James River

Can anyone give me some recommendations for fishing the James River? I am planning a trip for next week but the location I was going to go is on the rise and will probably not be the best option. I was surfing the net and the James looked promising so if anyone would be willing to suggest a good starting point I would appreciate it.

Haven’t fished there for a long time
Not by my choice.

Here’s some info from VDGIF.



That ought to give you some ideas. If you have a Virginia Gazetteer, that’ll help too. If not, have Google Earth open to identify some waymarks to transmit to your GPS if you have one.

have never fished in the James …

– Last Updated: May-18-10 10:28 AM EST –

...... so have no recomendations for any particular stretch (just Piedmont to mountain stretches) , but am wondering what you are mainly wanting to fish for ??

Potomac , Shenandoah , Susquehanna are the rivers I've most fished and suspect the James species will be similar .

Smallmouth are always our first target and usually very productive . The Channel Cats can be fun to catch and sometimes pretty large (7-10 lb. range) , so I'd recommend having some good "live fresh" bait along to set up a bottom rig with also (nightcrawlers work as good as any , and a dozen will disapear fast , so ...).

If you expect to bring that Muskie that took your Smallie offering to boat side , be sure to use a 6"-9" stealon leader (I like Berkley 20 lb. ones) ... it happens often enough that a Muskie will surprise hit when least expected , sometimes 3-4 times a day . (just in case you aren't aware - touch "NOTHING" in the Muskies mouth ... everything in there is hard as steel and sharp as razors) .

If fishing dedicated for the Muskie , I'll throw a "Muskie Killer" spin bait or at least a #5 Mepps (gold) , but I come across more by accident , so ...

Another way to set up a dedicated Muskie line is to have heavy tackle (big ass hook) rigged with a live 8"-12" Creek Chub (or other) just floated through deep water stretches (let the line run out long and forget about it) ... 7'-8' down from a large slip bobber , have that rod anchored well too !!

Be sure to have some #3 Mepps Aglia's on board (gold) , bounce the bottom with them and /or spin them out of cover .

"Yum" Crawbugs (a tube that looks like Crawfish - hollow inside) in 3-1/2" Geen Pepper color are my favorite for Smallies used with 1/8 oz. and 1/4 oz. jig heads (the nice thing about using the Crawbug instead of a tube is that you can set the hook semi-weedless in the Crawbugs face (the jig lead goes in the tail (solid) end) . The tube/crawbug is used by feeling the bottom with it in every crack and crevice ... then comes a bump that feels different than anything else you've touched ... drop the rod tip "immediately" to slack the line on that bump and if it runs , reel up and set the hook upward . When I first started using these , I must have missed 50 fish because either I didn't relize the light bump or didn't immmediately drop the rod tip to slack after bump .

Top surface plugs like Rapala (blue and silver) minnow can sometimes be a blast (especially early morning and eve. - twilight hours) .

Little jigs 1/32 oz. - 1/16 oz. with a twister tail stuck on find lots of small fish .

Now if you catch a Blue Gill , consider making Catfish bait out if it ... cut it up in good size chunks , rig for bottom and hold on !! (I think maybe the fresh cut Bluegill could possibly be the best Cat bait in the river , and the bloodier the better) . I've seen right in front of me , 3 big Cats at one time clamped onto the Bluegill cut pieces rolling and trying to take it from the others clamped on .

Floating live minnows on bobber can sometimes bring in the biggest of Smallies , Muskie , or Cats .

You may want to consider having a spool set up with braid , like Spider wire 4 lb, dia. / 15 lb. test , and still use the stealon leader . That won't be needed for Smallies , but some of these Muskies and Cats are very hard to turn around . That stealon leader may stiffle your Smallie bite just a little , but it is about the only chance to bring that toothy monster to boat side when it shows up .

In the Susquehanna , we catch Creek Chub regularly when throwing for Smallies (some have gone 22") , they always take the offering right off the bottom just like a Smallie (they like the #3 spinner or tube in rocky bottom) .

Water on the rise usually makes for a hotter bite !! Good luck and let us know how it went OK .

Smallmouth will be the primary target while fishing from the kayak. However, killing the evening waiting for a big cat fish to bite is hard to beat. I usually fish PA rivers (The Susquehanna is one of my favorite destinations with the Youghiogheny River being a close second) but am thinking about heading south later this week, depends on the rain and how high the rivers get. Plus, it will be nice to explore some new water. My bait of choice is usually a 4” lizard on a 1/8th oz to ¼ oz jig head, the bass pro fat albert grub runs a close second for me. The most reliable color for me has been cotton candy, but that is probably because I have caught a lot of fish on it and don’t fish other lures or colors with the same confidence.

Thanks for the input; I will post a report when I get back, if my arms and hands aren’t too tired from catching fish.

Bluegill as cat bait
I understand that’s a long-standing technique used by many. However, be aware that in Virginia the regulations recognize the bluegill as a sport fish. All sport fish kept must be kept whole until you get off the river. I have no moral issue with using bluegills as catfish bait and do it myself where legal. I just wanted to make sure you knew that if you were to do so, you would be violating Virginia Freshwater Fishing Regulation.

  • Big D

James River
Sorry, can’t help, but thought I’d pass on info from an article I just read in a reputable fishing mag. It talked about trying to avoid boat collisions with sturgeon in the upper James. Sturgeon! I thought these things were northern monster fish, and fairly rare at that.

