable fishery on Smith Mountain Lake. Striped bass is the second most popular sport fish at Smith Mountain Lake. Striped bass has been stocked into this reservoir since impoundment in 1963. Limited spawning habitat for striped bass prevents natural reproduction. Stocking is required to maintain the fishery, unlike other species such as bass, crappie, catfish, and shad. Stocking rates for striped bass increased from 300,000 to 450,000 fingerlings annually in 1998. Different stocking methods in conjunction with increased stocking rates recently increased the striped bass population.
Stripers are distributed throughout the lake during most of the year but are concentrated in lower lake areas during the summer and early fall months. Coves are typically not very productive for striped bass during the summer months so anglers should concentrate their efforts on the main lake when water temperatures begin to rise. However, the backs of coves, which contain flowing streams, can be productive during the winter and early spring months. Look for schools of shad in these areas, especially during warming trends when the streams are warmer than the reservoir. Striped bass anglers utilize a variety of fishing methods such as drifting live bait, trolling plugs, and bucktail jigs, or casting top water lures. Anglers use live bait throughout the year, trolling is most popular during the warmer months, and casting top water or shallow running plugs is most productive during the spring at night. Most striped basses are caught between the dams and buoy 64 of the Roanoke Arm and up to buoy 40 of the Blackwater Arm. Although these are the general areas most striped bass are caught, these fish are very mobile and may change locations continuously depending on forage availability, water temperatures, and spawning.
Anglers should not release legal-size striped bass during the summer months. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries encourages striped bass anglers to quit fishing after catching their limit in the months of June-September (see Regulations section for split season regulations). Most of these fish released during the summer months will not survive! A voluntary catch-and-release (no harvest) season is recommended for striped bass from October through May to help build population abundance and fish size. Look for information brochures around the lake community or contact the VDGIF regional office in Forest, Virginia, for more details on how to practice effective catch-and-release for striped bass.