The Jackson is an excellent smallmouth bass, rock bass, rainbow trout, and brown trout fishery above Lake Moomaw. Below Gathright Dam, six public areas provide access to 18 miles of legally navigable water to Covington. Wild rainbow trout, wild brown trout, smallmouth bass, rock bass (redeye), and redbreast sunfish populate the tailwater below the dam. A 12-inch minimum size limit and four fish per angler per day creel limit has been imposed on all trout caught in the tailwater. Also, there are no fishing gear restrictions between Gathright Dam and the water treatment plant in Covington. Large, lake-run rainbow trout can be caught in the Jackson River above Lake Moomaw during the winter and spring. Much of this stretch is privately owned, so be sure you are fishing on National Forest property or have landowner permission. The Jackson River, through Hidden Valley, provides ample trout fishing opportunities, especially a three-mile reach of special regulation water above the Muddy Run swinging bridge. Jackson River, downstream of Covington, affords good angling for smallmouth bass, redbreast sunfish, and rock bass. Watercraft launch facilities are being planned at several locations along the lower Jackson River.
Indian Draft Shoreline Access, Latitude 37° 52' 7" N 37.8687031, Longitude 79° 59' 22" W -79.9893450, Directions: From Covington, N. Rt.220, left Rt. 687 @ Clear.Pk, (3 mi. on E.side);
Island Ford II Shoreline Access, Latitude 37° 46' 45" N 37.7792338, Longitude 79° 56' 1" W -79.9334976, Directions: From Covington, E. on Rt. 1104 (2 mi. on right);
Johnson Spring Shoreline Access, Latitude 37° 54' 54" N 37.9150911, Longitude 79° 58' 21" W -79.9723798, Directions: From Covington, N Rt 220, left Rt. 687, Clear.Pk, S.Rt 638 Nat.Well (1/2m);
Low Moor Shoreline Access, Latitude 37° 48' 0" N 37.8000691, Longitude 79° 52' 17" W -79.8712522, Directions: From Low Moor exit (I64), N. 100 yds, E., on Rt. 1101, Follow Signs to Access;
Petticoat Junction Boat Slide, Latitude 37° 50' 32" N 37.8421107, Longitude 79° 59' 20" W -79.9888148, Directions: From Covington, N. Rt 220, left Rt. 687 at Clear.Pk -1 mi on left.
The Cowpasture is legally navigable below U.S. Route 60, and there is one public access area on Forest Service land (Evans Tract). Also, two U.S. Forest Service sections provide public bank access, below Nimrod Hall (Walton Tract), and one near Williamsville (Wallace Tract). Smallmouth bass, rock bass, muskies, and redbreast sunfish can be caught in the Cowpasture. Contact the Deerfield, Warm Springs, or James River Ranger District Offices of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests for public fishing opportunities.
There is one public access area on Forest Service land (Evans Tract). Also, two U.S. Forest Service sections provide public bank access, below Nimrod Hall (Walton Tract), and one near Williamsville (Wallace Tract).
Up in the Alleghany Highlands, nestled into a canyon once called Kincaid Gorge, lies Gathright Dam. This massive earthen structure backs up the Jackson River for over 12 miles, forming Lake Moomaw. A U. S. Army Corps of Engineers project, Lake Moomaw was constructed for downstream flow augmentation (water quality), flood control, and recreation. The idea for a lake above the City of Covington was hatched just after World War II, but the project was not completed until the early 1980's. The backwater of the Jackson River flooded acres of bottomland once owned by Thomas Gathright. The project was pushed forward by Covington businessman Benjamin Moomaw, after whom the lake was named. Lake Moomaw is the second largest impoundment in western Virginia. It covers 2,530 surface acres and has a maximum depth of 152 feet. The impoundment is "drawn down" between 10-15 feet annually, beginning slowly in June and reaching its lowest level usually by September.
There are 43 miles of undeveloped, wooded shoreline. Before it was completed, fisheries biologists determined that Lake Moomaw had the potential for a "two-story" sport fishery. This simply means that the reservoir would be deep enough for both warm water fish (bass, catfish, sunfish, crappie) and coldwater fish (trout). With this in mind, the lake was stocked with thousands of largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and channel catfish in 1980. The Jackson River was already home to wild populations of smallmouth bass, rock bass, and chain pickerel, so it was understood that these species would acclimate to their new surroundings. Black crappie and yellow perch were later additions to the fishery. Lake Moomaw is also known for its trout fishery. A layer of cold, oxygenated water lies 15 feet below the surface. It is in this zone that stocked rainbow, brown, and brook trout thrive. Alewives, members of the herring family, were stocked in the early 1980's in order to establish a plentiful food base for both trout and other predators. These small, silvery fish are truly the "backbone" of the lake's sport fishery. They are abundant, ubiquitous, and, seemingly the prey of choice for trophy fish that are caught from Lake Moomaw.
Lake Moomaw (Coles Point) Concrete Ramp, Latitude 37° 55' 45" N 37.9291811, Longitude 79° 58' 50" W -79.9806883, Directions: From Covington, Rt 60 West (4); R on Rt 600 (9.5)