Walleye might not be the first game fish that Virginia anglers think to cast for in their own backyards, but there are some truly impressive walleye fishing opportunities in the Old Dominion State.
Commonly measuring 24 inches and capable of exceeding 10 pounds, walleye are toothy predators that thrive in rivers and lakes alike. They prefer cool water and shy away from direct sunlight, so the best fishing for them is usually in early spring and often after dark.
Walleye are native to just a handful of Virginia rivers, primarily in the Tennessee River drainage. But they have been widely introduced elsewhere in the state thanks to stocking by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
Today, there are more and better walleye fishing opportunities in Virginia than ever before. These are the best places to catch them.
Best Walleye Rivers in Virginia
Offering world-class smallmouth bass fishing and what might be the best walleye fishing in Virginia, the New River flows northward from North Carolina, eventually crossing both Virginia and West Virginia before its waters reach the Ohio River.
Multiple state record walleye have been caught in the New River, including the current 15-pound, 15-ounce record. The river is home to a unique strain of walleye that are not found anywhere in the world outside of the New River drainage.
Walleye fishing in the New River is at its best from winter into spring. The spawning season runs from roughly February to May, and walleye make an upriver migration throughout these months.
Look for walleye along ledges, at the upper and lower ends of deep pools, at the mouths of smaller tributaries, and downstream of any structure that creates a break in the current, like a large boulder, sand bar, island or bridge piling.
Fosters Falls and Buck Dam are a couple of the most consistently productive spots. Access to both sites is available along New River Trail State Park, a 57-mile linear park alongside the river.
New River walleye average about 16 inches, and anglers catch lots of fish measuring 24 inches and up. There are some special limits in place on certain sections, so be sure to check the current regulations.
The Staunton River—actually an 80-mile segment of the Roanoke River that goes by another name—offers some of the best walleye fishing in South-Central Virginia. The river begins at the base of Leesville Dam and ends at its confluence with Buggs Island Lake.
Walleye are fairly common throughout the river, especially in the initial 11-mile stretch from Leesville Dam to Altavista. Anglers catch walleye in this section year-round, whereas areas farther downriver are more seasonal, with few fish caught outside the spawning run.
Bank fishing is available below the dam, where there is also a hand launch for canoes and cartop boats. Try fishing the tailrace with curlytail grubs and jigs.
The Staunton River is excellent for float trips, with several additional put-ins and take-outs at Dalton’s Landing, Altavista and Long Island Park. There are some challenging Class II and Class III rapids below Long Island, so use caution when traveling farther downriver.
The mostly-undeveloped bottomland scenery along the river is beautiful, and walleye can be caught in many of the pools.
Saugeye (hatchery-raised hybrids between walleye and sauger) are also available in the Staunton River.
The walleye fishing in Virginia’s portion of the Shenandoah River has improved dramatically over the last decade, and all indications suggest that it will continue to do so. That’s in large part because the Virginia DWR has been stocking walleye fingerlings and fry here since 2014.
Surveys suggest that these fish are surviving well and show excellent growth rates. Walleye up to 29 inches are sometimes caught, with average fish measuring about 22 inches.
Anglers can target walleye in the Shenandoah River from Warren Dam just north of Front Royal to the West Virginia State Line. Several boat ramps and canoe landings are located along this stretch, providing good access for anglers.
The first spot downriver from the dam is the Morgan’s Ford Bridge boat ramp which, like most access sites on the river, is ideal for canoes and other small craft, but has limited trailer access. There is also excellent bank fishing here.
Anglers can walk and wade up and down the river from this site to access quite a few good pools that harbor walleye and smallmouth bass when water levels allow, though it may be challenging and treacherous with spring runoff.
A tributary of the Tennessee River, the Clinch River is the core of walleyes’ native range in Virginia. The river flows southwest through the Great Appalachian Valley for 337 miles, traversing four Virginia counties before crossing the state line into Tennessee.
Walleye fishing in the Clinch River has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years. However, at the time of publication, fishing has been on a recent upswing, and the future looks good.
In addition to native fish, walleye have been stocked frequently to help bolster the population. As a result, solid numbers of walleye ranging from 16 to 22 inches are caught here, with some of the best fishing in deep pools and along ledges.
There’s particularly good walleye habitat in the stretch of river between Saint Paul and Burton’s Ford and also from Route 659 to Fort Blackmore. The Virginia DWR provides some great information on float trips and landings.
In addition to walleye, the Clinch River also has a small but stable population of sauger, which are closely related and inhabit similar areas. Sauger can be identified by their spotted spiny dorsal fin and distinctly blotchy coloration. A state record was caught in the Clinch River in 2010.
Best Walleye Lakes in Virginia
South Holston Reservoir
A 7,580-acre impoundment that spills over the Tennessee state line, South Holston Reservoir offers one of the better walleye fisheries in Southwest Virginia. Although most of the lake is in Tennessee, a little over 1,600 acres in Virginia provide excellent fishing and access.
The Virginia portion of South Holston Reservoir includes the headwaters of the lake, where the South and Middle Fork of the Holston River feed it. This area offers arguably the reservoir’s best walleye fishing, especially in winter and spring.
Since the Virginia DWR started a new walleye stocking program in 2000, walleye have been consistently stocked in South Holston Reservoir, and these fish stage an annual spawning run up both forks of the river.
