10 miles east of Morgantown in Monongalia County, Cheat Lake covers 1,730 acres, and was formed by the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the 1920s. It reaches depths of about 90 feet near the dam, but under the I-68 bridge, it is 20 feet. Biologists started fishery management more than 20 years ago, and the lake is quickly becoming one of the best bass fisheries in the state.
What Makes It Great
While Cheat Lake is known for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, yellow perch, and white bass, it also has a big population of channel catfish. The walleye population is maintained by stocking efforts by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR), but improved water quality allows some natural reproduction.
Cheat Lake Dam is owned by Allegheny Energy, a private hydropower company, and is not used in flood control, which means there’s no significant winter drawdown like other area lakes. The company is required to maintain 3 levels to protect aquatic life and recreation on the lake:
Winter (November- March) at 857- 870 feet above sea level
Spring (April) at 863- 870 feet
and summer (May- October) at 868- 870 feet.
There’s excellent fishing for sauger, walleye, and smallmouth bass at the tailwaters below the dam.
There are several options for accommodations and restaurants in the area if you are looking to make a weekend of it. Coopers Rock State Forest and Lakeview Resort are two of the closest, most popular options.
Who is Going to Love It
Cheat Lake is great for all ages and experience levels. There are several docks and piers, as well as boat ramps. Cheat Lake Park, next to the dam, has a fishing pier and cleaning station, as well as a beach and picnic areas.
One of the more recent draws to the lake has been competitive fishing. The Cheat Lake Angler’s Bass ClubCheat Lake Angler’s Bass Club has tournaments, sometimes as many as 5 a year. Some of these events are private, but the majority are open to the public.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To reach Cheat Lake, take Exit 7 off of I-68 to Cheat Road. This will lead you directly to the lake. There is plenty of parking at one of the marinas, the dam, or Cheat Lake Park.
There are 2 public boat launches. The Sunset Marina is open when the lake is at least 865 feet or higher, typically spring and summer. This ramp is closed from November to the end of March. A winter boat ramp near the dam is open from November through the end of March, as long as the lake is not frozen.
All anglers must purchase a West Virginia Fishing License. Visit WVDNR website for a list of local vendors. As of Jan. 1, 2016, there is a minimum length of 15 inches, and a daily limit of 8 walleye per person, per day.