Check out these huge James River cats
caught by clients of Big Cat Guide Service
Check out these huge James River catfish
caught by clients of Capt. Mike Atkinson's
Cat-Man-Do Guide Service
James River Overview
The mighty James River flows from the confluence of the Cowpasture and Jackson
Rivers across the state to the Chesapeake Bay.  Excellent fishing exists throughout
the river.  Upstream of the fall line in Richmond, VA (Upper James), smallmouth
bass are the predominant gamefish species; however, largemouth bass, channel
catfish, a variety of sunfish species, and even musky are available.  The tidal
section of the river (Lower James) below the fall line provides excellent freshwater
fishing  for catfish, largemouth bass, and striped bass.  Nearer the Bay saltwater
species such as spot, croaker, flounder, and trout are plentiful.  Public and private
boat launch facilities are available throughout the region.  
Lower James River Fishing Report
Below the fall line near Richmond, the James becomes a broad tidal river.  
Excellent fishing exists for largemouth bass, striped bass (rockfish), and
especially for catfish.  Although fishing from the shoreline is available in places,
most of the fishing here is conducted from gas-powered boats (there are no size
or horsepower restrictions).  

Largemouth Bass:  As with bass fishing in any tidal river, it is essential to
understand the tide and its effect on the bass.  During the outgoing tide, fish the
outer edges of weed lines, creeks, and docks.  During the incoming tide, probe
the cover more deeply.  The most natural presentation is made by moving the lure
with the tide.  Cover is abundant - vegetation, woody cover, barges, gravel pits
(e.g., Barge Pit, Meeks, Canal), bridges, and docks can all produce fish.  In
general, downsize your bait selections - 4" plastics, 1/4 oz. compact spinnerbaits,
and small jigs work best.  Plastic lures in dark colors like black, tequila sunrise,
and red shad are good choices.  Trophy fish are rare, but fish in the 2 - 5 lb rage
are not uncommon.  Fishing remains good throughout the summer when fishing
in reservoirs is often slow.  A buzzbait worked near cover will produce in low light
conditions during the summer months.  Much of the best fishing is in the feeder
creeks, such as Herring, Powells, Flowerdew, Wards, and Chippokes.  A good
fishing map is essential, and is available on this page.

Striped Bass (Rockfish):  Stripers run up the James all the way to Richmond
seasonally - especially in the spring.  However, stripers are present in the James
all year 'round - in fact, the fishing can be easy at times.  Live bait (including eels),
cut bait, a variety of artificial lures, including Rat-L-Traps, Sassy Shad, Shad
Assassin, and Storm swim baits all work.  Casting around bridges and other
structures and trolling the main river channel with deep-diving crankbaits or
umbrella rigs are great ways to catch them.  

Blue Catfish:  Catfishing on the James River is second-to-none.  It has become
an entire industry in the region, attracting anglers from all over the country.  The
blue catfish are big and plentiful.  Live baits are the best choice with fresh cut bait
as an alternative when live bait is not available.  Heavy tackle is a must.  During
the summer, nightfishing in areas near the Benjamin Harrison bridge, Herring
Creek, Powell Creek, and the pier near Smurfit-Stone Container can be
outstanding.  However, the fishing can be good year 'round.  Inexperienced
anglers should definitely hire a good guide - rates are reasonable and it is well
worth the expense.  
Virginia Outdoors - A Resource for Virginia Anglers and Hunters
Virginia Outdoors - James River (Lower)
Fishing the Lower James River
Lower James River Fishing Guides - All Species
Guide Service
Web Site
Life's Revenge
Guide Service
Conway's River Rat
Guide Service
VA Elite Outdoors
Old Dominion
Fishing VA
Hook, Line, and
Sinker Guides
Lower James River Catfishing Guides
Guide Service
Web Site
Life's Revenge
Guide Service
VA Elite Outdoors
Got the Blues
Guide Service
James River
Fishing School
Big Cat Guide
Kevin Salmon -
James River
Catfishing Guide
Old Dominion
Nightstalker Guide
Sinker Guides
Capt Mike Hoke of Life's Revenge Guide Service provided the following Fishing
Report on
August 4, 2012.  Visit Mike at

Captain Mike reports that bass anglers should fish the main channels and use
plastic worms in watermelon, pumpkin seed and purple or black fire tails. For cats
try eel during the day, and shad at night. Bream action is good with crickets and
worms. The water is 87 and clear.
In response to many inquiries, Virginia Outdoors asked Capt.
Scott Cannon of
Big Cat Guide Service to provide some tips and
had to say:

Shad fishing in the James is one of the most anticipated events of
the year on the river. Every Spring starting late March to Early April
Hickory Shad, American Shad and Herring make the spring
spawning run from the ocean. The most concentrated numbers of
fish to target are typically located from Ancarrows Boat Landing
on the Southside of the river up to the 14th Street Bridge in
Richmond. The most effective way to catch Hickory and American
shad is to use shad darts and/or shad spoons. The darts come in
many different colors and the spoons can be either silver or gold.
To fish these lures you want to use a light action rod and reel and
rig the baits like a Carolina rig. This means you would attach your
main line to a small swivel. Above the swivel on your main line you
want to add a small sliding egg weight. The size of this weight can
vary from 1/8 oz up to 1/2 oz. Typically 1/4 oz. egg weights will do
the trick. After the swivel you will tie on about a 16-24" leader and
attach your spoon or dart to the end of that.

The hardest part to shad fishing is getting in a rhythm. Once you
get the speed of the retrieve down and figure out the depth the
fish are holding at you will be catching them almost one after the
other.  Try letting the lure sink to different levels and try different
speeds until you start catching. Once you find that combination
you are all set.

Sometimes people forget about the herring, but this fish can be
just as fun and can be a lot easier to catch. The old saying is that
the herring show up when the dogwoods bloom and it typically
holds true. To catch a herring all you need to do is be in the same
area as you would for the shad, but the rig is a little different. Just
purchase a few Sabiki rigs and some small 1/4 -1/2oz. tear drop
weights. Follow the instructions on the back of the package for
tying on your Sabiki rig, The swivel attaches to your main line and
you will clip your weight to the snap and the bottom. Using light
tackle vertically jigging the Sabiki rig and when the school of
herring comes swimming by you could hook up with as many as 4
or 5 herring at the same time. It is a lot of fun.

Big Cat Guide Service is now offering a raft trip above the fall line
for smallmouth and big flathead catifsh.  Capt. Cannon noted that
the tackle needed for shad, herring, and catfishing on the James
is available online from
James River Outdoors.  
Copyright © 2009 Virginia Outdoors, LLC
Ruckersville, VA
World Record Blue Catfish for 6 lb
test line
Caught by Fred Cousins fishing
with James River Fishing School
(64 lbs)
James River Flathead Catfish -
40 lbs
Caught with James River Fishing
Two citation blue catfish and a 36" striped bass caught
by clients of Life's Revenge Guide Service in April 2009