Prince William County Wildlife - Fish

Virginia offers extremely diverse freshwater angling opportunities. More than 176,000 acres of public lakes and 27,300 miles of fishable streams provide every freshwater angler something: tidal rivers for largemouth bass, striped bass, blue catfish and shad; unsurpassed float fishing rivers spread across the state; expansive reservoirs renowned for largemouth bass, striped bass, and crappie; numerous "close-to-home" small, family fishing lakes and ponds with great chances to land bass, sunfish, and channel catfish; and wild trout fishing in the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains. Consult our table below for information on Prince William County specific breeds,

Public Fishing Locations in Prince William County 

  • Lake Ridge Park
  • Silver Lake Regional Park
  • Locust Shade Park


Name

Description
Large Mouth Bass

Identification
Dark greenish above fading to a whitish belly, but variable depending on the water it lives in. Shows a series of dark blotches that form a dark horizontal band along its midline to its tail. Named because of its big mouth. Upper jaw extends well beyond the eye. Dorsal fin deeply notched. Average weight is 2 to 4 lbs., with up to 10 lbs. occurring in some waters.

Habitat
Native to southeastern Virginia, but introduced statewide. Inhabits warm, shallow lakes, ponds and slow-moving streams, with plenty of submerged vegetation, brush, stumps and logs, usually in depths of less than 20 ft. Prefers temperatures of 68° to 78° F. In reservoirs it orients to drop-offs, ledges, underwater islands, sunken timber, boat houses, docks and bridges. 

Roanoke Bass Identification
Robust body much like the rock bass but with dark, olive-green to olive brown back, fading to grayish sides and white belly. Has smaller scale spots than the rock bass and lighter small whitish or yellowish spots on its upper body. Has a slightly concave outline over the eyes.

Habitat
Has one of the smallest ranges of native game fishes of North America. It occurs only in the Roanoke and Chowan River drainages of Virginia, and the Tar and Neuse River drainages in North Carolina. It is listed as a species of special concern because of impoundments, pollution and siltation on its native rivers. Inhabits large creeks, streams and small rivers. Prefers clear but sometimes turbid waters and the dark swamp waters such as the Nottoway and Blackwater. Look for them in fairly swift deep water runs but around rocks and gravel, or at the heads of pools.
Rock Bass

Identification
Short, robust body and fairly large mouth. Lower jaw protrudes slightly. Back is olive-green with sides tarnished gold or brassy colored. Each scale has a dark central spot. Large spots on its lower body forms a striped-like appearance. Has a discernible dark outline on its anal fin. Has wide vertical blotches on its sides and a dark spot on its cheek. Average 6 to 8 inches, but will reach 12 to 14 inches and 11/2 to 2 lbs. Checks with obvious scales.

Habitat
Has a preference for clear flowing streams with rocks and boulders, limestone ledges and logs. Also survives in impoundments formed on the rivers they inhabit.

 

Striped Bass

Identification
True bass family. Streamlined, elongate body; coloration shades from dark olive above through silvery sides to a white belly; 7 to 8 prominent unbroken black stripes originate behind the head and extend to the tail; more prominent than on the white bass. Two spines on the gill cover; two patches of teeth on tongue. Ten to 15 lb. fish are common with 30 to 40 lb. + fish landed each season.

Habitat
By nature, stripers are anadromous, spending most of their adult lives in saltwater, making spring "spawning runs" to freshwater tidal rivers. However, this species has been successfully stocked in freshwater lakes, and landlocked stripers have been established in several lakes around the state.

 

White Bass

Identification
Temperate "true" bass family. Light greenish back, light yellowish-green to silver sides to a silvery-white below, 6 to 8 horizontal faint stripes; stripes below later line are broken; the first stripe below the lateral line is not complete to tail. Deep-bodied with distinctively arched back, considerably smaller than its striped bass cousin. Single spine on gill cover; variable patch of teeth on tongue. Commonly reaches 1/2 to 2 lbs.

Habitat
Native to the Tennessee River drainage streams of Virginia. Open water of moderate to large rivers and reservoirs with large connecting rivers.



 
Blue Catfish

Identification
Heavy-bodied with a wide head and high spot forward of center near the head called the dorsal hump. Upper jaw projects well beyond the lower. Bluish-gray body above, fading to white on sides and belly. No spots and a deeply forked tail. Smaller blue cats are often confused with channel catfish. Blue cats are often confused with channel catfish. Small channel cats typically will have spots lacking in small blue cats. However, large channel cats and medium-sized blue cats can be more difficult to tell apart, often having similar coloration and general body shape. The margin, or edge, of the anal fin can be used to identify these fish; blue cats have an anal fin with a very straight margin, in channel cats the anal fin has a rounded margin.