I’d travel to the upper James just to see one of these things.

didn’t know that Big_D …
… the way we found out about using Bluegill for Cat bait was by accident .

On one of the 2 day trips down the Shen. , I chose to keep a mess of Bluegills for dinner . After filet them up and sitting down to chow around the camp fire we heard this big ol racket just over at the waters edge .

We walked over with a light to see what it was and lo and behold there were huge Channel Cats in a foot of water twisting , rolling and making a racket . on closer inspection it was revealed that these Cats were battling for the carcasses of Bluegill I had tossed in . Had to be 10 or more right there .

About as quick as I could after seeing this I looked for a few good size chunks to recover before they got them all . Recovered just enough for each of us (4) to take one chance at baiting up .

In succession we landed 5 huge cats at casting distance , one guy caught two . Have used the Bluegill many times since and it has never failed .

If the man ever wanted to hassel me about using Bluegill as bait in Va. … I guess I’d have to just let him go for it (sounds like a rediculous law to me and as such I don’t care about it) .

I think the idea of the law is

… to enable enforcement of size restrictions. The warden can’t enforce a size restriction if the whole fish can’t be measured.

I don’t know or care if there is a size restriction on bluegill. They’re not exactly scarce.

It’s on the books
I doubt it would ever be enforced in the circumstances you describe, pilot-wingz. You did in fact comply with the law in that circumstance - because you kept the fish whole until you consumed them.

There are some folks who catch bluegills and keep them in the livewell to use as live bait for catfish that evening. Again, nothing wrong with that in my opinion. Live bait is live bait and I never understood the difference in value between a so-called baitfish and a so-called sport fish. If you catch the sport fish by sporting means and don’t exceed your permitted daily creel limit, I figure you ought to be able to use them about any way you think appropriate, whether as dinner or fertilizer or catfish bait. But, here in Virginia it’s illegal.

I think Clarion’s comment is spot on. It’s a size thing and they don’t differentiate between sport-fish that have size limits (like bass, trout, etc.) and those that don’t (like bluegills). It might also be a creel limit thing too. It’s tough to tell whether you caught 45 bluegills or 60 if half of them are cut up. The creel limit is 50/day.

  • Big D

well that was originally D …

– Last Updated: May-18-10 10:39 PM EST –

....... since that accidental finding of cut up Bluegill as good bait ... I don't hesitate to catch a few just for that purpose sometimes , and those ones don't get eaten by me but instead by the Cats .

Matter of fact , they make good live bait as well , floated from a bobber or live lined , especially the smaller ones !!

I know , I know (or at least now I do thanks to you) , the law , the law , it's on the books and all that (I hear ya) ... still don't care , Bluegills are at my mercy and sometimes they loose .

If the man wants to bust me for it one day when I'm using Bluegill for bait in Va. ... let him do so , won't change my mind on the issue though and wouldn't even make me hesitate in the future .

And I again , I hear ya ... you don't find a thing wrong with it , and have said as much ... but you are probably more likely to obey the law to a tee than I , and that's ok too .

Va. once gave me a citation for 75. bucks which I threw away and refused to pay (and I was within my rights to refuse) . About 15 yrs. later I get this letter stating I have a fine ($75.) that needs to be paid immediately (the letter was addressed to my current residence at the time , which was not where I was living when the citation was issued) . I gave them a call and ask what's the hurry (lol) , they informed me that their office is implementing a new system and it's all going computerized now , and as such all outstanding bussiness is being resolved one way or another .

So I ask what if I just keep on ignoring it ... they told me they would have a Va. fish and game officer come to my door in person for collection plus expenses ... that's funny I said and the lady laughed also , but replied with , but that's what will happen . I said , "I believe you so I'll send the $75. bucks off soon" ... and I did .

Another time fishing Flounder in Watchaprege , the man busted us for under sized fish (cited us for 3 or 4 of them) ... every single fish in our possesion was over legal size and you bet we measured them and made certain all were 1/2" or more longer than minimum .

The ignorant prick man pulls along side and wants to see our fish ... we oblige and let him have his way ... the prick takes the first 3 and puts them on his fish measure board , each time smashing them up against the wood stop crumpling thier faces and crunching them up with his hand (acually making them bend in the process) , then tossing them into his bucket ... talk about pissed , the two nephews on board were doing all the could to keep me still and not make the situation worse as I was beginning to tell that ass hole just what I tought of him ... and each time I did he took and smashed another fish to make his point (Bastard A-Hole with a badge) , officer Obbie who was looking at one nephew like he was a freak of nature because he had long hair (the youngest one who's boat we were in that day) ... we refused to pay that fine also , and since the citation was given to the yougest nephew because we were using his boat at the time ... one day some years later they came knocking on his Mom's door (were he used to live (in Va.) before he got married) . They told my Sis to inform him they will issue a warrant if he doesn't get it paid within 7 days (he was living in Ga. at this time .

I found officer Obbies dept. auto and trailer on shore when we got back in well before him ... had some fish guts and juices to give him along with the others he took .

You’re probably right.
First that I’ll obey the letter of the law in most circumstances and second that you may as well go ahead and use the bluegill as bait.

The nice thing about video phones and digital cameras with video in them is that now you’d be able to video that guy smashing your fish and measuring them wrong to show to a judge. Wouldn’t that be nice? Cops video themselves as protection all the time. Seems like if they don’t want what they’re doing videotaped, then they probably ought not to do it. Excepting black ops type stuff of course.

  • Big D