Fishing

girl fishing
A camper at Camp Brookside Environmental Education Center fishes in the New River.

NPS photo

 

Fishing at New River Gorge

Fishing is one of the most popular activities on the New River. The diversity of fish in its waters makes the New River an excellent warm water fishery. With proper respect for the river and its resources and a few safety precautions, anglers can enjoy a quality fishing experience.

Public river access points within New River Gorge National Park and Preserve are available at the Tug Creek Beach, Brooks Falls, Hellems Beach, and Sandstone Falls via River Road at Hinton; Meadow Creek; McCreery, Grandview Sandbar, Mill Creek, and Glade Creek off Hwy. 41 near Prince; Dunglen and Stone Cliff near Thurmond; Cunard; and Fayette Station.

To access the New River across private property, one must receive permission from the land owner.

Other places to fish include Bluestone National Scenic River, Gauley River National Recreation Area, Meadow River, Greenbrier River, Bluestone Lake, and Summersville Lake.

When to Fish

Spring and fall are the best times of the year to fish the New River. During these seasons, water temperatures are in transition between cold winter temperatures and warm summer temperatures. Most fish species are more active in cooler water and are more aggressively feeding during the spring and fall.

The best times of the day to fish are early morning and late evening. Most fish prey is much more active at these times; therefore, more fish are out feeding. Some species of fish feed at night, providing anglers an opportunity for night fishing.

Catching Your Fish

The New River offers anglers the opportunity to catch bass (smallmouth, largemouth, striped, and rock), walleye, muskellunge, crappie, bluegill, carp, or flathead and channel catfish.

Nightcrawlers and hellgrammites are common bait used for fishing. Popular artificial lures are top-water crank-baits, spinner baits, minnows, or crawfish. Dark-colored lures work better in murky water conditions and bright-colored lures in clear water.

The smallmouth bass is one of the more abundant species found in the New River. A variety of artificial lures may be used. Top-water lures used late in the evening are an excellent choice. Live bait, such as nightcrawlers or hellgrammites, can increase the odds of catching bass.

The rock bass is not an aggressive fighter; however, it is an aggressive biter. This species of sunfish will hit anything from crank-baits to nightcrawlers. A preferred lure to use is the twister-tail grub.

The walleye is commonly fished for in the fall when water temperatures cool down. It may be caught using crank-baits, jigs, jig and minnow combinations, and nightcrawlers. You should fish deeper water for walleye.

Flathead and channel catfish can be caught on similar bait. Although channel catfish may occasionally strike a crank-bait, live bait is a wiser choice. Types of live bait to use include nightcrawlers, hellgrammites (both black and yellow phases), and crayfish. Minnows may also be used when fishing for catfish.

The muskellunge or musky can be caught on a variety of crank and spinner-baits. Top-water crank-baits appear to be a successful choice for catching muskies. The musky can also be caught using live bait.

Trout are present in several tributaries of the New River. West Virginia's Division of Natural Resources stocks these tributaries each spring with golden, rainbow, brook, and brown trout. Trout fishing can be enjoyed on these streams within the park: Meadow, Glade, Dunloup, Glade at Babcock State Park, or Mill creeks and Gauley, Meadow, or Little Bluestone rivers. A trout stamp is required when fishing for trout.

 
girl fishing in river
A young girl fishes in the New River.

NPS photo

Catch and Release

Catch and release ensures fishing opportunities for future generations. Glade Creek from the pedestrian bridge 3 miles down to the New River is designated a catch and release for trout. The New River from the I-64 bridge at Sandstone 12 miles downstream to the Grandview Sandbar is designated catch and release for black bass. This includes smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth bass.

Survival of the fish being released depends upon how well the angler handles the fish while catching and unhooking it. Several basic guidelines to follow are:

  • return the fish to the water as soon as possible
  • unhook the fish in the water
  • handle the fish as little as possible
  • use needle-nose pliers to remove the hook
  • remove the hook quickly and carefully
  • move fish back and forth in the water to move
  • water through its gills until it can swim away

Fishing Safety

Safety on the river will always make your fishing trip an enjoyable experience and possibly could save a life. Some safety tips are:

  • always wear a life jacket around the river
  • never drink alcohol while fishing
  • remain seated while in a boat
  • never fish alone; take a friend along
  • do not wade in water above your knees
  • fish at least 100 feet away from a boat launch

Licenses

Visitors fishing within New River Gorge National Park and Preserve must follow the fishing license requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations of the State of West Virginia. All persons fishing in the park are required to have a West Virginia fishing license. Year long and 3-day tourist licenses are available at area sporting goods stores and bait shops.


Regulations

Except as provided below, fishing shall be in accordance with the laws and regulations of the State of West Virginia (36CFR2.3).