Habitat
Stocked in the Rappahannock, James, and Mattaponi rivers, as well as a few lakes. These fish are now also found in the Appomattox, Painatank/Dragon Run, and Potomac rivers. They are highly abundant in all of the tidal rivers in which they are found and occupy most habitats which occur in the freshwater, or slightly brackish, sections of these rivers.  

 

Channel Catfish 

Identification
Deeply forked tail. Upper jaw is longer than, and overlaps the lower. When small, its smooth-skinned body is usually spotted; however, these spots disappear in older fish (can be confused with blue catfish, see identification of blue catfish). Has a small dorsal fin with stiff spine standing high on its back. Varies in color, although generally dark brownish to slate-gray on top, fading to light brownish-gray on the sides. Has 25 to 29 rays in its anal fin.

Habitat
Lakes and larger rivers with cleaner bottoms of sand, gravel or stones, over mud flats but seldom in dense weedy areas. Also lives in the deeper, slower pools of swift, clear-running streams. In large reservoirs, they are often found below dams where they feed on food swept down to them.

 

Rainbow Trout 

Identification
The variety of rainbows has resulted in a variety of colors, hues and markings. Normally the back is olive-green with a silvery cast on its sides fading to a silvery-white belly. Apinkish or light rosy red band extends from its cheek to near its tail. Normally, they are well spotted with black spots, but vary from large spots to tiny specks to no markings at all.

Habitat
Originally native to the western slope of the Rockies. Successfully introduced into eastern streams including those in Virginia. Most Virginia rainbows are in fast flowing, larger streams and constitute the backbone of the Department's stocking program.

 

 Brook Trout

Identification
Most colorful of our trout. Back is a dark olivegreen with light wavy or wormy markings. Sides are lighter, sometimes with a bluish cast, yellowish spots and red spots with a light blue halo around them. Belly is white with bright orange fins. Fins have outer edges of white with a black line separating it from the orange. Ten to 16 inches and 1 to 2 lbs. is a good-sized brookie. Native brookies seldom grow beyond 12 inches in Virginia streams.

Habitat Colder, cleaner waters and smaller creeks and beaver ponds. Does best in water temperatures of 68°F or less.


 
 Yellow Perch

Identification
Member of the perch family, which includes the walleye, sauger and numerous small darters. Generally olive-green above, fading down the sides to green or yellow- green, to yellow or golden yellow. Has eight vertical dusky bars on its side and a silvery underside. Dorsal fins have a distinctive dusky blotch. Ventral and anal fins are yellow to orange, turning a bright orange on breeding males. Average 6 to 8 inches, but commonly reach 14 to 15 inches and 1.5 to 2 lbs.

Habitat
Found mainly in piedmont and coastal plain waters, where they thrive in tidal rivers and streams, extending into brackish water. Also common in many reservoirs. They locate in pools and backwaters where they school along shallow vegetated areas during warmer months.



 
Carp 

Identification
Very large member of the minnow family. Thick bodied, with a brassy sheen, humped back, very large scales, large lips, barbles extending from lips, and spines on the front of dorsal and anal fins. Commonly attain 15 to 20 lbs.

Habitat
Not native to the U.S., but widely introduced in the late 1800's and found in all Virginia drainages. Prefers clean water, but capable of tolerating and dominating degraded waters. Prefers sluggish, vegetated areas with soft bottoms.

 

Northern Pike 

Identification
Member of the pike family (Esoxidae). A long, lean body, generally olive or dark green above fading to a light olive or gray-green to yellowish-green then to white on its belly. Its sides have light yellowish bean-shaped spots the length of its body. Strongly toothed jaws have teeth arranged in rows, plus rows of teeth located on its tongue and palate; they angle inward so its prey cannot get loose. Cheek is fully scaled, gill cover is only half scaled.

Habitat
Non indigenous to Virginia, they are found in shallows in spring and fall, around weed beds. In summer they seek out deeper waters near drop-offs, but seldom below 35 ft. They may move up creek arms or around underground springs where there is cooler, moving water.
 

Redear Sunfish 

Identification
Yellow-green or olive, with faint vertical bars and random dark spots. During spawning, the margin of the male's gill cover flap turns bright red. Body is rounded like other sunfish and has a relatively small mouth. Pectoral fins are long and pointed. They grow faster and larger than other sunfish; 1 lb. fish not uncommon and often reaching 2 lbs.

Habitat
Introduced into Virginia waters, redears prefer cleaner water lakes and ponds than other sunfish, and quieter waters that have an abundance of submerged vegetation. They gravitate to stumps, logs, submerged brush and roots. A favorite of pond owners, because they grow fast and do not overpopulate.