What is the Poker Run?
First, the poker run is a charitable fund raising event that gives players an opportunity to play “a card game” on the water. And this Poker Run at SML is the longest running Poker Run on the east coast! This will be it’s 21st year held on Saturday, May 19th.
It is definitely not a race. There is a limit of 75 boats, but captains can have as many players and registered guests on board as their legal capacity allows. The boats travel to seven card stops throughout Smith Mountain Lake to retrieve a playing card at each stop at the end, each player presents their best five cards to be eligible for several thousand dollars in cash prizes. The first player to get four aces receives $5000.00. The SMLBA (Smith Mountain Lake Boating Association – a non-profit organization) has awarded this top prize numerous times. There is also a $1500.00 prize for the best hand, $500 for second best, $250 for third best, and many other cash awards for various categories such as best appearing crew and the most players on a boat. Proceeds from the event go to various lake organizations such as The Smith Mountain Lake Marine Volunteer Fire Dept.
Boats of every description are welcome. Past events have featured large cruisers, house boats, pontoon boats and even small runabouts...speed is not a factor. If a vessel is too slow to cover the entire course in the five hours of the event, then they can be “spotted” a card stop and may draw those cards at the end of the run. The larger boats have an even better chance of taking home the cash for the most players on a boat.
The entry fee is $175.00 a player, with a two player minimum per vessel. The guest fee is $90.00. Guests may participate in the entire weekend's festivities, but are not eligible to play the game. All players and guests are treated to a dinner and entertainment on Friday night, then the event moves to Mariners Landing Resort for the actual poker run, where many of the participants will be staying. Upon their return to Mariners Saturday afternoon, players, guests, volunteers and sponsors will join together for a beer garden, followed by a dinner and music.
To find out more information or to register, you can go to http://www.smlba.com/index.php/poker-run
Wine festivals happen throughout Virginia all year long. Some are in parking lots, some are held at wineries or in large fields. There is one that celebrates Virginia wines, craft beer and cider…it’s the Annual Grapes & Grains Festival held at Mariners Landing Resort that overlooks the beautiful Smith Mountain Lake. This festival is special, not only because it is held on the lawn right next to the lake with the majestic Blue Ridge mountains in the background, but the resort opens up all of its amenities to guests at the festival so they can enjoy the outdoor pools, the beach on the lake, the indoor heated pool and game room, fitness center, tennis courts and its hiking walking and biking trail!
The tickets are incredibly reasonable. You can purchase them in advance and they are only $15 for 10 free tastings of your choice and then you can purchase a full glass (or bottle) after that. For those who are the designated driver, you can purchase your ticket in advance for only $5. All tickets allow you into the festival where you can spread out your blanket, listen to live music, try some BBQ and other tasty eats, shop at the on-site arts & crafts vendors, or take a dip in the lake or one of the pools! If you decide to purchase your tickets the day of the event, it will be $20 for tasting tickets and $10 for non-tasters.
You can find more information at www.mariners-resort.com/eventsatmariners. Or you can purchase your tickets online at https://bwtickets.com/products
Fishing for Money
Fishing is an amazing pastime and this has generated a huge interest and following internationally. It is no surprise that fishing is among the most preferred hobbies on the planet. In the U.S. alone, the interest in fishing seems to be insatiable and estimate puts it that around 12 million people acquire fishing licenses every year.
According to a new study by the ASA (American Sportfishing Association), despite the recent recession, the fishing industry grew five percent. The same study suggests that fishing supports more than 828,000 jobs, and it has an annual economic impact of $115 billion.
This sport is so popular that its even integrated into many video and online games, not to mention in some virtual world style games like World of Warcraft and Runescape, fishing is a way to make money. But there is a great imbalance in the expenses incurred in enjoying this favorite hobby. Figures indicate that for every dollar you spend on a fishing license, you probably spent sixteen dollars on equipment, these could range from fishing tackle to food, to clothing and to transportation.
Some venture that fishing is perhaps the most expensive hobby around. Naturally, this leads to people want to find out more information about this particular activity. Some people have this misconception that a boat is the only investment for you to get all your catches, but extra earnings can come in other ways as well.
Here are a few other ways you can make money fishing beside the usual fishing jobs:
1. Use Your Boat for Tours
There are tons of people doing this in states like Florida. Organize trips to get people out fishing. Some people would prefer fish on the water instead of on shore. There are actually some at Smith Mountain Lake too!
Obviously, you would charge a fee for such service, but make sure your boat is well equipped with bait, tackle and fishing lines, and don’t forget the life jackets!
2. Run a Fishing Camp
A fishing camp could be an excellent idea during fishing season. You can tailor trips that cater to adults, children or families, or simply a mixed bag crowd. In fact, you can conduct such camps all year long if there are sufficient facilities to ice fish. Better still, cook all the catches.
Conduct cooking classes as well as lure making and fly tying. You could show the kids how you make fishing rods from non-descript sticks. During rainy season, organize trips for some serious night crawler spotting.