Anglers congregate around Alvarado from February until April to take advantage of the walleye run. Curlytail grubs, jigs tipped with minnows, and nightcrawlers on bottom bouncer/spinner rigs are highly effective, and there are several good bank access spots in the vicinity.
Quite a few post-spawn walleyes are caught in May and June at the upper end of the reservoir after they return from spawning.
If the water is high, anglers can catch walleye close to the banks using crankbaits and minnows.
When water levels are lower, try trolling offshore flats, points and humps. Bank and boat access are available at the Whitaker Hollow Boat Ramp, which is an ideal spot to launch for spring walleye and crappie fishing.
Flannagan Reservoir is a 1,143-acre impoundment of the Pound River in the Cumberland Mountains of Southwest Virginia. It’s a long, meandering reservoir with two main arms, and the DWR has been stocking both walleye and saugeye here for quite some time.
Walleye sizes have been good in recent years, but numbers have been inconsistent. As in many reservoirs, the best opportunities arrive with the spring spawn.
March is the best month to target walleye as they make their way from Flannagan Reservoir’s upper reaches into the Pound and Cranesnest rivers. Some walleye that reside in the lower part of the reservoir don’t travel as far, spawning instead along the rocky banks of the lake itself.
There’s usually good fishing in the rivers well into April, after which walleye and saugeye—the latter cannot reproduce naturally but make a good run at it nevertheless—return to the lake.
Try fishing with crankbaits on May nights at the upper end of the Flannagan Reservoir. Alewives spawn around this time, and post-spawn walleyes will be around to gobble them up.
By June, many walleyes transition to deeper summer haunts while a few remain shallow.
Summer is a tough time to target walleye, but the best bet is trolling main lake structure in 20 to 40 feet of water with deep-diving crankbaits and worm harness rigs.
The Junction Ramp, located adjacent to Mountain View Marina, is the most reliable launch site on the lake.
Speaking of catching excellent-tasting fish, Flannagan Reservoir also made our list of top catfishing spots in Virginia.
With a reputation as one of the premier walleye fisheries, Philpott Lake is a deep, cool reservoir in the Appalachian foothills of Southern Virginia. The lake is abundantly stocked every year with around 144,000 walleye fingerlings.
It almost goes without saying the early spring offers the best walleye fishing in Philpott Lake, but this is also one of the better year-round walleye lakes in the state. There’s often an excellent bite along shorelines on spring and early summer evenings.
Throw topwaters and shallow-running crankbaits to capitalize on the night bite for walleye, especially along the banks near the dam.
Philpott Lake usually stratifies by midsummer, so try trolling right around the thermocline.
Of course, you can also do very well in March and April, when walleyes migrate up the Smith River from the head of the lake, and immediately after, when they return and dine on alewives.
April and May are the best months to catch walleyes in shallow water in Lake Philpott.
Lake Philpott isn’t really known for trophy-sized walleye, but it’s one of the best numbers lakes in Virginia. Expect to catch mostly fish that range from 16 to 20 inches, with an occasional beast up to 8 pounds.
There is no residential development on Philpott Lake, but multiple Corps of Engineers recreation areas provide fishing access, boat ramps, campgrounds, and other recreational facilities.
Located just west of Manassas in Northern Virginia, 77-acre Lake Brittle was constructed in 1959 as a public fishing lake. Walleye have been stocked here on and off since 1979, and it’s one of Virginia’s best walleye lakes despite being one of its smallest.
Saugeye are present in the lake as well. The DWR has stepped up walleye stocking efforts in Lake Brittle during recent years after walleye populations slumped between 2014 and 2017.
That being the case, recent surveys have shown much-improved numbers, though most are smaller fish in the 12- to 14-inch range. That should change in the coming years as these walleye grow. There are also a few older giants weighing up to 8 pounds.
Trolling crankbaits along drop-offs to deep water is a popular tactic, and bouncing jigs and grubs along the bottom can be productive. In summer, when the lake stratifies, look for walleye right where the thermocline meets the bottom, usually around 10 feet.
The state operates a boat ramp and fishing pier at the south end of the lake near the dam. Walleye are often caught from the pier after dark in spring and fall.
Shad-pattern crankbaits are popular, and nightcrawlers often catch a mixed bag of walleye, catfish and panfish.
Eastern Virginia’s Lake Chesdin has long been known as a hit-or-miss walleye lake, as walleye have historically been stocked here only during alternating years, or whenever surplus fingerlings were available.
That’s changed a bit, as both walleye and saugeye have been consistently stocked every year since 2019, and the fishery has improved noticeably.
Lake Chesdin hasn’t quite caught on as a walleye lake in the minds of the fishing public just yet, but that may change.
Some good-sized ‘eyes are often caught incidentally by crappie anglers in spring, and bass fishermen sometimes hook a few as they troll along deep points and weed lines in summer.
At present, saugeye are more common than walleye, many of them weighing 6 pounds or more.
In fall and winter, anglers often catch walleye and saugeye in the lower third of the lake, where abundant schools of shad are known to congregate. Try casting or trolling shad-imitating crankbaits or spoons around and below the schools.
The lake’s only free public access facility is near the dam at the end of Chesdin Lake Road; this site has a boat ramp and fishing pier. A handful of private marinas also offer launching for a fee.
Lake Chesdin also earned a spot on our rundown of Virginia’s best crappie fishing lakes.
Catch More Walleye
Check out our simple guide to walleye fishing tips and techniques, including top lure and bait options.