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Fishing at Lovill's Creek Lake

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

By taking a boat out into Lovill's Creek Lake, anglers can enjoy some of the finest fishing anywhere in the state, according to a recent report by a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist.

Carroll County abounds with opportunities to fish — many of its creek and river banks are well known and popular with enthusiasts.

Take the six miles of Crooked Creek that are heavily stocked three days a week, or the many boat ramps on the New River.

Then there's Carroll County's other "river," Big Reed Island Creek, with its stocked trout at the upper end and small mouth and walleye at the lower.

Add to those places the 55-acre flood control lake behind an earthen dam in the Cana area.

Upstream from Mount Airy, N.C. — and hence the need for flood control — the manmade place has evolved into a great place for recreation with a line and a pole, according to a report by John Copeland, fisheries biologist based out of Blacksburg's state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries office.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service completed Lovill's Creek Lake in 1990, and fishing improvements in the form of a boat ramp and a pier from DGIF followed in 1995.

As early as 1990, the state began stocking the waterbody with largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill and redder sunfish, according to the report. After that, the state only needed to stock channel catfish every other year.

Copeland says the continuing populations of fish are monitored occasionally by "electrofishing."

This technique allows biologists to net, sample, measure, weigh and then release fish in the lake.

"Length information from collected fish is used to assess spawning and likely angler success," the report explained. "Time spent electrofishing is recorded so biologists can measure catch rates of each species and compare this information between the years.

Researchers found that reproduction of largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie and redear sunfish are holding populations as stable or increasing.

They also realized from their monitoring that outside parties have introduced chain pickerel and yellow perch at Lovill's Creek Lake.

The biologist encourages anglers to take the maximum of yellow perch each time, because those fish can have a negative impact on sunfish and largemouth bass populations.

"Yellow perch are efficient predators of zooplankton [microscopic animals living in the water], so they directly compete for food with young bluegill and other sunfish and young largemouth bass," Copeland wrote.

The monitoring showed that the body condition of bluegill declined in the latest sample, and he believed that the yellow perch were a likely culprit.

Largemouth bass will help control the perch by eating them. And chain pickerel could end up having negative effects downstream in North Carolina waters.

"A new species established in a lake can quickly spread downstream during high water or by anglers moving them elsewhere," Copeland wrote.

Considering the creel limits of 50 per day for bluegill, 25 per day for black crappie and so on, anglers can get quite a haul at the lake.

In terms of population findings, largemouth bass are abundant, as Copeland described them. He expects with the 12 to 15 inch slot limit, anglers will find plenty of larger bass to hook in the next two to three years.

Many redear sunfish have grown to eight to 11 inches long, Copeland reports.

"Catching large sunfish at the lake is easiest during the peak spawning time between mid-April and mid-May," he wrote.

The biologist called black crappie sizes excellent for 2009, with nearly half of them more than eight inches long.

"These size ranges make Lovill's Creek Lake the best small lake for crappie fishing in the New River Valley management district," Copeland said. "Crappie fishing is best from late March to mid-April, when spawning fish move to shallow areas of the lake."

"For the state biologist to say it's the best crappie lake in the state of Virginia, that's something else," reacted Donnie Turner, Carroll's director of tourism.

Carroll County waterways bring anglers down from the north as one of the first places they can go after smallmouth bass, said the tourism director. And people from the south go for muskie and walleye.

So, anglers are already converge on Carroll, but local officials hope to promote the local fishing even more, he said. Southwest and Southside Virginia want to promote their assets to the sporting community as compared to Alabama and Georgia, and one way they're doing so is through the website called fishvirginiafirst.com.

Good things about Carroll County include excellent fish habitat and water quality, Turner noted.

He's excited about, and agrees with, the assessment of the biologist's report.

"The habitat is perfect for crappie and largemouth bass," he said. "It is a jewel."

The lake is best reached from U.S. 52 by going east on Virginia 686 to the entrance of the recreational area. It is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. year-round. Gas powered motors are not allowed. There's also a picnic shelter and a half-mile walking trail. For more information about the lake contact the Carroll County Office of Tourism at (276) 730-3100.