Lake Anna Fishing: Complete Angler’s Guide

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Situated among the rolling hills of Virginia’s Northern Piedmont Region, Lake Anna is a large reservoir of intricate coves and creek arms. It’s home to some of Virginia’s best bass fishing.

In addition to being a largemouth powerhouse and a popular tournament lake, Lake Anna is also a great panfish and catfish lake and has developed into one of the great inland striper fisheries in Virginia. Its proximity to Richmond makes it a very popular place to wet a line.

Lake Anna covers an area of roughly 13,000 acres and has an average depth of about 33 feet. The lake reaches a maximum depth of 80 feet near the dam and has well-defined creek channels. 

Deep rock piles, abundant stands of water willow, multiple bridge crossings, and row after row of boathouses and docks also provide plenty of cover for fish and easy targets for anglers.

Created with the construction of the North Anna Dam in the 1970s, Lake Anna serves as a cooling lake for the Lake Anna Power Station. About 4,000 acres of the lake (often called the “hot side”) is private, while the remaining 9,000 acres (the “cold side”) are open to fishing and boating.

The lake’s public portion is generally divided into three parts—upper, middle and lower—for fishing and navigation. Each offers unique fishing opportunities. 

The upper lake consists of the North Anna River Arm and the Pamunkey River Arm, both of which offer more riverine habitat compared to the rest of Lake Anna. These upper areas provide spawning grounds for many species, making them excellent places to fish in springtime. 

The lower lake is deeper, clearer and more rocky, while the middle portion is intermediate between the other two.

The lower lake also receives warm water discharge from the power plant, making the fishing especially good in winter.

Lake Anna Bass Fishing

Consistently ranked among the best bass lakes in Virginia, Lake Anna supports a healthy and abundant largemouth bass population. Largemouths here are well-fed, and it’s not unusual to catch bass over 6 pounds.

Fish in the 2- to 3-pound range are exceptionally common. Gizzard shad, threadfin shad and blueback herring are all available as forage. Lures that imitate any of those baitfish should always be in your rotation.

Your best shot at a trophy bass is during the pre-spawn period from February to April. Bass often spend the entire winter in Lake Anna’s coves, especially during mild years. The upper end of the lake warms quickest, but the mid-lake area is often less muddy in springtime.

March usually offers peak pre-spawn fishing, and April is a great time to target bedding bass.

That being said, not all bass are on the same calendar. It’s common to see multiple patterns playing out at the same time in different parts of the lake around coves in the upper and mid-lake areas, including Plentiful, Gold Mine and Ware creeks in the upper lake, and Pigeon Run, Dukes and Sturgeon creeks in the middle section.

Suspending jerkbaits are popular during pre-spawn, and soft plastics fished close to the banks excel when bass are bedding.

Targeting docks is also often very productive in spring, and Lake Anna’s highly developed shorelines have plenty of them. 

Another crucial area of the lake is known as the Splits, where the North Anna and Pamunkey arms meet. A lot of bass are caught here both before and after the spawn, and spinnerbaits become highly effective as extensive beds of water willow proliferate in this area.

The Terry’s Run area of Lake Anna is another good section, and the area around Rose Valley Island can be excellent. The mouths of Levy Creek and Sturgeon Creek are also local favorites.

Bass often head toward deeper points and deep edges in summer. Night fishing is very effective during the hottest part of the year, with black-colored lures working best around the mouths of coves and rock piles along the creek channels. Nights with a full moon are best.

In the fall, look for bass to return to shallower water once again. A lot of the deep creeks off the main lake that were productive in spring will turn back on as bass follow shad into the shallows.

It’s worth noting that Lake Anna gets a lot of fishing pressure, and although bass are abundant, consistently catching quality fish isn’t always easy. When the bite is tough, break away from the crowds and try throwing something different than what everyone else is using.

Striper Fishing

Lake Anna has been stocked with striped bass for decades and has earned a reputation as one of Virginia’s best inland striper lakes. Anglers have caught stripers over 25 pounds here, though fish weighing 5 to 7 pounds are more typical. 

In recent years, hybrid stripers have also been added to the mix. Hybrid stripers share many traits with their two parent species—striped bass and white bass—and are intermediate in size between the two, making them smaller but bulkier than true stripers.

Both species exhibit similar behavior and follow similar patterns, including a preference for waters cooler than 70 degrees and a tendency to roam deep parts of Lake Anna in pursuit of schools of shad. 

