The New River Gorge has several fishing locations. If you are a beginner, you can hike to relatively easy-to-find pools, or if you are seeking more remote sections, you can brave the whitewater rapids (if you have the skills.)
Time To Complete
Though you can fish at the New River year-round, spring and fall in either the early morning or late evening are the most ideal.
On Leash Only
Keep your dog on a leash at all times, because there are other visitors enjoying hiking, boating, biking, and climbing nearby.
There may be fees if you opt to use a boat or access certain areas of the river that are in state parks.
The New River in southern West Virginia, is surrounded by rugged sandstone cliffs. The gorge begins at Bluestone Lake, and snakes its way through the mountains, carving a deep ravine as it goes. Former coal towns like Thurmond and Nuttallburg peek through the trees, and you can find Class III to Class V whitewater rapids in the river’s more remote sections. Boaters skilled enough to face the rapids will find gorgeous scenery and superb fishing pools. Plus, you pass under the famous New River Gorge Bridge, the longest single-arch bridge in the western hemisphere.
As adrenaline wanes, the river evolves into Hawks Nest Lake and the area known as The Dries, a rugged section with little access. Beyond that, the New meets the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River, which then continues on its journey toward Ohio.
The New River is diverse. Most areas are only accessible by boat, especially downstream of Grandview, but there are also excellent walk-and-wade opportunities in lower water near the Bluestone Dam. For thrill-seekers, the rolling rapids from Thurmond to Hawks Nest Lake will keep you on your toes, so whitewater skills are a necessity, and a whitewater raft with an oar rig is ideal. It is worth noting that while the river can be crowded with seasonal rafters May-August, it is unlikely to find them upstream, especially between Bluestone and Thurmond. Most of the traffic is on the final section before Hawks Nest Lake, where the major rapids are. Going out on a weekday will also decrease the likelihood of rafters passing by.
Smallmouth bass is the sought-after prey. They are abundant, and a variety of artificial lures will do the job. Musky and walleye are making a comeback, especially in recent years, since the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) stocked walleye at the base of Sandstone Falls, just outside of Hinton. Also, the catfish are huge, some with 40- to 50-pound flatheads. The New River’s tributaries are also excellent, boasting everything from smallmouth bass to walleye. Dunloup and Glade creeks are stocked with trout.
Be sure to match your gear to the target species. For smallmouth bass, you’ll want a 6.5-foot t0 7.5- foot medium-action spinning rod. This rod is strong enough to land larger smallmouth, and the occasional catfish or musky. If you are specifically catfishing, be sure to rig up with heavier gear. Fly rods also work just as well as conventional tackle on the New during the summer months.
Who is Going to Love It
The New River Gorge attracts all types and skill levels of adventure-seekers. Depending on water levels, this river is accessible to anglers of all ages, but you need whitewater skills for any section beyond Grandview, and particularly past Thurmond, because you will eventually encounter Class-V runs. If you prefer to avoid the rapids altogether, there are many spots throughout the park where you can set up on the shoreline, especially near the public access parking.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking is free at public access areas along the New River and its tributaries: Tug Creek Beach, Brooks Falls, Hellems Beach, and Sandstone Falls on River Road near Hinton; Meadow Creek; McCreery, Grandview Sandbar, Mill Creek, and Glade Creek off Highway 41 near Prince; Dunglen and Stone Cliff near Thurmond; Cunard; and Fayette Station. These areas have trails to hike down to the streams, but some shorelines are private property, so when you’re exploring away from designated public access, get permission from the property owner before fishing.
Though the New River Gorge National River is managed by the National Park Service, the DNR acts as law enforcement. You can find a full list of regulations online, but the primary one to remember is that all anglers must have a valid West Virginia Fishing License. Also, catch and release. Glade Creek, from the pedestrian bridge 3 miles down to the New River, is a catch and release for trout. The section from the I-64 bridge at Sandstone until 12 miles downstream at the Grandview Sandbar, is catch and release for black bass. This includes smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth bass.