Though West Virginia has fewer waterways than most, it has plentiful fish with many being trophy sized. Fly fishing is a favored pastime of West Virginians and vacationers alike. Trout are the favored fish, but bass, catfish, and panfish swim rampant throughout West Virginia.
Trout are West Virginia’s best game fish to angle for and brook are the state fish. West Virginia contains brook, brown, rainbow, golden, and tiger trout within its borders. The mountain state has an active stocking program from the end of winter through spring, with trout stocked the most.
Elk River is one of the state’s more popular waterways for trout, as it has native brook and is regularly stocked with rainbow and brown trout. Elk River is also a great place for large walleye fishing. Not only is it easily accessible and, given the Allegheny Mountains, also quite scenic, but it is great for fly fishing and kayak/canoe fishing.
For trout fishing in a little more wilderness, Gautley River is hard to top. There are rainbow, brown, and the uncommon golden trout, in Gautley River. For the same species, plus brook trout, try Cranberry River, which is set in the largest wilderness area of the state. Or if you prefer a more easily accessed location try Williams River for trout.
Bass are always popular with anglers, and this is especially true in West Virginia. Smallmouth, largemouth, spotted, rock, white, striped and hybrid striped bass all inhabit the mountain state. The state record largemouth bass in length, over two feet long, came from Dog Run Lake. Hybrid striped bass have been established for decades in the Kanawha River.
Hefty walleye spring from West Virginian waters on a daily basis. Though not stocked as much as trout their swelling populations have made for great recreational fishing. Once the site of the state record, Kanawha River still boasts great trophy walleye fishing. Stonewall Jackson Lake and the Ohio River are also safe bets for some fair walleye angling.
For a family fishing trip try Summersville Lake, where fishing is good and there are beaches, picnic areas, public restrooms, hiking trails, rock cliffs for climbing, and more. Trout are less abundant, though in the fall they are consistently stocked in the lake’s tailwaters. Bass are endless in this lake, and the catfish and crappie do well too. You may find a walleye as well though they are less populous there. Summersville Lake is a great chance to fish while hitting many varied outdoor activities that will entertain the whole family!
West Virginian recreational fishing licenses are fairly inexpensive so there are only annual and one day (for vacationers) licenses available. Residents may buy lifetime licenses, with senior resident lifetime licenses being far cheaper. Residents are persons who have lived within West Virginia for thirty consecutive days before purchasing a fishing license. Full time students qualify as residents.
Purchase licenses at many of the state wide agents, by calling the Hunting and Fishing License Unit, or online with a state Driver’s ID number or other state issued photo ID. Residents on active duty need no licensure.
Whenever you head out fishing to a new place, it's always best to speak to local anglers. Use fishing forums to ask questions and learn about the most accurate and up to date conditions.