December can be a rough month to fish but there are some standouts that make a trip to the water worth your time. Don’t put away the rods yet!
Here is an overview and below a few specifics.
Catfish –The smaller cats are less inclined to steal your bait now and the larger fish tend to be more cooperative if that is what you are after. The lower James, Chickahominy, Rappahannock and Potomac River are all great destinations. The Potomac can be colder due to its location and the wideness of the river, which allows a good wind to whip up. Fish ledges near deep water with fresh bait if possible. If you cannot get fresh bunker or mud shad try eels.
Striped bass –Striped bass are very active this month in landlocked lakes and Virginia is blessed with more than a few. There are several places around Virginia Beach, Buggs Island, Smith Mountain and Lake Anna all offer good action. Fish cranks deep and look for bait or fish on your finder. Jumbo minnows are also very good this month. Trolling will work but that makes for colder and slower paced fishing. The lower tidal rivers are also open season for a while too and there are definitely fish there to be had. Sassy shads on jigs, spoons or long crankbaits will do the number.
Chain Pickerel –The tidal portions of Virginia are excellent places to cast a spoon, thin crankbait or minnow for these toothy game fish. Use slow retrievals. The Chickahominy, lakes around Virginia Beach and the sloughs and creeks off the Potomac River will draw strikes. Fish next to cover. These fish love cover to ambush prey in December. They taste the best out of cold water so don’t overlook broiling a few for supper this month.
Crappie –Cold never really shuts down the crappie bite for long. Any of your favorite crappie haunts to include Briery, Sandy River, Anna, Buggs, Smith Mountain, Occoquan or ponds are great places to SLOWLY drag or troll a minnow for crappie this month. Mark fish on a finder near structure and you know where to start. They can be picky about the offering so use bright colors or white and get it precisely to their depth. This may mean you need to count out the line by the foot or pulls from your reel. Get a line counter if you need to. It will be well worth it.
Smallmouth –Smallmouth fishing this month will slow some and the bite will turn softer too. Keep a tight line or an eye on your line as you drift soft plastics, jigs or minnows through backwashes or pools along the upper rivers such as the Potomac, Rappahannock, James, New or Shenandoah. Choose sunny areas if you can and make long casts to avoid spooking the fish. Fish slowly to get the best hits. Some of the largest smallmouth are caught this way each winter. If you want to use a plug try a suspending model in a chartreuse color.
Largemouth –Over the years we have collected reports we noticed that the bass in the bigger lakes and reservoirs tend to be caught deeper in 15-20 feet of water off points, ledges or other structure. Stumps are good as are boulders. Successful anglers fish slow with jigs, soft plastics or spoons. Minnows will work too. Don’t be afraid to run a crank down that deep if you can but think about how far you are going to have to cast to allow it time to get down to the proper depth.
Fish caught at this time of year are tasty coming out of cool water. The meat has a cleaner taste and a firmer texture and after eating your fill of turkey, duck or venison throw a fish fry and watch eyes light up! Merry Christmas.
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