For the West Virginia State fishing regulations go to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources website.

The fishing regulations apply to all “finfish” found in the park. Other taxa, including amphibians, mollusks and crustaceans (e.g. waterdogs, crayfish) are not considered “fish” for the purpose of NPS fishing regulations and addressed by NPS regulations governing wildlife (36CFR2.2).

These fishing regulations apply, regardless of land ownership, on all lands and waters within the park that are under the legislative jurisdiction of the United States.

The following are prohibited:

  • Fishing in fresh waters in any manner other than by hook and line, with the rod or line being closely attended.

  • Possessing or using as bait for fishing in freshwaters, live or dead minnows or other bait fish, amphibians, non-preserved fish eggs or fish roe, except in designated waters.

  • Chumming or placing preserved or fresh fish eggs, fish roe, food, fish parts, chemicals, or other foreign substances in fresh waters for the purpose of feeding or attracting fish in order that they may be taken.

  • Commercial fishing, except where specifically authorized by Federal statutory law.

  • Fishing by the use of drugs, poisons, explosives, or electricity.

  • Digging for bait, except in privately owned lands.

  • Failing to return carefully and immediately to the water from which it was taken a fish that does not meet size or species restrictions or that the person chooses not to keep. Fish so released shall not be included in the catch or possession limit: Provided, that at the time of catching the person did not possess the legal limit of fish.

  • Fishing from motor road bridges, from or within 200 feet of a public raft or float designated for water sports, or within the limits of locations designated as swimming beaches, surfing areas, or public boat docks, except in designated areas.

  • Introducing wildlife, fish or plants, including their reproductive bodies, into a park area ecosystem. This includes the discarding and/or dumping of bait and bait buckets.

  • The use or possession of fish, wildlife or plants for ceremonial or religious purposes, except where specifically authorized by Federal statutory law, or treaty rights.

The following regulations apply only within New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

  • Fishing is not allowed within 100 feet of boat launch/take-out areas while watercraft are using the launch/take-out area.
 

Fish Consumption Advisories in National Park Waters

The Environmental Protection Agency, states, territories, and tribes provide advice on fish and shellfish caught in the waters in their jurisdiction to help people make informed decisions about eating fish. Advisories are recommendations to limit your consumption of, or avoid eating entirely, certain species of fish or shellfish from specific bodies of water due to chemical or biological contamination.

Fish is part of a healthy balanced diet, but eating wild fish and shellfish caught in park waters is not risk free. Parks are “islands”, but the much larger “ocean” that surrounds them affects the natural resources inside a park. Other aquatic toxins are the result of natural biological processes. Also, chemical contaminants that originate outside of park boundaries can come into parks.

Mercury is an example of a toxin originating outside a park that can find its way into a park. Mercury exists naturally in some rocks, including coal. When power plants burn coal, mercury can travel in the air long distances before falling to the ground, usually in low concentrations. Once on the ground, microorganisms can change this elemental mercury to methyl mercury. This type of mercury can build up in animal tissues, and it can increase in concentration to harmful levels. This high concentration can occur in large predatory fish - those often pursued and eaten by anglers. Studies have shown that fish in some National Park System waters have mercury levels that may be a concern to people who regularly eat a lot of fish.

Fish Consumption Advisories in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve


For health and safety, anglers are advised to adhere to published West Virginia advisories for fish consumption. These are published annually in the fishing regulations (http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/Fishing_regs.shtm) and can also be accessed separately from the entire regulation booklet (http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/Regs14/Consumption_Advisory.pdf). The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has the same information available (http://www.wvdhhr.org/fish/Current_Advisories.asp), along with a little more background information (http://www.wvdhhr.org/fish/default.asp).

 

Accessible Fishing Areas:


There is a wheel chair accessible fishing area at the Glade Creek Campground. The accessible area is on a wooden bridge over Glade Creek, an excellent fishing location (catch and release in this area). It can be reached at the end of Glade Creek Road from the parking area next to the campground entrance.

For more information about accessible fishing locations in West Virginia, visit the WV Department of Natural Resources webpage.

 

Aquatic Invasive Species

Aquatic invasive species are organisms (fish, crayfish, mollusks, plants, algae, fungus, diseases) that are new to an aquatic ecosystem. These organisms are a problem because they displace native species, damage healthy ecosystems and are extremely difficult to remove once established. Introductions are primarily human caused. Examples include releasing live bait, dumping boat live wells, dumping aquariums, dumping ballast water from boats, and accidental transport of hitch-hiking organisms on recreational gear such as waders, fishing equipment, and boats. Learn more about how you can protect aquatic resources: WV Anglers Alert

Last updated: March 18, 2021

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P.O. Box 246, 104 Main Street
Glen Jean, WV 25846

Phone:

(304) 465-0508

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