Switzer Reservoir, also known as Skidmore Lake, is a 118-acre impoundment in the George Washington National Forest. The lake, which dams Skidmore Fork, is owned by the city of Harrisonburg and acts as the city’s drinking water reservoir. The lake is located on Forest Road 227 right off Route 33 West near the West Virginia line. There is a boat launch, but no facilities and no gas-powered motors are allowed. The lake sitting at an elevation of 2,300 feet, is over 100 feet deep! That deep, cold water allows trout to survive and thrive through the summer.
The state manages the lake as a “put and grow” fishery; meaning trout are stocked when they are only a few inches in length and left to grow in the lake. Trout over 3 pounds have been caught from Switzer! The lake is fished best from a boat or kayak. Trout anglers should target the lake at specific times of the year
April and May provide surface temperatures in the 50s and 60s, and trout will be in the top 10 feet of the water column. Schools of brook and brown trout will feed on or near the surface, eating midges, BWO’s and small baitfish, especially just before dark. It is not uncommon to have the opportunity to cast into large schools of 12-15-inch trout. During the summer, trout will head deep under the thermocline.
In the fall, when surface temperatures cool, trout return to the surface, feeding in preparation to spawn. During wet years, Skidmore Fork will be flowing into the lake, and the brookies and browns will run up the creek to spawn. If the water is low and not flowing above ground into the lake, the trout will school up in the shallows at the head of the lake. This typically occurs at the end of October. Anglers usually have about a month to target the trout before spawn. Once winter arrives, the trout will again return below the thermocline.
Warmwater fishermen can target largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, channel catfish and pike. Many anglers find the fishing on Switzer to be challenging due to its depth and clarity. The fish could be 50 feet down and unaware of your fly, or 5 feet down and see you coming. Just like with the trout, targeting species at the right time of year is critical.
Warm-water species will be up in the lake and most active spring through early fall. Largemouth will be in the shallows on their nests in mid-April. Pike populations have increased in the last few years, and anglers have had luck sight fishing large streamers to them.
Switzer Reservoir is one of the most beautiful lakes in Virginia; give it a try.