They also make a spring spawning run up into the North Anna and Pamunkey lake arms, even though hybrid stripers are sterile and cannot reproduce. Nevertheless, this is a great time to target them in relatively shallow water. 

Expect to find stripers and hybrids in the uplake area from March through May.

Shad-imitating swimbaits like Swim Shad and Shad Assassins are popular and effective, along with various jerkbaits and blade baits. 

Stripers and hybrids are known for covering a lot of water. While it’s possible to narrow down the general area of the lake where they’re likely to be found in any given season, the reality is that they’ll probably be in different places from one day to the next.

The best advice is first to find the baitfish, and stripers are likely to follow. It’s always a good idea to call one of the local bait shops or marinas and inquire prior to fishing. 

Both species move back down into the main lake in summer. The lower end of Lake Anna stratifies more distinctly than the upper end, and stripers are usually found right around the thermocline, which can be anywhere from 10 to 20 feet down. 

Trolling is the most efficient way to find stripers in the lower and mid-lake areas in summer. But in fall, as Lake Anna cools off, these fish again head up into shallower water. The period from fall into winter might just be the best time to target them. 

Look to areas above the Splits starting in late September. Circling birds are often a telltale sign of stripers feeding on shad near the surface. Key areas often include Plentiful and Contrary creeks, Terry’s Run, and areas all over the Pamunkey branch. 

In winter, the Dike 3 area at the lower end of the lake is popular. Warm water discharge from the Lake Anna Power Station attracts stripers and hybrids during the colder months, and bank access is available.

Crappie Fishing

While Lake Anna’s reputation mostly rests upon its largemouth and striped bass fishery, there’s also a great black crappie population here. Most years, anglers catch lots of 10- to 12-inch fish, along with some serious slabs over 2 pounds. 

The size and abundance of Lake Anna’s crappies can be cyclical, but there’s always a reason to cast a line for ‘specks’ in springtime. That being said, anglers catch crappies in Lake Anna in every season.

Crappies inhabit areas all over the lake, but the uplake area is consistently the most productive. Above the Splits, the North Anna and Pamunkey Arms offer phenomenal crappie fishing. It all starts in the dead of winter, long before most spring crappie fanatics hit the water. 

In winter, crappies congregate around deeper brush piles, typically just above the edge of the river channel. In areas near the Splits, the best cover is generally in 20 to 25 feet of water. Farther up the river arms where the water is generally shallower, try 15- to 20-foot depths. 

Local anglers have sunk countless brush piles, and the DWR has placed a few major artificial reefs. Key areas include Stubbs Bridge, the tip of Rose Valley Island, the mouths of Ware and Plentiful creeks, and the point straight off the Splits.

As the water warms up, crappies head shallow. The fishing in creeks and coves off the two main arms really gets good when the water temperature passes 50 degrees. March is good, but April is often even better. 

Water willow, referred to locally as willow grass, provides crucial spawning habitat for crappies. Targeting this vegetation is pretty much always a sure bet in spring. This tactic is especially popular in the North Anna Arm, where water willow is prolific. 

In the Pamunkey Arm, targeting docks and stumps is often just as productive, and some crappies also relate to rocks and riprap. The upper reaches of Terry’s Run often offer great spring crappie fishing.

The best lure for spring crappies is a 1/16-ounce jighead with a 2-inch soft plastic trailer like a tube or grub. High-vis colors like chartreuse and hot pink are often best, and a flashier offering like a Beetle Spin may fare better if the water is muddy.

As summer approaches, crappies head back to deeper cover, often using bridges as cover along routes back to deep haunts. Choose any of the bridges across the upper lake and work your way from piling to piling until you hit the right depth.

Bridges are also important in fall, as crappies head in the opposite direction. All three of the US Route 522 crossings can be excellent, and deeper boat docks can also attract crappies.

Slip bobbers are handy tools to easily adjust the depth of your baits as you search for them.

Other Fish Species

Lake Anna supports a wide range of additional fish species, including many that may be of interest to anglers. Don’t miss a chance to target some of these other game fish in Lake Anna: 

Channel Catfish

Although Lake Anna isn’t widely considered to be one of Virginia’s best catfish lakes, that’s only because there are so many truly excellent catfish waters in the state. Nevertheless, Lake Anna supports an abundant channel cat population. 

