Virginia Outdoorsman, Smith Mountain Lake

Fishing & Outdoor Report

Dec. 2 - Dec. 9, 2012









Water Temp: 53 - 60 degrees                                                                           Water Clarity: Good

The lake has cooled significantly over the past several months and based on the current long range weather forecast, the water temperature is expected to drop several more degrees as we move through December, but the current temperatures do not support that forecast. We are currently experiencing a "warm spell" and while temperatures are expected to dip midweek, this warm weather trend should continue into the coming weekend. We are expecting the daytime high temperature to range from the 40;s to over 70 degrees and the forecasted low temperatures will bein the 30's and 40's. The lake continues to be running between 4 and 5 feet below normal full pond. While we are expecting scatterred showers midweek, with little additional precipitation in the forecast it appears an end to the low lake water level is nowhere in sight. Skies are expected to be sunny to partly cloudy for the next several weeks. We will have significant but decreasing amounts of moonlight over the next two weeks with a last quarter moon on December 6th and the moon rising overhead an hour later each evening.

Overall the fishing continues to be mixed and the striper fishing is no exception. Anglers report using a number of different techniques and most report having limited success. Striped bass are being caught by fishermen presenting live bait in a number of different ways. Several report catching stripers from 18 to 40 feet below the surface with shad rigged on downlines. While schools are being located on electronics deeper in the water column, few report success catching those fish with live bait. Anglers report success with live shad on shotlines and freelines behind planer boards, floats and Redi-rigs, especially early and late in the day when stripers are being found inside main channel creeks and near secondary points and humps.

Stripers are also being caught by anglers trolling a variety of lures. Trolling the traditional three-way rig (with a lightweight flutter spoon and swimbait/heavy bucktail) as well as the Alabama and umbrella rigs is producing an occasional striper. Individuals also report catching stripers and an occasional bass while trolling a variety of different diving crankbaits and jerkbaits (Rapala Husky Jerk, Cotton Cordell Redfin, Storm Thunderstick) in shad imitating colors. Most anglers on the water this time of year are equipped with at least one rod rigged with a heavy jighead and fluke (or thin bodied swimbait) or a jigging spoon (Crippled Herring, Hopkins Shorty, CC Spoon). When a pod or school of  stripers are located using electronics these anglers often have success vertically jigging or casting counting down and retrieving these lures. Bucktails are another lure and is preferred by some who will at times add a fluke or other small trailer to help flair the hair giving the lure more body.

Bass fishing continues to be mixed and anglers are still finding fish both shallow and deep. Recent reports are that some anglers are having success casting finesse plastics on shaky head jigs and drop shot rigs up under deep water docks into shallow water and retrieving these lures very slowly back to their boats. Good areas for this technique include docks on guts and inside creeks where there is a rocky shoreline or some type of submerged structure (stumps and chunk rock) and bluffs that drop into sides of the river channel. Bass anglers are also reporting success with topwater lures, jerkbaits and spinner baits in locations where bass are feeding on schools of shad. Smallmouth bass are being caught in the lower lake near the rock points and largemouth inside creeks and guts where the water is slightly warmer than that surrounding it. Bass are still being found feeding on schooled shad in the very backs of creeks, but that pattern has, according to reports, not been as strong as in years past. This may be related to the low water levels as many of the flats in the very backs of creeks that have been productive in years past are no longer available due to the low water level this fall.

Bass suspending in deeper water off the front of deep water docks and natural rock bluffs are being caught by anglers using traditional drop shot rigs, crankbaits and crawfish imitating plastic trailers rigged on jigs. One of the hard to find, but highest quality bass jigs is called Bill’s Jigs and it is only available in selected local tackle shops. These jigs come in a variety of colors, but you can’t go wrong with Virginia Craw, Green Pumpkin or Sweet Suzanne. Plastic trailers that compliment these lures include green pumpkin, green pumpkin with purple flake, hardy craw and Bama bug. These are also good colors for plastic trailers on shaky head jigs. As usual, bass are also being caught on Carolina rigged plastics presented in traditional locations like the top and sides of long secondary points and humps and on Texas rigged worms around structure.

From all reports, crappie fishing continues to be fairly good this year. Anglers are using small “crappie” minnows to catch crappies holding off the ends of deep water laydowns and deep-water dock pilings. Crappies are also being caught in the tops of trees inside guts and creeks using small minnows as well as plastic trailers on lead headed jigs. When fishing with small minnows I suggest using a gold, thin wire, hook, light split shot and light line, especially in clear water. Anglers are also “”shooting”” lead headed jigs with plastic tailed grubs, minnow imitating plastics and small tubes up under overhanging structure including docks, counting them down and retrieving them. The small straight tail plastic trailers by Bobby Garland and Southern Pro, the small paddle tail grubs by Charlie Brewer and the Kalin Crappie Scrubs are very effective crappie jig trailers.

While the fishing usually improves as we move through the Advent and Christmas seasons and into the early part of the year, the danger associated with falling into the lake increases with the drop in water temperature. Close to 600 people die in the USA from hypothermia each year and should someone fall into the lake, even at its current temperature, it could easily prove fatal. I suggest everyone wear a life jacket or inflatable device anytime they are on the dock or a boat, especially when freezing conditions make footing treacherous. I also suggest you carry an extra set of warm clothing and a blanket on board this time of year. Let’s all keep an eye out for each other and be prepared to assist should someone fall into the water, especially in the winter when fewer people are on the lake. 

December is right around the corner and the sea gulls are starting to make their appearance around the lake, so the front edge of winter fishing is just around the corner. Enjoy the upcoming Advent season, stay warm, stay safe and tight lines.

                        Mike Snead