Many characterize Smith Mountain Lake as an Angler’s Paradise. Benefiting from VDGIF (Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries) stocking programs, bass—especially the strong-fighting, great-eating “striped bass” (also known as “rock fish” when fished in coastal waters)—are plentiful. Those who opt for a half or full day with any of the lake’s professional fishing guides (search Laker Media’s Laker Magazine, June, 2019, for a partial list) typically net their limits and can enjoy a fresh fish dinner that evening. Stripers routinely run 16 to 18 inches (4-6 pounds, but “citation” fish–20 pounds/37” and up for stripers–are not uncommon. Slot limits are sometimes in effect to allow medium-sized fish to mature into trophy size. Serious fisher folk can join the SML Striper Club to hang out with others who share their passion and know the best baits and places to use them.
The nationally-televised BassMaster Classic was held here in 2007, and there is an annual spring Bass Classic. More localized tournaments are held most weekends. Prospective visitors can find schedules and other good fishing info at www.dgif.virginia.gov.
Pan fish can be easily caught off privaer docks, and there is a public fishing pier at the SML Community Park in Franklin County. Anglers must carry an inexpensive license (available in convenience stores and tackle shops, by phone or on line at www.virginia.gov) except for dock owners and their children fishing off their own docks. Cove casting for stripers can yield impressive fish, especially when a “bait-fish boil” erupts within casting distance of dock or shore. Trolling with down lines, planer boards and umbrella rigs can all be productive, depending on season, water temperature, moon phase and weather conditions. Angling advice for visitors is dispensed freely anywhere bait and tackle are sold.
A local song praising the delights of SML proclaims, “You know, the fishing is fine for those who know where to try!” Few leave disappointed by that promise.