Anglers mostly target channel cats here in summer, when the fishing for many other species slows. Catfish are frequently caught in spring and fall as well. Most weigh 2 to 4 pounds, but it’s possible to encounter the occasional giant in the 20-pound class.

Catfishing tends to be best on summer nights, especially for bank anglers. Plenty of feisty channel cats are caught during daylight hours too, but they’re generally a little deeper when the sun is up.

Baits of choice are chicken livers, cut bait and live nightcrawlers fished close to the bottom on a slip bobber rig.

The best fishing is generally in coves and toward the upper end of the lake. Anglers who target brush piles and timber catch plenty.

Bluegill & Sunfish

A good population of bluegill is available in Lake Anna, including numerous 5- and 6-inch fish. Larger bluegill are rare here, but smaller panfish are abundant and are frequently caught from shore, providing ample entertainment for kids on family fishing trips.

Bluegill usually gravitate to weed beds and populate virtually all of Lake Anna’s coves.

Fishing around and under docks can also be highly productive using live worms and small jigs. Ultralight tackle is ideal.  

While bluegill are the most abundant sunfish species in Lake Anna, the lake also supports redear sunfish, redbreast sunfish, green sunfish and warmouth. Collectively referred to as bream, anglers catch all of these panfish using simple methods with live bait.

White & Yellow Perch

White perch are one of the most abundant fish species in Lake Anna, commonly measuring 8 to 12 inches. Technically, white perch are members of the temperate bass family, making them closely related to stripers. They share a similar affinity for cool open waters.

Late fall and winter are the best seasons to catch white perch in relatively shallow water, and most anglers who target them do so in these seasons.

Small minnow-imitating jigs and spinners are excellent baits, and 100-fish days are common when the bite is going strong.

Lake Anna also has a modest population of yellow perch, which are commonly caught by anglers targeting other species.

Yellow perch here typically measure 6 to 8 inches and inhabit areas with a mix of rocks and vegetation.

Walleye & Saugeye

The Virginia DWR stocked walleye in Lake Anna for many years. However, due to low survival rates and a lack of angler interest, the department switched to stocking saugeye—hatchery-raised hybrids between walleye and sauger—in 2006.

At present, saugeye have not been stocked since 2014.

That said, they are capable of natural reproduction. Anglers still catch some from late fall through early spring.

The Dike 3 area is a popular place to find them.

Northern Snakehead

The presence of northern snakehead in Lake Anna was confirmed in 2017, and catches have increased in frequency during the years since.

Snakehead fish are invasive and potentially highly damaging to the native fishery and should be removed from the lake if caught. It is illegal to possess a live northern snakehead in Virginia.

Planning Your Trip

There’s no bad time of year to plan a trip to Lake Anna, though spring is arguably the season that offers the widest variety of excellent fishing opportunities.

The lake is busiest in summer, but with so many coves and creeks, it’s seldom hard to get away from the crowds.

Although private residences line much of Lake Anna’s shoreline, the surrounding area is quite rural.

Small towns like Mineral and Bumpass are just a short drive from the lake and offer a wide range of lodging, shopping and dining options.  

Getting to Lake Anna

Lake Anna is just over an hour north of Richmond via I-64 and US 522. The lake is also a little more than 2 hours south of Washington, DC, via I-95 and State Route 208. Its proximity to multiple large cities makes Lake Anna a popular recreation lake, especially in summer. 

Bank & Boat Access

Lake Anna has only a handful of public access sites, which somewhat limits opportunities for shorebound anglers. Even so, there are some great places to get on the water.

Lake Anna State Park is the primary public access, encompassing over 3,000 acres on the north shore of the lake directly across from the convergence of the North Anna and Pamunkey Arms, putting it near multiple Lake Anna fishing hot spots. Camping and cabins are available in the park.

In addition to boat launch facilities, the state park also offers excellent bank access, including extensive stretches of riprap banks and a T-shaped fishing pier. Lake Anna State Park also has a small fishing pond separate from the main lake.

The other major spot for shore fishing on Lake Anna is the Dike 3 Public Fishing Area. Located toward the lower end of the lake, Dike 3 offers access near the warm water discharge from the power plant, making it a perfect spot during the colder months.

In addition to the public sites listed above, Lake Anna is home to numerous privately owned marinas that offer boat launch facilities, rentals, docking and tackle sales. Some also include camping and bank fishing access.