Largemouth bass are by far the most popular species in the lake. According to the VDGIF, 59% of the total fishing effort for the lake in 2007 was for largemouth bass. Since then, an outbreak of largemouth bass virus has reduced the population, but it seems to be rebounding from its low in 2010. The regulation for largemouth bass is a modified 14-inch minimum length limit and a five-fish-per-day bag limit. Two of the five bass allowed for harvest can be less than 14 inches.
Kerr Lake is one of only a few lakes in the country where striped bass reproduce naturally. Each spring, adult fish migrate up the Staunton and Dan Rivers to spawn, making them plentiful in the upper end of the lake. During the summer, they congregate in the lower end of the lake, where they can find the only cool, oxygenated water available at that time. Fishing during the fall and winter is typically best from Goat Island to the Clarksville Bridge, although striped bass may be found throughout the lake.
From June to September, the VDGIF asks that anglers halt striper fishing when they catch their legal limit of four striped bass per day rather than continue to catch fish and cull smaller individuals (on the plus side, they’ve removed the size limit restriction). Despite the good intentions of culling, about 75 percent of smaller striped bass caught during the summer died after being released. During the rest of the year, striped bass don’t have such high death rates, so the regular rules apply.
Crappie are the second most sought-after species at Kerr Lake, making up about 20% of the total fishing effort and 74% of the total fish harvested from the lake. Fishing for crappie is typically best from February through April, although it’s pretty good the rest of the year, too. If the lake isn’t giving you the results you want, try one of the creeks branching off of it: Buffalo, Grassy, Bluestone and Butcher Creeks are very productive for crappie. There is no length or bag limit on crappie caught in Kerr Lake.
You want catfish? We got catfish. Kerr Lake is home to blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish and white catfish, with the blue catfish gaining the most attention from anglers. Based on VDGIF gill net surveys, blue catfish are the most abundant of the four species and also grow the largest. (Some can even grow up to 143 pounds!) **sidebar, obvs, goes here** The blue catfish fishery gains popularity each year and attracts anglers and tournaments from all over the country. Blue catfish might even have overtaken crappie as the second most sought-after species on the lake, behind only largemouth bass. Anglers can catch blue catfish year-round while summer is best for flatheads and channels. Catfish fishing tends to be better from late afternoon to late morning. The best areas for catfish tend to be from Goat Island to the confluence of the Dan and Staunton Rivers. The only limit on catfish? You can only catch one blue catfish a day that’s 32 inches or longer.
White perch were first documented by VDGIF biologists in 1988; since that time, the white perch population has exploded and they are now one of the most abundant species in the lake. White perch rarely exceed 10 inches, which likely limits their popularity with anglers.
Walleyes are in the lake, but not terribly abundant. Gill net samples conducted by VDGIF biologists in the fall routinely pick up walleye (2-6 pounds) in the South Bend area near Goat Island.