She’s out there, you know. Miss Bertha — the state-record largemouth and right now she’s probably poking around the drop-offs at Briery Creek Lake near Farmville, looking for a good place to nest. In the meantime, she’s hungry, and if you’re a sluggish bluegill or crappie, be on guard or you’ll get eaten.
The current state-record largemouth in Virginia was landed way back in 1985. The 16-pound, 4-ounce bass came out of Lake Conner in Halifax County. Many have predicted that the next state record may well come from Briery Creek Lake, where several bass over 16 pounds, but short of 16-4, have been landed.
The record nearly fell back in 1995, on the lake’s 10th anniversary, when a 16-3 lunker caught at Briery was weighed in at Worsham’s Grocery. Seven years later, another monster going 16-2 was caught and released. Close, but no cigar.
Briery Creek Lake, an 845-acre impoundment about six miles from Farmville, opened for business in 1985. It was initially stocked with Florida-strain largemouth, a species that grows to major proportions. Almost immediately it was producing trophy fish, including a 10-pounder caught in 1992.
In addition to having quality bass, Briery has quality cover. When the Game Department sealed the dam, the lake took over what was once a forest and timber still stands all across the lake. Underwater cover, of course, attracts bait, which attracts small fish, and you know the rest of that story. The problem at Briery is there is so much cover that it’s difficult to know where to fish.
Briery is the undisputed champ at producing trophy bass in Virginia and was responsible for the largest bass caught in Virginia every year from 1994 through 2004. The lake has produced eight bass over 13 pounds.
To protect these bass and keep big fish in the lake as opposed to hanging on various office and rec room walls, a slot limit was put in effect in 2001, protecting all bass caught between 14 and 24 inches.
A recent phone call to Worsham’s Grocery revealed that the crappie are swatting jigs and small shiners at Briery, but nobody has yet brought a bragging size bass to the scales. With the weather as nice as it has been, that could happen any day. The secret is to be there when Miss Bertha is looking for a little lunch. The word on the streets is that she is particularly fond of jumbo shiners and Worsham’s Grocery has plenty in their bait wells.
“Our minnows will catch fish or die trying,” is the motto at the friendly bait shop and grocery store on Route 15 heading to Keysville.
Briery Creek has a restriction on gasoline motors, limited to 10 horsepower or less. You can have a bigger motor on the boat, you just can’t crank it up. You probably wouldn’t want to if you could. There are thousands of unseen stumps just beneath the surface that would be more than happy to snatch the lower end off your new motor.
Briery is known primarily for bass and crappie, but the lake also holds some really nice bluegills, redear sunfish, channel cats and pickerel.
If you go, you might want to use braided line in case Miss Bertha decides she would rather head for the roots of the submerged trees than the bottom of your fishing net. I have broken off some amazing fish in Briery because I was overmatched, line-wise. If you use live bait, use a circle hook so you can release any big fish that don’t quite measure up.
Briery, anyone? Somebody’s going to catch the next state record bass, why not you?
Whales and Tuna
The same thing — lots and lots of baitfish — that has drawn whales to the coast of Virginia Beach is also attracting stripers, bluefish and even bluefin tuna. That’s right: bluefin tuna are within a few miles of the beachfront hotels.
This, in fact, has been one of the most productive years ever for stripers off Virginia Beach. It’s a good thing, too, because 2011 was a weak year for catching rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay. It just never got cold enough until the season had passed.
There may still be some opportunities for a tuna or some big stripers out of Rudee Inlet or Lynnhaven, but time is drawing nigh. When a touch of warm water hits, the fish will head north. Better hurry.
Contact Jim Brewer at firstname.lastname@example.org