Smith Mountain Lake Fishing, Size, Depth, And More

Written by Nixza Gonzalez
Updated: August 17, 2023
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Did you know that all, but two lakes in Virginia are manmade? This naturally beautiful state has no shortage of places to view wildlife, hike, and fish, but not all fishing spots are natural. Smith Mountain Lake, a popular lake in the Roanoke Region of Virginia is manmade. Follow along to learn about Smith Mountain Lake, including things to do in and near the area.


Smith Mountain Lake is a large reservoir. It has a surface area of 32 square miles. This lake sits at an elevation of 795 feet and provides about 500 miles of shoreline to hike, swim, and fish. This lake is especially known for its depth. Smith Mountain Lake is the deepest lake in Virginia. The average depth of the lake is 55 feet, while the maximum is 250 feet. The lake is also 40 miles long.

Smith Mountain Lake sunset

Smith Mountain Lake is the deepest lake in Virginia with a maximum depth of 250 feet.

©Tangie Marie Bush/


Smith Mountain Lake is in the Roanoke Region of Virginia. This lovely lake is in Bedford, Franklin, and Pittsylvania counties. The primary inflows for the lake are the Roanoke River and Blackwater River. Along the shores of this park is the Smith Mountain Lake State Park.


The Smith Mountain Lake Dam created the lake. The lake’s history began in the 1920s when initial proposals were submitted. However, the dam wasn’t constructed until 1960. Appalachian Power built this impressive dam in three years. The dam is 235 feet tall and 816 feet long. It’s also 30 feet wide.

Although the rivers were dammed in 1963, it took three additional years for the lake to reach normal water levels. The area around this lake grew quickly in the 1980s. Before this, the lake was a quiet hidden gem surrounded by agricultural farms.

Smith Mountain Lake dam in Virginia

The Smith Mountain Dam is 235 feet tall, 816 feet long, and 30 feet wide.



One of the most popular activities on this lake is fishing. There is a large supply of bass in the lake. Largemouth bass are very abundant and popular. Striped bass are popular, but there aren’t as many. Most largemouth bass within this lake, according to Virginia’s Department of Wildlife, are regularly 2 to 4 pounds. Sometimes, they are as heavy as 8 pounds. While smallmouth bass also live in this lake, they aren’t as common. If you want a challenge, you can try your luck at reeling in crappies. The best time to fish for crappie in this artificial lake is between March and May, and again from October to November. You can also find sunfish, but they are small.

Bass fishing lure. Caught bass fish in fisherman hands. Largemouth perch

Fishing is a popular activity on Smith Mountain Lake.


Swimming and Boating

Swimming is another popular activity on Smith Mountain Lake. There are two main swimming beaches on the lake. The first beach is Smith Mountain Lake Beach. It’s open from 8:15 am to dusk. A little farther away is the community park on the lake. For a small fee, you can enter the park and use the facilities, which include a fishing pier and a kayak/canoe launch. Fishing is popular on boats in the center of the lake.

Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia

Swimming is a fun activity at Smith Mountain Lake.

©Noel V. Baebler/

Camping and More

At this lake, you aren’t limited to swimming or fishing. You can also camp, hike, view wildlife, and bird-watching. Hiking is a very popular activity. In the state park, there are multiple hiking trails. They range in difficulty and length. For example, visitors can walk the Beaver Den, which runs for about 0.4 miles and is considered easy. Another easy walking trail in the state park is the Beechwood Trail. It’s 0.9 miles long and loops around the campgrounds. A moderate trail is the Striper Cove Trail. It’s a 3.1-mile challenging hike that offers beautiful views of the lake, forest, and an active termite mound.

While you can explore the state park and lake for a day, you can also spend the night camping. There are lots of options too! You can pitch your tent or stay in a bunkhouse or cabin. It’s important to reserve a cabin quickly, especially during memorial day weekend. 

Another excellent activity in the lake and state park is bird watching. Bird watching accompanies wildlife viewing. While on a hiking trail or camping trip, you may see white-tailed deer, shrews, grey foxes, beavers, black bears, and raccoons. Common bird species near the lake are bluejays, northern flickers, downy woodpeckers, and wild turkeys.

Northern Flicker, perched in a tree, a red-shafted woodpecker (Colaptes auratus)

A bird species you may encounter on or near Smith Mountain Lake is the northern flicker.

©Jennifer Bosvert/

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Virginia State Parks / Flickr – License / Original

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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