Fishing Virgina’s Ragged Mountain Reservoir

This lake is perfect for anglers who like to cast and hike.

Charlottesville-area anglers have plenty of choices, with dozens of lakes and ponds within an hour of the city. In fact, one of the city’s best spots is so close it often gets overlooked. Ragged Mountain Reservoir is a gem of a fishing destination just three miles west of the University of Virginia’s campus, tucked into a hardwood forest.  

The 170-acre collection of coves and peninsulas is surrounded by a 980-acre preserve and serves as a water source for the city of Charlottesville. In order to keep the preserve pristine, no motor boats or swimming are allowed. Dogs aren’t allowed either. Thanks to these restrictions, Ragged Mountain doesn’t see a lot of traffic and the lake doesn’t get a lot of pressure from anglers, so there’s a good chance you’ll have the place and the fish to yourself. Even better, a seven-mile hiking trail encircles the lake, offering access to a variety of spots to fish from the bank. 

Ragged Mountain Reservoir actually used to be two lakes, but the creation of a new dam in 2014 combined them. The new reservoir reached full capacity in 2016, and is now full of black crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, and panfish. If you want to keep it simple, fish with worms, but many anglers at Ragged Mountain have had luck with spinnerbaits, which are flashy lures that mimic a lot of movement, when casting deeper portions of the lake, or imitation plastic worms along the lake’s edges, where the water is shallow and relatively clear. When you’re hiking around the lake, look for fallen trees in the water or spots of flooded timber. Fish like to hide and eat around structures, so these areas can be hot spots for anglers. 

Where To Cast 

Short trip:

The quickest access to fishing is along the rock wall right at the upper parking lot. go ahead and test your luck there, but then start hiking the aptly named Lake Front Loop Trail, which is a seven-mile loop. 

Medium trip:

For a moderate outing you have two options. 1) Hike the Lake Front Loop Trail counterclockwise for half a mile to the Turtle Peninsula spur trail. 2) Hike clockwise and take the Rocky Peninsula spur trail at just over a mile from the parking lot. Both spur trails lead to good shoreline fishing.

Leisurely trip:

If you have plenty of time, hiking the entire trail is worth the effort. In addition to delivering you to a variety of fishing spots, you’ll also pass several wood-carved statues as you ramble through a mature hardwood forest. Look for beaver and otter that live in the lake as well. 


You’re so close to the University of Virginia, you shouldn’t miss The Corner, an iconic strip of shops and restaurants bordering UVA. Get a burger from Boylan Heights, which has a menu full of school-themed sandwiches and salads. Bonus: All the beef here comes from local Seven Hills Farm. 

More Info 

Download a map of the lake and its trails and learn about the forest surrounding the water here.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.