Pete Runyon has been fishing on the Tug Fork River since the 1990s, and he’s been helping connect other local fishers since 2016, when he started the Friends of the Tug Fork River Facebook group. The group is a great place for local fishers to share tips and tricks with one another about fishing on the Tug Fork River-- but they are also more than happy to share tips and tricks with beginners.
Learning from Local Experts
Pete suggests starting with live bait if you’re a beginner, as he describes artificial bait as being “a little more tricky” than live bait. “If you want live bait,you can’t go wrong with Hellgrammites!” Says Charles Mounts, another member of the group. “You can catch your own at the river by flipping over rocks next to the water.” Hellgrammites are the young form of the Dobsonfly, an insect found close to rivers, and many fishermen and women in the group use them.
If you are looking to try out fishing with artificial bait, many in the group have their recommendations. “You can’t go wrong with a rooster tail or a spinner bait,” Says Dustin Estep.
Henry Caroll, another local fisher, posted a handy guide to the artificial lures he uses to the group in June 2019-- check it out here for more info!
When it comes to the best spots to fish, it all comes down to what you want to catch, Pete says. “People who like to catch catfish like large holes of water, while smallmouth fishermen like the faster moving waters.” Pete describes spots close to the Williamson water plant and in Nolan as being great for any type of fisherman, since they provide both types of fishermen with spots to fish. Ryan Davis, one of the fishermen on the Friends of the Tug Fork page, likes targeting shoals and rapids. “I fish in them, above them, and below them. Smallmouth will stage all around them,” He says.
The Best Kept Secret in the Region
Members of the group also encourage you not to feel limited to the shore. “Wading and floating are extremely popular...in most areas, after the water warms some,” Pete says. Wading and floating offer fishers access to places others might not reach. “Wading lets you move out into the river and get close to where you want to cast your line. Floating lets you have the best opportunities. An average float of maybe three to five miles lets you see all kinds of different areas fish like to group up in.”
No matter how you prefer to fish, members of the group encourage everyone to stay safe.“The best advice I can give anyone on the Tug River is, if you are in a boat or kayak, please, please wear a life jacket,” Says Henry. Clayton Stevens also emphasized the importance of safety on the water. “Just be safe out on the water.”
Fishing on the river can be a learning experience, Pete says. “A lot of us have learned to ask other fishermen and women for advice. I have learned so much from our local people who have fished for years on the river.” The time it takes to learn is worth it, as many fishers spot all kinds of wildlife along the shores, from deer and bears to bald eagles.
Pete concludes, “The really special thing about the Tug Fork River is that it is at our back door. I call the Tug Fork River ‘the best kept secret in Southern West Virginia and Eastern KY!’”
For more information on the Friends of the Tug Fork, check out our previous #LocalOrganization article about them. Also, read more about local fishin’ holes, who’s catching what, and so much more by following their Facebook group page!
Article photos submitted by Pete Runyon from the Friends of the Tug Fork River