For the first time since it was flooded in the late 1980s, Stonewall Jackson Lake will play host to bass tournaments during 2014.
The move was made possible by a change in regulations. Catch-and-release has been replaced by a six-fish limit, with only one of more than 18 inches allowed. Whether that latter restriction will deter tournaments, especially some of the larger ones, remains to be seen.
West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) decided to remove the catch-and-release requirement because biologists saw signs of decline in the fishery.
“Overall, the condition of the lake’s largemouth bass has diminished, and there are far more spotted bass in the fishery than there used to be,” said Bret Preston, fisheries chief. “We believe the new regulations will help to counter those trends and maintain really good bass fishing at Stonewall Jackson.”
He added, “We wanted the new regulations to encourage the harvest of smaller fish, but, at the same time, allow someone who catches a really nice bass to keep it. We don’t think allowing people to keep one trophy bass will have any adverse impact on the lake’s ability to produce trophy fish.”
DNR biologists recommended the change last year. Following public meetings and surveys of anglers at Stonewall Jackson, it was approved by the agency’s commission.