Meadow River is a sleeper for anglers
The Meadow River currently is being touted among tourists as a feisty little stream that offers a medley of opportunities for both anglers and kayakers.
The Meadow’s shaded summer pools keep fishermen coming back year after year, and its lower reaches attract a growing number of kayakers in spring when the stream kicks up its whitewater heels.
And though the little river between Fayetteville and Summersville has been something of a sleeper when it came to fishing in the past, it’s no longer the case today.
With the stocking by the DNR and an increasing interest in the wetlands along Interstate 64, the Meadow River rapidly is becoming known throughout the eastern United States.
Many warm water fish species inhabit the Meadow River: smallmouth bass, spotted bass, rock bass, flathead catfish, carp, bluegill, white suckers, and river chubs are the most common.
It has good a musky population, too, according to Mark Scott, assistant-chief fisheries biologist with the DNR in Charleston.
“Local anglers frequently have taken muskies between 30 and 35 inches on the river,” says Scott. “Some fish have been reported in the 40-inch class.”
David Scott Richmond of Grandview fishes the Meadow River with several of his angling buddies.
The avid angler uses a variety of top water lures and homemade spinners. Occasionally, he’ll toss a “wooly-bugger” or some other hand-crafted minnow imitation with his fly rod.
“I use whatever works at the moment,”Richmond says with a laugh. “I’m one of those people who can never seem to take enough gear. I never know what I’m apt to run into or need.”
Richmond is the first to acknowledge that Meadow River’s features belie its aquatic resources. “It looks like a nothing stream, slow and muddy, in the upper reaches,” he says. “Down toward the Gauley River, though, it picks up gradient and becomes a smallmouth stream.”
Several area anglers learned the basics of musky fishing on the Meadow River.
Jason Roberts of Hico recalls taking some sizable muskies from the Meadow River in the Nallen area near WV 41, but he says bass fishing is just as exciting.
“I’ve seen fly fishermen down there tossing their dry flies,” he says, adding that fishing the Meadow River for smallmouth bass and rock bass in the gorge area downstream from Rainelle is a high point for many anglers.
A DNR stocking program sustains a good muskellunge fishery in the Meadow River between Rupert and Nallen.
Biologists first stocked muskellunge in 1963, according to the DNR. Since 1974, this section of the river has been stocked with fingerling musky each year.
“Anglers commonly catch sizable musky on the stream,” Scott explains. “The eggs for these fish are obtained from the State of New York and raised at our (DNR’s) Ridge Fish Hatchery in Morgan County.”
He says that public fishing access sites on the Meadow River are located at the Tommy Hall Road bridge near Rupert and the Division of Highways Roadside Park at Charmco, both in Greenbrier County.
The access sites are suitable for carrying small boats to the river. Undeveloped fishing access is available along U.S. Route 60 which parallels the river between Rainelle and Rupert.
The rugged gorge section downstream from Rainelle to the mouth of the stream, however, is unsuitable for float trips because of dangerous whitewater conditions.
“Bank fishing and wading are recommended for this remote area,” Scott explains. “During low-water periods, wading becomes more feasible for anglers fishing the gorge.”
Although walk-in public fishing access to the Meadow River gorge can be reached from the U.S. Route 19 bridge, the trail is long and steep, the biologist says.
Two tributary streams of the Meadow River, Big Clear Creek and Little Clear Creek are stocked with trout from February though May.
Big Clear Creek also receives a fall trout stocking in mid-October in conjunction with the opening of the squirrel hunting season.
The low grading of the upper section of the river from Dawson to Rainelle makes the fishery suitable for a variety of float fishing trips and offers good bank fishing, Scottsays.
Downstream from Rainelle, the characteristics of the Meadow River change dramatically, as the once slow-moving stream tumbles 30 miles through a gorge into the Gauley River.
This section is not recommended for the average boater. “Only the most experienced kayaker should attempt to navigate this portion of the river,” Scott adds, noting that within the gorge area, the Meadow becomes inhospitable.
“The river is menacing,” he says. “It’s the ultimate experience for kayakers. It’s one rapid right after another. You don’t have the long pools that you have on the New River.
“There are times, with its high rocks, when it’s dangerous for anyone. Some call it the `kamikaze’ of the east.
“Extremely dangerous rapids and exposed boulders in the gorge make the river life-threatening to boaters, so only the most experienced kayakers should attempt to navigate it.”
Meadow River, named after the abundant grasslands in its upper reaches, gets its start in eastern Summers County near Grassy Meadows and flows more than 50 miles to the Gauley River at Carnifex Ferry.
Most of the Meadow River shoreline is in private ownership.
The lower five-and-one-half-mile reach, however, lies within the Gauley River National Recreation Area and is designated the Meadow Wild and Scenic River.
“From its beginnings on Red Spring Mountain to Rainelle, the Meadow River is a low gradient stream, meandering through wide agricultural valleys and draining the extensive wetlands that are found in its headwaters,” says Scott.
“Interstate 64 passes through the Meadow River wetlands between Dawson and Sam Black Church in western Greenbrier County.”
The Meadow River region is enhanced by three nearby public recreation facilities, and the DNR is actively pursuing public access sites for future development on the river.
The state’s largest lake, 2,700-acre Summersville Lake, provides excellent warm water fishing for smallmouth bass and walleyes.
Year-round trout fishing is available in the Gauley River below Summersville Dam.
Babcock and Hawks Nest state parks offer an additional 4,400 acres of public recreational lands.
“Kanawha Falls Wildlife Management Area is located near Gauley Bridge and it offers some of the state’s best warm water fishing,”according to Scott. “Several special needsfacilities have been developed to accommodate the physically challenged.”
The biologist foresees thoroughfares leading to Meadow River bulging with traffic as the fishery becomes an even greater attraction in years ahead.
“If you want to step back in history,” Scottadds, “drive the famous Midland Trail (U.S. Route 60) into the Meadow River Valley.
“You’ll find it’s one of the state’s hidden treasures.”
Top o’ the morning!