Lake Gaston Fishing Report: Complete Angler’s Guide

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Part of a chain of lakes fed by the Roanoke River, Lake Gaston is an exceptional fishing lake for largemouth bass, blue catfish, striped bass and several other species. It’s a true four-season lake where great fishing is available any time of year. 

Lake Gaston is located immediately below Kerr Reservoir (also known as Buggs Island Lake), and the John H. Kerr Dam marks the end of one lake and the beginning of the other. From here, Lake Gaston stretches 35 miles from west to east, and spans roughly 20,300 acres.

Though it is unquestionably a large body of water, Lake Gaston is less than half the size of Kerr Lake, making it an easier lake to figure out for a relative newcomer.

Its water levels are also more stable than its upstream neighbor’s, making it a more predictable place to fish.

Anglers on Lake Gaston can take advantage of deep main lake structure, including long, sloping points and rocky humps adjacent to the river channel. There’s also great shallow cover here, including multiple creek arms lined with boat docks, riprap, and lush weed beds.

Lake Gaston lies across the border between North Carolina and Virginia. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) jointly manage the reservoir.

Though the larger share of the lake lies within North Carolina, both states offer excellent access and ample opportunities to take advantage of this world-class fishing lake.

Bass Fishing: Lake Gaston Tips

Largemouth bass are by far the most targeted species in Lake Gaston, receiving over 75% of the lake’s angler attention in surveys by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. Bass fishing is consistently excellent, with abundant 2- to 4-pound largemouths.

Some bigger fish are also available, though Gaston is generally a numbers lake that isn’t known for producing trophy largemouths quite like neighboring Kerr Lake.

Still, if you’re after big bass, spring is the best time to catch them.

The month of March will find largemouths in pre-spawn mode throughout Lake Gaston. Expect to see more and more fish heading towards shallow water from winter haunts this time of year, especially during a good string of warm days.

Creeks on the north side of the lake warm up fastest and are the first to turn on in springtime, with Lizard Creek and Pea Hill Creek being top early spots. Southside arms like Poe Creek and Stonehouse Creek start to get cooking a little later.

Spawning takes place in stages and often spans a month or more across different parts of Lake Gaston. Expect to see bass on beds in early April in shallow northern coves and creeks and as late as June in cooler areas on the main lake.

Overall, Gaston’s coves and creek arms are the best places for bass fishing, especially since the introduction of Alabama spotted bass, which favor main lake habitat and have pushed largemouths more and more into the coves in the last decade.

During the period around the spawn, focus on pockets between grass beds, around stumps and laydowns, under docks and boathouses, and along riprap banks. Lake Gaston offers all of the above in abundance. 

Docks and other artificial structures can be a lot of fun to fish in springtime. Try working your way along the shorelines, tossing a Senko, soft jerkbait or tube jig under and around docks as you go.

From May into June, as bass recover from the spawn and start feeding again, the best bite shifts to bridge pilings, humps, points and weed lines. Elodea, milfoil and hydrilla grow prolifically in the lake’s coves, with the deep weed line typically forming around 10 feet.

Bass often key in on shad on main lake points in summer, especially when there’s some current from the John H. Kerr Dam.

Where current is less of a factor, bedding bluegill keep bass occupied in the coves. Try a bluegill-colored topwater early in the morning.

Lake Gaston Striper Fishing

Much like Kerr Lake above it, Lake Gaston has been stocked with striped bass for decades, offering anglers a great opportunity to catch this anadromous species in a landlocked setting. Typical Lake Gaston stripers weigh 4 or 5 pounds, with occasional fish over 10 pounds. 

Stripers (a.k.a. rockfish in this part of the country) tend to favor cooler conditions, and can become stressed when temps are above 75 degrees. With that in mind, stripers’ seasonal movements in Lake Gaston are based not only on the location of baitfish but also on water temperature.

During the warmer part of the year, anglers usually find stripers in the deep water of the open lake. Releases from the John H. Kerr Dam frequently introduce cool, well-oxygenated waters into Lake Gaston, attracting stripers to the main river channel.

The area from the Eaton Ferry Bridge to the dam is best in summer, and stripers are likely to school up in open water anywhere from the surface down to the thermocline, which is usually between 20 and 25 feet. 

Trolling is the method of choice when stripers are in open water. Work your way across points, humps and creek mouths close to the river channel, setting various lures at a range of depths.

Winter also offers excellent striped bass fishing. Cooler temperatures give rockfish free range across Lake Gaston, and there’s often great action close to the surface as packs of stripers corral schools of shad and herring. 

The best areas in winter are similar to the best areas in summer: mostly channel swings and main lake humps. It’s also possible to find stripers in the creeks this time of year.

Stripers are notorious for moving around a lot, so stay mobile and be ready to cover a lot of water. 

