From the VDGIF website (01-01-2015):


No bass 14 to 22 inches, only 1 per day longer than 22 inches

New River–Fields Dam (Grayson County) downstream to the VA-WV state line and its tributaries Little River downstream from Little River Dam in Montgomery County, Big Walker Creek from the Norfolk and Western Railroad Bridge down-stream to the New River and Wolf Creek from the Narrows Dam down-stream to the New River in Giles (combined)County. (This does not include Claytor Lake which is delineated The upper end of the island at length limits Allisonia downstream to the dam.)

From John Copeland, biologist, VDGIF:

"A 40-day public comment period on the proposals is open May 12 through June 20, 2014. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries solicits the public's participation in this and all regulatory processes."

The New River proposal is shown at the following link:




Yesterday afternoon I picked up someone's Roanoke Times at work during a break. I read all I could stand about the Superbowl and NASCAR's new points rules changes. I saw Mark Taylor's mug in a small article, then read the headline. "Proposed rules could boost trophy fish in New River".Huh? Wha?.........Really? Now, I have kept in touch with the author for the past decade or so, and have worried the crap outta him about the state of the smallmouth in the New River. One of my gripes was (is) the 20" upper slot length. 22" is a more unobtainable elusive goal than 20". Trust me, I know! Not to sound jaded or condescending, but if you do your homework, study your target species and put your time in on the river, 20's are a very doable size. I have often voiced my opinion that a smallmouth mentally changes at 16"-18". It's prey, habitat, feeding preferences, ambush areas, etc. become geared more strongly to a survivalist type train of thought. I must say the past three and a half sober years have gotten me back into the game and have come to the conclusion that the mental state sharpens even more at 20" and beyond.

Having said that, my reasoning for a longer upper measurement on the New River's smallmouth is a protection factor. A fish must reach 20" before it can reach 22". Everyone loves to catch big fish, but sometimes our egos kinda get in the way of the big picture. That includes removing trophies from the river, or parading them around in a livewell during a tournament, or even (mis)handling for too long for a "Kodak" moment. I have personally witnessed tournaments that after the "weigh-in", the 12" smallmouth were unceremoniously dumped at the foot of the ramp and straight into the maw of a conditioned muskie. I've seen this at both the Whitethorn ramp and the one at Bissett Park.

What concerns me most is that it is legal to keep one 20" fish from the New River. Legal and right are two entirely different things, in my not so humble opinion.In a perfect world, I suppose this would be a non-issue. However, we, as a species, haven't achieved perfection at anything
we set out to do. That is the exact reason I keep fishing Mother Nature's most perfect river.



I received an e-mail asking some specifics about winter smallmouth.  People seemed really surprised when they catch fish when and where  they should be this time of year.  Are the fish being caught in a winter mode? NO! (IMHO). The use of human calendar terms in fishing is ridiculous. Too many outside (natural) variables. Some of you know I have my own (unpublished) book written, and the "calendar" in it is based on temperatures and internal instincts (i.e. spawning) of the smallies. Again, IMHO, there is no such thing as a "winter" bite. If a fish is caught in VERY cold water, there has been a temperature change, or amount of sunlight change or something like a warmer spring influencing the activity of the smallmouth. The water must be increased over the mid 30 degree mark. (Again, IMHO).

Let me define "winter" as water temperatures that range from the mid 30s and lower. At these temperatures, the smallies pretty much shut down. A slight increase, however, and the chances of setting a hook are improved. Consistent water temperatures above the upper 30's to about the mid 40s are the "bookends" I like to target. Either late Fall, very early winter, or very late winter, early spring.

I'm sure I've left myself open for debate, and I welcome it. These are just my opinions, and should be viewed as such. I get on the websites and see folks talking about the wonderful winter bite going on, and I sit back and smirk. Yes, they are catching fish. Yes, it is in cold water. But this is what I've come to expect from water of this time. This is one of the best times of the year to target your trophy. But the water they are pulling their fish
out of is not the temperatures I consider "winter". Anyway I hope you guys can see the point I'm trying to make. Winter is more of temperature setting than a time on a calender.

One question; has anyone ever caught a smallmouth out of water that is, say 35 degrees? I'm talking about the entire water column being the same temperatures. Thirty seven degrees is the best I have ever done.

Having said all this, I for one tend to say the "Winter" season of smallmouth is a very dormant fish in a negative mood, and is not catchable, without an outside influence to trigger a bite.

Water temperature
Mid 30 through mid 40
should transition near
the end of this time frame.)

Water temperature
Mid 40 through mid 50
Beginning pre-spawn

Water temperature
Mid 50 through upper 60
Pre-spawn through spawn

Water temperature
Mid 60 and up
Immediate post spawn

Water temperature
Upper 60 through 70
Early summer

Water temperature
Highest of the year

Water temperature
Declining from the years maximum
Late summer

Water temperature
60 through 50 and declining
Early fall (no turnover on rivers)

Water temperature
Mid 30 through mid 40

Water temperature
Mid 30 or lower



I started chasing New River (and James River) smallies in the late '70's, not going at it as a trophy hunter, but just getting out to do something. I was gathering information, not by choice, but just by time invested on the river. I honestly went more by water temperatures and those foolish lunar tables than anything and really thought I was onto something.

 At some point I thought cold weather fishing was worth a try, so here I go. The light bulb came on a little when I realized that my trophies were increasing in number and they seemed to be in the late winter/early spring portion of the calendar.

I began to make mental records as well as compare notes with others that were stumbling onto this train of thought concerning photoperiod relative to big fish movement. Now, after years of miserable weather, fishless days or days with a single bite, I kinda put a lot of credence into this "theory". If I did get bit, chances were good it would be a big gal.

My Theory

As the hours of direct sunlight increase exponentially, all smallies are responding to the increased daylight are affected. The larger of the species, having more periods of light experiences, having their metabolism maturing too, are the first to move from their winter mode into a pre-spawn/feeding mood. This first wave is when I want to be wetting a line. The smaller (relative) specimens come later, as is my experience. THIS IS  NOT SET IN STONE!!! Last March, 37 º water temp, I got a single bite and was a 13"/14" fish. Not the norm. A couple of years ago, at the onset of the photoperiod, the water temps followed the air temps as they steadily climbed, and a 20" fish might be followed by a 9" fish. Again, other variables play into what is caught, not just the photoperiod. I just feel the photoperiod is the most powerful influence on early season fish movement.

 My smallies evolve into different fish at different periods of their lives. Different aged fish behave in very different manners. Anything under 18" is a liar, they'll act like some punk kid and do what they do with no regard to consequences. Over about 18" and you've got a developing  stalker/ambusher. Over 20" and they have a PhD in the ways of life on the river, and if this is your target size, bring your "A" game! The closet this larger size smallie is to predictable, in my not so humble opinion, is during the winter to spring transition of the photoperiod. As you can see, nothing has to do with the spawn, but pre-spawn. I refuse to fish for a spawning fish based on my personal ethics.