As I visited Ancarrow’s Boat Landing on Sunday for the unveiling of the markers on the Richmond Slave Trail, I couldn’t help but notice that the ratio of attendees for the historic moment were outnumbered at least 15 to 1 by fisherman. At 3 p.m., there was a 20 minute wait at the boat slip and the parking lot was constantly full. Continue reading
Richmond Times-Dispatch environmental reporter Rex Springston points out a welcome sign of spring: gizzard shad make their way up the James River in Richmond to spawn. See the story and video on timesdispatch.com: Continue reading
As spring quickly approaches and the migration of fish through the Falls of the James River increases, there is a wealth of information to be gained from a sign on the Floodwall Walk at the overlook to the Manchester Dam on the south bank in downtown Richmond, provided by the Richmond Audubon Society and the James River Park: Continue reading
One of the quieter places to watch the tidal James River is at Great Shiplock Park at Dock and Pear streets in Shockoe Bottom. It has a historic working canal lock, trails, fishing spots and many great views of the river and downtown.
The site is farthest east of the historic James River & Kanawha canal locks. Take a stroll by the water at Great Shiplock Park. Built in the 1850s with the stone lock completed in 1854, the locks allowed ships to bypass the falls of the James and travel into Virginia’s hills by connecting the James with Richmond Dock. Ships were raised from sea level to the height of the dock in each section of the locks, which accomodated ships as large as 180 feet long by 35 feet wide.
The parkland includes the former Trigg Shipyard, which was built in 1898 and went out of business in 1903. Several ships for the U.S. Navy were constructed there, including the USS Schubrick, a torpedo boat used in the Spanish-American War. The site of the former Trigg shipyard is on the eastern tip of Chapel Island on the south bank of the canal.
See more photos and hear from JRPS manager Ralph White.
The area of the Great Shiplock is a part of the James River Parks System. Alcohol and glass are forbidden. Pets must be leashed, and picked up after. Nothing may be taken from the park.
What can you do?
Fishing: In the tidal area below the falls. Rockfish and others migrate through in the spring. A license is required. The most common are American shad, perch, rockfish (stripped bass) and small mouth bass. You could also see river herring and several types of catfish.
- Shad: The most popular fish is shad, and the most common of that species is hickory shad “they are so common now, which is an indication of how clean the water is,” said Ralph White, manager of the James River Park System.
- White perch (also referred to as “stiff-backs” because of the sharp spines on their dorsal fins): They live in the bay and come up the James River to spawn only at the Mayo Bridge and the Falls of the James. In the spring runs “it is sometimes so dense with fish that you can drop a baited hook in,” said White, “that before your hook hits the bottom, you’ve got a fish on your line.”
- Rockfish or striped bass: “This fish has come back bigtime,” White said. They were “once endangered, are almost now prolific.” Almost all of the boats and fisherman around the Mayo Bridge, Great Shiplock, Anncarrow’s Landing area are fishing for rockfish. “The management has been successful due to the hard work of the Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.”
- Small mouth bass: They become a target in the summertime. Richmond is “one of the nation’s great small mouth bass fishing sites,” White said. The river is “managed for giant trophy-sized fish … you can’t even keep a small mouth that is less than 22 inches long.”
- Catfish (flathead, blue and channel): “Channel is quite good eating,” White said, “especially in the 1 to 2 pound range.” None of the really large fish should be considered as food because large catfish “bio-accumulate” in their tissue when they travel downstream of the Richmond region and can absorb chemicals in the water.
Did you know that much of the shoreline covering the area between the Powhite Parkway Bridge and the Boulevard Bridge in South Richmond is part of the James River Park System?
It is known within the Department of Parks, Recreation and Facilities as Main Area West and the main trailhead is in the 5300 block of Riverside Drive. A 10 minute hike down hill and across the train tracks will lead river-goers to some of the best granite boulders, vantage points and adventures you can find on the James.
When water levels are low, this area has some of the best adventure hiking in the area. You can walk on top of the concrete pipelines that run through the area to reach remote rocks and islands. You can get underneath the giant arches of the James River Railway Bridge (also known as the Atlantic Coast Line Railway Bridge or Belt Line Bridge) and watch kayakers run the Choo Choo Rapids.
There are also plenty of shady areas to find a good fishing hole, pitch a tent or stash a cooler.
Finding parking on Riverside Drive is almost impossible and nearby New Kent Avenue has limited parking. I suggest riding your bike to the park and locking it to the fencing at the trailhead. Use caution when crossing the railroad tracks and remember to truck out whatever trash is left from whatever you truck in and pick up stray trash, please!
WTVR CBS6’s Mark Holmberg did a story about the advantages of the James when the water levels are low.
Yes, Mother Nature, your son finds you to be beautiful in every way. So when our editors asked me to go out and do a low-river-level story [we] found how many consider a thinner James to be beautiful in different and interesting ways.
Holmberg goes through and behind the falls of Bosher’s Dam, talks about some of the holes that people can swim through and how it can improve fishing when the water is low.
Veteran Richmond Times-Dispatch outdoors writer Andy Thompson had a recent column about getting his 6-year-old nephew into fishing on the James River — and avoiding alligators.
We’re on the James, in a channel near the James River Park System headquarters. We’ve already caught one respectable smallmouth and seen an 18-inch longnose gar swimming near us – a good morning so far. But we’ve fished out this channel, and Brayden wants to explore. He wants to fish “The Main.”
That’s what he’s taken to calling the main channel of the James, where I told him the big fish are. That’s where we’re headed now – wading, casting, searching for bluegill, redbreast sunfish and anything else that’ll bite. For a while, though, all that’ll take the bait are these stickfish. I unhook him, and we press on.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has a Top 10 Reasons to Go Fishing that has several thoughtful suggestions.