Occoquan Reservoir

Virginia’s Best Bass Fishing Lake – The Occoquan Reservoir

Admit it. You’ve done it. Every angler assumes the farther away the fishing spot is, the better it must be. Chances are, as you drive to that allegedly better location, you will pass somebody heading from that location to fish your local water. If you live within an hour of Northern Virginia and choose to ignore the Occoquan Reservoir to drive 90 minutes south to Lake Anna or a similar distance west to Lake Frederick, you are missing out on some of the best bass fishing in the state.

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Occoquan Reservoir Bass Fishing

The Virginia Department of Inland Game and Fisheries (VDGIF) rates the 2,100 acre Occoquan Reservoir as the state’s best large impoundment with a catch per unit effort rating of 60. This statistic measures the number of 15-inch or larger bass collected in one hour of electro-fishing. The only other lake in Virginia with a higher rating (88) is the tiny, 76-acre Burton Lake tucked into the distant south-central part of the state; a long four hour drive south.

The Occoquan Reservoir (aka “the Rez) forms the boundary between Fairfax and Prince William counties with the parkland and access points on the northern bank controlled by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. The VDGIF manages the lake to promote the populations of bass (plenty in the four to six-pound range), crappie, catfish with some northern pike and white perch thrown into the mix.  

The state record flathead catfish (66 pounds, 4 ounces) was caught and released from the Rez back in 1994.

Occoquan Reservoir: Where to Launch

There are three access points, and all have a small fee to launch a “carried craft.” The access points at Fountainhead Regional Park and Lake Ridge Park may be used by paying a daily fee. The Bull Run Marina, at the northern extreme of the reservoir, requires anglers purchase an annual pass. There is a $105 ramp fee for the pass if you hail from Arlington, Fairfax or Loudoun counties while the shore launch fee is $40. It’s a steep $135 per year for the ramp or $70 for the shore if you hail from other locations.

The reservoir is kayak and canoe friendly.

Since the impoundment limits gasoline motors to 10 HP, paddlers do not have to deal with over-powered bass boats racing frantically from spot to spot. Given the horsepower limitation, the extreme northern end of the Occoquan Reservoir experiences less pressure since the only quick way to reach it is to pay the steep access fee for the Bull Run launch. The Fountainhead launch, positioned in the center of the reservoir, is the largest and most popular for powered boats with the Lake Ridge Marina in the distant south being the consistent second choice for power boats and first for paddle.

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Be aware there is a bass tournament sponsored by the Fountainhead Bass Club every other Sunday that increases the pressure within range of the launch. Head over to the Lake Ridge Marina if you fish on those days or even hit the river below the dam, launching from the Occoquan Regional Park and try for snakeheads.

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Occoquan Reservoir: Breaking Down the Bite

Now, keep in mind, these fish are wary and hard to catch!

To be successful, anglers must study the lake and become good with their electronics. The VDGIF is upfront about the challenge:

A combination of heavy fishing pressure, excellent habitat, and an abundance of forage may make it more difficult to consistently catch the larger fish. Patience is the key and anglers willing to try different techniques and lures to match the prevailing conditions should find success.”  

More easily put, success requires adopting seasonal tactics. In the early spring and summer, working the banks up against rocks or downed trees can be productive.

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Don’t forget to explore the small coves tucked behind the points.

However, once summer is in full bloom, the fish retreat to the deeper areas near lake points and associated channels; requiring bottom rigs or drop shots. This is where electronics become necessary.  Use them to find the channels, humps, submerged structure and target the transitions. Otherwise, you fish blind. If fishing without the benefit of a fish finder, be sure to get the hotspot map sometimes provided at the Fountainhead launch. Even though those places are well known to anglers, the fish seem to like them as well.

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The Rez is deep! It can be 30 feet right next to the bank, edging to 70 feet in some of the channels.

This is the domain of deep running crankbaits, Carolina rigs and drop shots. Since the forage menu offers mostly shad and crawfish, orient your lures to those imitations. The Fountainhead section of the Occoquan Reservoir is the more scenic section with more cliff faces as well as plenty of trees overhanging the banks and pitched into water.  The southern end, out of Lake Ridge Marina, features forested, nondescript banks with tiny coves tucked here and there. However, the fish do not migrate to the scenic spots; you can catch them anywhere in the Rez!

If you live within driving range of the Occoquan Reservoir, fish it! Invest the time to uncover your own secret spots and perhaps you will be able to claim the next state record!

Occoquan Reservoir: Access Points

  • Bull Run Marina: 12619 Yates Ford Road, Clifton (38.743250, -77.386758)
  • Fountainhead Regional Park: 10875 Hampton Road, Fairfax Station (38.720812, -77.334205)
  • Lake Ridge Marina: 12380 Cotton Mill Drive, Lake Ridge (38.697056, -77.318399)
  • Occoquan Regional Park:  9751 Ox Road, Lorton (38.680658, -77.252703)

For great ideas on kayak modifications, spin and fly fishing tips, visit Steve’s YouTube Channel – KayakHacksFishing

Updated from the original article published in Southern Kayak Fishing magazine in July 2017.


This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Steve Moore

ABOUT Steve

Fully addicted to fishing, Steve is a regular columnist for Southern Trout Magazine where he writes the "New Fly Guy" column focused on helping new fly anglers with tips, techniques and other advice. In addition, he writes the "Kayak Hacks" column for Southern Kayak Fishing Magazine. In 2015, Steve created the Kayak Hacks Fishing YouTube channel focused on gear hacks, fly and spin fishing tips. As of November 2018, it has over 20,000 subscribers and continues to grow rapidly.

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