Some of the best fishing takes place on calm days between November and February, when it’s often possible to sight-fish for topwater stripers. Bucktails, Rat-L-Traps and Zara Spooks are among the best lures. 

In spring, stripers concentrate at the upper end of the lake, providing some of the best opportunities to catch them from shore.

The tailrace below the Kerr Dam is another great spring spot.

Lake Gaston Catfish Fishing

Lake Gaston is easily one of the best catfish lakes in North Carolina. Channel, flathead and blue catfish are all abundant, each offering excellent fishing opportunities in various seasons. 

In particular, Lake Gaston has become known as a trophy blue cat fishery in recent years. The lake has produced at least four state-record blue catfish, and North Carolina’s current 127.1-pound record was caught in a nearby section of the Roanoke River.

Catfish are truly a fish of all seasons.

Although many catfishers consider summer prime time for catfishing, many of the biggest catfish in Lake Gaston are caught in winter. As soon as water temperatures drop into the mid- to low 60s, big blue gats start feeding heavily.

It also runs contrary to catfish tradition that trophy blue catfish are often caught in broad daylight here. Though night fishing can be productive, drifting and trolling during daylight hours often produce more and bigger fish. 

Top spots for blue catfish are tough to pin down, as they largely depend on the movements of baitfish. Key areas include main lake humps, channel edges, and any creek mouth where a creek channel intersects with the main river channel.

Cut shad is the top producer for blue cats, but any cut bait can do the trick, including white perch and bluegill.

Most local catfish anglers use Santee rigs, which involve a slinky-style weight 24 to 36 inches above the hook and a 2-inch peg float just above the bait for buoyancy.

Fishing for blue catfish usually starts to get good in September most years, with December being the peak month. Blue cats weighing 10 to 15 pounds are typical, and you have a solid shot at a 50-pounder on any given day. 

Lake Gaston also offers great fishing for channel catfish, which commonly weigh 2 to 5 pounds.

Some of the best fishing for them is at the upper end of the lake. In fact, anglers catch lots of channel cats from the fishing platform below the John H. Kerr Dam in spring and summer.

Flatheads are often caught in this area, too, as well as around brush and timber throughout the upper end of the lake and in most coves.

Live bluegill and shad are great flathead baits, and the best fishing for this particular species is usually after dark on summer nights.

Other Fish Species

A wide range of fish call Lake Gaston home, and the species listed below are every bit as common as those mentioned above.

In addition, the lake also supports abundant bluegill and bream, as well as more limited populations of chain pickerel and yellow perch. 


Lake Gaston is often overlooked among the region’s great crappie lakes, but there’s some really excellent crappie fishing here.

This lake doesn’t put up the kinds of numbers that other reservoirs across the state do, but the size of the fish is more impressive.

Crappies over 10 inches make up a substantial share of the population, and it’s not unusual to catch slabs that weigh 2 pounds or more. Unsurprisingly, the best time to catch them is from winter into spring. 

In January and early February, look for crappies around deep brush piles and bridge pilings. Depths around 8 to 10 feet are usually best, and a minnow beneath a slip float is the ideal bait.

As the lake starts to warm up, crappies will start to head toward the backs of creeks from February into March. Lizard, Peahill, Holly Grove and Poplar creeks—all on the north side of the lake—are especially good, but just about any creek has potential. 

It’s common to find crappies in less than 5 feet of water from March into April. Once they’ve spawned in shallow brush and water willows, crappies will head back to deeper areas for the summer.

Crappies aren’t always easy to find during the warmer months, but fishing can be good right around sundown, particularly around docks that reach out into deep water near the creek and river channels.

Look for crappies to return to shallow creeks in the fall.


Walleye are native to the Roanoke River, and a significant population has developed in Lake Gaston through a combination of natural reproduction and annual stocking by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. 

Relatively few anglers target walleye here, but if you fish the upper end of Like Gaston for channel catfish or stripers, you’re likely to catch one from time to time.

If you want to specifically target walleye, the best time is late winter and early spring.

Walleye stack up below the dam at the upper end of Lake Gaston this time of year.

They eagerly bite minnow-tipped jigs. Cast around current breaks and seams; walleye typically hunt in slack areas just outside the fast water. 

Keep your bait close to the bottom for best results. Walleye occasionally reach 7 or 8 pounds here, with 2- and 3-pound fish being typical.

White Perch

White perch are extremely abundant in Lake Gaston. Similar in both habit and appearance to white bass (to which they are closely related), white perch commonly measure 8 to 10 inches and weigh up to about a pound. 

These are schooling fish, and when you catch one, you can count on there being more nearby.

Long, sloping points and main lake humps are the best places to find white perch throughout most of the year, though they often chase schools of smaller baitfish into the coves in fall. 

Any small, minnow-imitating lure can tempt bites from white perch, from spinners and spoons to jigs and crankbaits.

