Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

March 29, 2014

South Branch of Potomac River best place in W.Va. for trophy rainbows

I always enjoy the annual roundup supplied by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources that reveals where all the trophy fish were caught.

Well, OK, not all the trophy fish, but at least the ones that fishermen registered with the agency and for which certificates were received.

The trophy- or citation-sized fish program has been active in the Mountain State since 1976 when 258 certificates were awarded for gamefish that were of a minimum weight.

The popularity and growth of the program is easily seen in the annual count of certificates, which increased steadily, reaching a zenith in 1988 when 3,514 were awarded.

The only other year with more than 3,000 was 1990 when 3,001 trophy fish were certified.

In 2004, to help cover the cost of running the trophy fish program, DNR began charging $5 to process an application.

Since 2006, when 1,025 applications were received, participation has dwindled, hitting a low of 588 in 2011, but bouncing back to 690 this past year.

Details about the program are found at Look on the main fishing page.

During 2013, the South Branch of the Potomac River continued to be a trophy fish destination, especially for rainbow trout in the upper reaches and channel catfish in the lower river.

Thirty rainbows of at least 4 pounds or at least 21 inches were landed. Fifteen channel catfish weighing 6 pounds or more or measuring at least 25 inches were caught.

The South Branch also gave up seven smallmouth bass, three carp, three golden-rainbow trout, a brook trout (minimum 1.5 pounds), a largemouth bass and a sunfish of trophy size.

Also in the South Branch drainage, that river’s South Fork had just one trophy fish, a rainbow trout.

Trophy fishing on the North Fork, however, was good. Rainbow trout accounted for 21 of the citations and brook trout for nine. One fallfish and one golden-rainbow trout were taken as well.

Trophy fish were caught in other waters in or near the circulation area of the Cumberland Times-News.

The Blackwater River’s contribution was meager, one rock bass (minimum 1 pound).

 Brandywine Lake  and Brushy Fork Lake were each good for four brookies. Brandywine also gave up two channel cats.

Two trophy smallmouth bass of at least 4 pounds were claimed from the Cacapon River.

Anglers at Kimsey Run Lake caught two qualifying largemouth bass (at least 5 pounds) and two bluegills (at least 1 pound).

Patterson Creek coughed up a channel catfish and a rock bass.

South Mill Creek Lake’s contribution was six rainbows, two channel cats and one brookie.

Two rainbow trout were landed at Warden Lake.

There were no trophy certificates for the Potomac Highlands for trophy carp, crappie or walleye.

Elsewhere in the Mountain State, the New River was easily the king of big smallmouth bass. Twenty-six were caught there.

Muskellunge fishing was best at Stonewall Jackson lake were 11 of at least 15 pounds were brought in.

Trophy brown trout were in short supply.

The most, four, came from the Cranberry River.

It appears that the 46-year-old record of 16 pounds for that species is not being threatened.

That fish was caught in 1968 by Paul Barker from the South Branch of the Potomac. It measured 32 inches.

Besides that monster brown trout, the Potomac Highlands is home to another fish record that may never be broken.

In 1971, David Lindsay, now a Cumberland resident, landed a smallmouth bass of 9.75 pounds from the South Branch of the Potomac.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at


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Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
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