Fish tales

Dominion’s best angling spots from four employees

by Dan Genest

hen Dominion employees travel on business, they all have their own way of whiling away their off-hours. Some go to dinner, some go to their hotel room and read a book, some head for the gym. More than a few take in a round of golf.

I fish.

For more than two decades, fly rods have gone with me as I have crisscrossed Dominion’s service area from Kitty Hawk, N.C., to Mt. Storm, W.Va., and all across Virginia, from the beach to the mountains. Along the way, I’ve found some pretty good places to wet a line.

While fly fishing is my passion, I have nothing against those who enjoy spinning-gear or bait-casters. That’s the operative word — enjoy. At some point if you fish enough, you realize it’s not about catching fish, it’s about enjoying what you’re doing whether the fish are biting or ignoring all your best efforts to tempt them.

The Outer Banks in North Carolina: Where to start? From Carova to Ocracoke, I could name dozens of spots along the beach, in the inlet and sound. But if I had to pick one, it would be the slough on the west side at the south end of the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet in the fall. October and November fly fishing on the Outer Banks means waders and an inflatable life jacket. It also means speckled trout. Try it at dusk or dawn on an outgoing tide. Find the channel drop-off and swing a fly or lure with the current. From September to early October, the flat in that same area also can be productive for flounder.

Chesapeake Energy Center in Virginia: Anglers living in Hampton Roads know it as the “Hot Ditch” because during the fall and winter, the warm waters from the station’s discharge canal attract and hold big speckled trout and good-sized puppy drum. Only Dominion employees with their company ID can fish the ditch on station property. When the ditch is hot, it’s hot. Speckled trout over 10 pounds are not uncommon, and red drum in the 5-8 pound class can put a fearsome bend in a fly rod, making the reel sing a lively tune as they peel off line.

Yorktown Power Station in Virginia: Borrowing an expression from Jethro of the Beverly Hillbillies, the discharge canal is affectionately known as the “cement pond.” The pond is concrete-lined and, like the hot ditch at Chesapeake, attracts and holds fish through the winter. Employees can fish it if they obtain a permit from the station. In the spring, striped bass fishing can be awesome in the pool beneath the weir. That same pool on a cold January night has given up 15- to 18-inch puppy drum on nearly every cast on several occasions. If you want to hunt for big game, dredge the upper section of the canal with a fly, lure or bait for drum that can run to more than 40 pounds. My best on bait was 33 pounds; on the fly rod, it was 23 pounds.

Chesterfield Power Station in Virginia: Located at Dutch Gap on the James River, Chesterfield’s discharge canal lacks a nickname but makes up for it with a lot of 15- to 20-inch striped bass in the winter months. Every once in a while you get a surprise, like a 20-pound striper, a 12-pound tarpon (caught by a Petersburg District employee) or a huge catfish. If catfish are your game, spring and fall is the time to catch’em. Employees can obtain a permit to fish the canal from the station.

Bath County Pumped Storage Station in Virginia: As part of the station’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license for construction, the company had to build a recreation area. The rec area has two ponds stocked with bass, catfish and bluegill, but what lures me is the 1.5-mile section of Back Creek that snakes its course along the eastern edge of the area. Designated a special regulation trout stream by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and labeled a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream by several outdoor writers, Back Creek was essentially “engineered” by the company to support trout. It also is the “home waters” for Dominion’s support of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc. The creek is stocked and holds mostly rainbows but a few brook trout and brown trout also are thrown in. Only lures and flies may be used to catch fish, and a Virginia fishing license and trout stamp are required.

Blue Ridge District office in Verona, Va.: Situated in the Shenandoah Valley between the Allegheny Mountains to the west and the Blue Ridge to the east, this might be the hardest place in the company to fish. What makes it so tough is deciding where to fish. At least a dozen bonafide trout streams beckon within a 20-mile radius. Mossy Creek is famous nationwide for its large, wily brown trout. I have been skunked there so often I call it “an enigma meandering through a meadow.” Yet, I keep going back because you never know when the next cast will connect with a 20-inch brown.

My favorite spot, however, is probably the St. Mary’s River in Virginia, a native brook trout stream cascading down the west slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The brookies don’t get big — a 10-incher is a trophy — but they are beautiful and usually willing. The Dominion Foundation, by the way, has donated about $30,000 over the years to help protect the health of the stream and the brook trout by paying to have lime added to the creek to offset the impact of acid rain.

Mt. Storm in West Virginia: It has been quite a while since I traveled to the top of the world, but it has always been one of my favorite spots. The employees at the station are terrific, the scenery is outstanding, and the fishing can be fantastic if you know where to go. The Smoke Hole section on the South Branch of the Potomac is well known and a great place to fish, but my fondest memories are of Seneca Creek.

Truthfully, while fairly close to the power station, Seneca Creek was never an after-work spot. With the hike in, it is a little too much to pull off in an evening, but I used to drive over on weekends to fish and camp. I would catch plenty of 5-7 inch brook trout and wild rainbows of the same size, but they were never easy. I had to work for them and that made each one rewarding.

The thing about Seneca Creek is that it is absolutely beautiful. For about half of its short 10-mile course, the creek tumbles 1,400 feet in elevation through a narrow canyon with a series of three waterfalls — that must be how they came up with the word gorgeous.

Working primarily on the Dominion Virginia Power side of the company, my travels to offices and locations on the gas side have been limited. I have heard that steel head fishing can be fantastic on the Lake Erie tributaries in Ohio and that some of our Pennsylvania compressor stations are in close proximity to first-class trout streams. They will just have to go on the bucket list.

So many waters … so little time …

Read on to hear from fishermen in other parts of the company.

Photos courtesy of Dan Genest
Video by David Allen