Many anglers catch white perch simply to use them as bait for catfish, but larger perch also make excellent table fare. 

Spotted Bass

The introduction of Alabama spotted bass to Lake Gaston has caused a lot of worry among local anglers and state biologists alike. Since they were first discovered here in 2012, their numbers have greatly increased, to the point that they are competing fiercely with largemouths. 

There is currently no limit on spotted bass in Lake Gaston, and state officials encourage anglers to keep any they catch.

Sp spotted bass are more prone to inhabit open water than largemouths, and spots typically relate to woody and rocky areas on the main lake. 

Any lure that works for largemouth bass will also work for spotted bass, which are aggressive and often noted for biting more readily than largemouths. Shad imitations are especially effective.

Planning Your Trip

Lake Gaston is a popular recreation lake for boating and watersports, in addition to fishing. Boat traffic can be heavy on the main lake, but anglers can usually find secluded spots to fish, especially outside of the busy summer season.

A handful of campgrounds, RV parks and resorts are located on the lake. 

Several small towns on and near the lakeshore offer amenities like shopping, dining and lodging, most notably Littleton and Henrico on the North Carolina side, and Bracey and Gasburg on the Virginia side.

Getting to Lake Gaston

Both I-95 and I-85 provide access to the Lake Gaston area, and the latter crosses the lake near its upper end. Lake Gaston is 60 to 90 minutes north of the Raleigh-Durham area via I-85 or US 401. It’s only slightly farther from Richmond, Virginia.

Bank & Boat Access – North Carolina

The majority of Lake Gaston’s 350-mile shoreline lies within North Carolina, and you’ll find multiple excellent access points in the Tar Heel State. Lake Gaston fishing hot spots and boat ramps in North Carolina include:

  • Lake Gaston Day Use Area: At the lower (eastern) end of the lake near the Gaston Dam and Power Station, the Lake Gaston Day Use Area is a popular recreation area with a boat launch, fishing pier, swimming beach and picnic area. 
  • Summit Boat Ramp: With a single-lane launch and parking for up to 75 trailers, the Summit Boat Ramp is a NC Wildlife Resources Commission boat ramp on the Lee’s Creek Arm, on the south side of Lake Gaston. Bank fishing access is limited.
  • Henrico Boat Ramp: This north shore boat launch includes a single-lane ramp with a concrete pier and parking for 14 trailers. The Henrico Boat Ramp has limited bank access and is a short boat ride from the Pea Creek Arm of the lake.
  • Salmon’s Landing Boat Ramp: Offering a double launch ramp and 30-trailer parking lot, Salmon’s Landing is located on the south shore of Lake Gaston, on the Big Stonehouse Creek Arm. A dock and limited bank access is available.
  • Hawtree Creek Boat Ramp: The closest North Carolina launch to the upper end of Lake Gaston, the Hawtree Creek Boat Ramp is located on its namesake creek and offers a double-lane ramp, courtesy dock, and parking for 44 trailers.

Bank & Boat Access – Virginia

Although Virginia claims the smaller share of Lake Gaston, it offers several quality bank and boat access sites, including some top fishing spots on the upper reservoir just below Kerr Lake. Some of the best places to get on the water in Virginia include:

  • Pea Hill Boat Ramp: Maintained by the VA Department of Wildlife Resources, the Pea Hill Boat Ramp is the easternmost launch on Virginia’s side of the lake, with a two-lane ramp, courtesy dock, and parking for over 50 trailers on the Pea Hill Creek Arm.
  • Poplar Creek Boat Ramp: A two-lane launch, courtesy dock, and 50-plus trailer parking lot are at the Poplar Creek Boat Ramp, another VA DWR launch site on the north shore. Bank access is limited, but anglers often fish along the nearby causeway.
  • Steel Bridge Boat Ramp: At the upper end of Lake Gaston, the Steel Bridge Boat Ramp has a separate kayak launch and a one-lane concrete ramp. Parking for 30 trailers is available, and a fishing platform makes this a popular spot for bank anglers.
  • Liberty Hill Fishing Access: On the south side of the lake below the John H. Kerr Dam, the Liberty Hill Fishing Access & Hiking Trail is an excellent bank fishing spot in the tailrace area. Access is by foot only, with parking nearby at the dam overlook site.
  • Tailrace Park: Directly across the lake from Liberty Hill, Tailrace Park is an excellent place to fish the bank below the Kerr Dam at the upper end of Lake Gaston. This spot also offers a concrete boat ramp with parking for 46 vehicles and 12 trailers.

Know Before You Go

North Carolina and Virginia have a reciprocal agreement that allows anglers from either state to fish anywhere on Lake Gaston by boat.

Virginia fishing regulations apply to Virginia portions of the lake, and North Carolina regulations apply to North Carolina portions.