New River offers more than trophy smallmouths
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's "whopper time." The warm months between late spring and early fall are when lots of people go fishing, and it's when they catch lots of big fish.
Last year, West Virginians earned 684 Trophy Fish Citations from the state Division of Natural Resources. DNR officials award the certificates to anglers whose fish meet the agency's size requirements.
They also keep records on which waters yield the most trophies. The list for 2012 included 89 creeks, rivers, lakes and ponds. Twenty-five different species of fish were represented.
Problem was, the list didn't clearly indicate which bodies of water produced the most of any given species. Well, I'm a nerd. I wanted to know.
So I took the supplied information, entered it into a computer spreadsheet and printed out the results.
Very quickly, it became apparent that a handful of species garnered the lion's share of the trophies.
To be precise, seven species - largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, muskellunge, brook trout and rainbow trout - accounted for 441 of the 684 citation-sized fish.
But before you dig into the statistics, remember a couple of things:
One, the brook- and rainbow-trout numbers are more a reflection of where the DNR stocks trophy-sized "brood fish" than an indication of a true trophy fishery.
Also, bear in mind that some waters' numbers might be artificially inflated because a local angler fishes a lot, catches a lot of fish, and has a goal to wallpaper his or her house with citations.
With no further ado, then, here are the top waters for each species:
So what do the statistics mean? Well, if you like to catch big bass, catfish or muskies, plan to spend some time on the New River. If you like to catch big trout, follow a stocking truck.