Fishing on the New River Gorge, West Virginia

By Anietra Hamper

Feb 27, 2023

One of the best rivers to fish in West Virginia is the New River Gorge by float or by bank. The river system holds a range of species from a variety of bass (smallmouth, largemouth, striped, spotted and rock) along with catfish, crappie, trout, walleye, and musky.

Fishing on the New River Gorge, that flows through the nation’s newest national park, is an exciting way for anglers to enjoy some of the most stunning views of nature while catching a variety of species. The New River flows for over 320 miles through several states making its way through West Virginia near Fayetteville and the New River Gorge National Park in Lansing.

Not only is the New River Gorge in West Virginia great for catching popular species like trout, bass, catfish and musky but it gives anglers many ways to fish for them. While float fishing is one of the most popular, there are also opportunities for fly fishing and bank fishing.

Before hitting the water on the New River Gorge be sure to purchase a valid West Virginia fishing license and familiarize yourself with the current WVDNR fishing regulations.


Ways to Fish on the New River Gorge


The primary way to fish the New River is float fishing in an appropriate watercraft like a dory inflatable raft, kayak, or jet boat. Anglers can also wade in spots with shallower and slower water or fish from the bank.

It is important to note that the New River can be treacherous due to its swift water and rocky landscape. Only experienced boaters should attempt floating the river. It is easy to hire an experienced guide for New River Gorge fishing trips to enjoy the fishery in a safe way.

Species to Catch

The New River is world-renowned for its smallmouth bass fishery, but it also has excellent populations of musky, walleye, and flathead catfish. Anglers also enjoy catching the variety of species of bass on this waterway including largemouth, striped, spotted and rock bass. New River Gorge fishing is also great for fly fishing for trout.

When to Go


In a nutshell, there is never a bad time to go fishing on the New River Gorge, but some seasons are better than others. For smallmouth bass, June through September are the best months to catch good numbers of them. The colder months from December through March are best for larger bass and walleye, although fishing overall can be slow. Musky can be caught year-round but the best times to target them are in the fall and spring.

Where to Fish

Fishing is good along the entire length of the New River Gorge, but some spots are more productive than others and the river becomes more challenging to navigate the further downstream you go because of rapids.

Wading and bank fishing are best from Sandstone Dam downstream to Brooks Falls. Other sections suitable for bank fishing are from the Virginia state line to Bluestone Lake or the section from Bluestone Dam downstream to the public access area at Meadow Creek. Areas downstream of Meadow Creek are less accessible because the river flows through a remote gorge.

Popular float fishing sections include Shanklin’s Ferry to Cedar Branch, Bluestone Dam to Brooks Falls, and Sandstone to Meadow Creek. You will need a boat rated for class 3 whitewater and be skilled at operating it.

Gear to use


Given the range of species available to fish for on the New River, the gear you need will depend on what you want to catch. Generally, medium spinning gear is the most popular with lures such as soft plastics and small crankbaits for smallmouth bass. Live bait, tube bait, hard lures and dry flies are also popular to use depending on the type of fishing and species. If you hire a New River Gorge fishing guide, they will be able to provide the tackle and bait appropriate for the time of year and water conditions that you are fishing.

Anietra Hamper
Anietra Hamper
Anietra Hamper is a career television news anchor and investigative journalist turned award-winning travel writer, book author and speaker specializing in fishing and outdoor adventure. She travels the world fishing for unique species and is passionate about introducing others to angling and the outdoors.