In the 1960s the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) built a dam in Nicholas County to control flooding on the Gauley and Kanawha Rivers. This dam created Summersville Lake, West Virginia’s largest body of water. It has more than 60 miles of shoreline and 2,700 acres of water—plenty of room for fish to call home.
All of the coves at Summersville Lake create a sense of seclusion and other than the handful of campgrounds and a marina, there is no development on the lake. There are no sprawling mansions or rowdy bars. Beyond the busy summer months, there may not even be another soul in sight—just you and the water.
What Makes It Great
The secluded coves at Summersville Lake harbor a variety of fish, including smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, walleye, and sometimes even rainbow trout (when the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources stocks them). The lake is lowered every fall and then refilled in the spring so there is always a clean and clear body of water ready for you to explore.
The single best time of year to fish at Summersville Lake is after the “Fall Drawdown” when USACE releases water from Summersville Dam. Once the lake is at winter pool, usually in early to mid-November, the walleye are very active. As the lake shrinks, the fish migrate to smaller coves, making them easier to find. The walleye will also move upstream toward the Gauley River to spawn in late winter and early spring.
During the summer, fishing can be sparse as the lake transforms into a haven for summer vacationers and their speedboats. But all you have to do is find a quiet, secluded spot in a no-wake zone. This is one of the best ways to catch bass. You can also go night fishing and you should have pretty good luck during the hours just before daybreak.
If you want to spend a few days in the area, Mountain Lake Campground and Summersville Lake Retreat are great options. Sarge’s Dive Shop at the marina has basic provisions, and nearby Summersville has a variety of accommodations and restaurants.
Who is Going to Love It
The fishing here is great for all ages and skill levels, though there are a few things to keep in mind. Hiking trails are steep and remote, so go with someone familiar with the area for your first time. The lake is also very deep, so be sure to wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) if you are boating.
The lake attracts hundreds of boaters and swimmers during the summer months, which can lead to large crowds and disrupting noise, making the fish harder to find. Because of this, seasoned anglers may want to avoid the lake from May-August. If you do go during the busy season, choosing your spot carefully can help. Avoid high traffic areas in the western end, like Summersville Lake Marina and Battle Run Campground. Try exploring the waters near Route 39 in Canvas, or settle into the Summersville Lake Wildlife Management Area just beyond the marina.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To reach the Summersville Lake Marina, take Route 19 to County Road 19/32. You will go through part of the Summersville Lake Wildlife Management Area before reaching the marina.
You can find boat ramps and parking at several locations, including Battle Run, Salmon Run, and the Summersville Lake Marina. There are several trails near the dam and beyond, but be careful when both parking and hiking at these locations.