Slot limit proposed for New River smallmouth bass

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Uniform creel limits and a change in regulations for black bass on the New River highlight the proposed changes to West Virginia’s fishing regulations for 2014. Division of Natural Resources Assistant Chief for Fisheries Mark Scott highlighted the 10 proposals during a recent meeting of the Natural Resources Commission in South Charleston.

The first proposal would establish a statewide 30-fish daily creel and 60-fish possession limit for black and white crappie in aggregate, all sunfish species in aggregate, and all other game fish which are not currently under a creel limit as well as yellow perch.

“It’s aimed at preventing over harvest We feel 30 fish is probably a reasonable amount if you want to keep some to eat. We’re going to study it and see if it needs to be tighter or more lose, but we think that’s a pretty good starting point for the state,” Scott said.

The changes to the New River are encapsulated in a pair of proposals put before the Commission. One proposal would remove the current black bass no-harvest regulation from the 12 mile section of the New River from the I-64 bridge downstream to the Grandview Sandbar. Biologists believe the catch-and-release area has been biologically ineffective. However, in a second proposed change, the agency proposes changing the regulation to a river wide 14″ to 22″ slot limit. According to Scott, anglers could only keep one fish over 22 inches on all black bass species. The slot limit would be in effect from the Virginia border all the way to the confluence at Gauley Bridge. The restriction would not apply to Bluestone Lake which would be defined as the area from the dam upstream to the Bull Falls boat ramp.

“That would match what Virginia is doing now and it should have some positive impacts but we will continue to study and look at it and tweak it if need be,” Scott said.

A proposal on the Kanawha River aimed to establish a four-fish daily creel limit and a 15-inch minimum size for all Moronidae species; striped bass, white bass, and hybrid striped bass. The proposal would include the Kanawha River from the confluence of the New and Gauley downstream to the Buffalo Bridge. It would remove the Kanawha from a statewide 30 fish daily creel. The DNR purchases hybrid stripers for stocking. Agency officials believe allowing for 30 of those under 15 inches to be caught and harvested isn’t efficient for providing a trophy fishery. The Comission approved similar regulations for Bluestone and R.D. Bailey Lakes last year.

Two other regulations changes would remove the 12-inch size limit for black bass from Wallback Lake. It’s a technical change since it was a long held regulation which was never published in the regulations and most of the DNR staff wasn’t even aware of its existence. The other proposed change would eliminate the season for dip netting and allow it year-round. The regulation had been in place for many years and biologist do not believe dip netting for shad or other bait fish around locks and dams will be harmful to any fisheries in the state.

Three proposed regulation changes for 2020 deal with trout fishing in the state. One proposal would a nearly mile long section of Shaver’s Fork at the Stuart Recreation Area from the Catch-and-Release restriction. According to fisheries biologists the area is poor habitat and is too warm for trout to carry over.

The agency also sought to remove Buffalo Creek in Fayette County from the Fly-Fishing Only regulation. According to Scott, the stream was developed as a fishery by Trout Unlimited many years ago and was a solid fishery until a flood in recent years caused major changes in river habitat. Recent surveys on the stream showed no trout left and no need for the restriction.

The final proposal involving trout was aimed at a unique fishery in Raleigh County. The agency proposed a 2-fish daily creel limit for all trout in Stephens Lake. The lake is extremely unusual. It’s a deep impoundment–but it’s also clear and that allows for light penetration as deep as 45 feet. The situation creates a rare water pattern.

“It stratifies and down below that thermocline light it still able to reach that lower layer of water about 45 feet deep so plants can produce oxygen through photosynthesis. So we have really well oxygenated water that stays cold. That’s prime trout water and it allows for those trout to grow,” Scott explained.

The Raleigh County Commission has agreed to pay for stocking trout in the lake in hopes of creating a trophy fishery. The creel limit is a request from the Commission to protect their investment.

All of the proposed regulations are out for public comment and will be available for review and discussion at the Sportsman’s Sectional Meetings in March.





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