3. Make & Sell Fishing Lures
For presentation, bait should be filled inside a container with dirt and night crawlers, and of course a little water. To keep bait alive, make sure the temperature is cool enough. Make and sell your own fishing lures and flies.
Fishing poles made of wood are not too bad an idea as well, and remember to make smaller ones to cater to the kids market. Consistent with our online life style, make sure you create a website for this, and old fashioned fliers and business cards won’t hurt either.
4. Teach People How to Fish
You can always make money teaching your skills and expertise to others. If you can, get involved in public education programs on all things about fishing. Get them out and demonstrate to them on the preparation of the fishing poles, the right way to cast a net and what circumstances you should let go of a fish, or not.
Show how the fish scale can be removed and how to gut the fish the right way. Show what sorts of cooking are possible. In short, get them to experience all of these.
5. Become a Pro Fisherman
Being a pro fisherman is exciting, and you get paid to fish. However, your chances of getting there is very slim. Not to mention it takes a lot of time and commitment.
Look at life stories of some of the Bassmaster Classic contenders and you’ll see what I mean. Many of them spent years participating in small tournaments, perfecting their skill on caching bass by learning their habits.
That said, if you have the commitment and don’t mind spending eight hours on a freezing cold day in a bass boat, the potential to making decent money is there.
6. Blog About Fishing
Blogs about hobbies are very popular and fishing is no exception. You could start a blog about fishing like this one, sharing your experience, thoughts and techniques with your readers. You could blog about anything related to this hobby.
Popular Fish on the Lake
Anglers come from all over to try their hand at catching bass, stripers, and catfish year round. Largemouth bass fishing on the lake is very good but this fishery receives a lot of pressure. Extensive electrofishing surveys (conducted by VDGIF fisheries biologists) each spring typically produce many largemouth bass in the 2-4 pound range. Surveys indicate the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass fishery has improved in recent years and is producing great fishing opportunities. The highest densities of largemouth bass in this reservoir is found upstream (heading away from the dam) of Hales Ford Bridge area in the Roanoke River arm and buoy B26 in the Blackwater River arm. Smallmouth bass are more prevalent in the lower portion of the reservoir. Although bass densities are generally higher in the upper ends of the reservoir, anglers usually find fishing more productive in the lower ends due to the lakes topography. Piers and boathouses provide extensive shoreline cover that anglers should take advantage of. Additionally, natural structure such as fallen trees, rock shoals, and points, are seasonally productive. Coves typically produce the best largemouth bass angling opportunities due to shallower water and less boating traffic. Most anglers, fishing during the summer, fish at night or very early in the morning to avoid heavy boat traffic. Most bass are found in 10-20 ft of water when the fish are not near the shoreline during the spawning season.
The striper fishery is also very notable with striped bass ranking as the second most popular sport fish at Smith Mountain Lake. Striped bass have been stocked into this reservoir since impoundment in 1963. Limited spawning habitat for striped bass prevents natural reproduction. Stocking is required to maintain the fishery unlike other species such as bass, crappie, catfish, sunfish and shad.
Stripers are distributed throughout the lake during most of the year but are concentrated in lower lake areas during the summer and early fall months. Coves are typically not very productive for striped bass during the summer months so anglers should concentrate their efforts on the main lake when water temperatures begin to rise. However, the backs of coves, which contain flowing streams, can be productive during the late fall, winter and early spring months. Look for schools of shad in these areas especially during warming trends when the streams are warmer than the reservoir. Striped bass anglers utilize a variety of fishing methods such as drifting live bait, trolling plugs and bucktail jigs, or casting top water lures. Anglers use live bait throughout the year, trolling is most popular during the warmer months, and casting top water or shallow running plugs is most productive in April – June at night. Most striped bass are caught between the dams and buoy 64 of the Roanoke Arm and up to buoy 40 of the Blackwater Arm. Although these are the general areas most striped bass are caught, these fish are very mobile and may change locations continuously depending on forage availability, water temperatures, and spawning.
Virginia's Premier Fishing Spot
Smith Mountain Lake is a 20,600-acre impoundment located near Roanoke in Bedford and Franklin counties. This reservoir is one of Virginia’s premier fisheries, offering outstanding fishing and other recreational opportunities. The reservoir was constructed in the early 1960’s and is owned by American Electric Power Company and is managed primarily for hydroelectric power generation. Most of the shoreline is developed with residential homes but other facilities catering to outdoor enthusiasts are found at various locations.
SML has numerous boat ramps (public and private) and marinas scattered throughout the reservoir. Smith Mountain Lake State Park is a major attraction with all it has to offer. Some of the parks options are picnic areas, beach, campground, cabins, handicapped-accessible fishing pier, boat ramp, hiking trails, scenic views and a golf course located next to the park. The Smith Mountain Lake Community Park in Franklin County also offers picnic areas, beach and handicapped-accessible fishing pier. Many lake visitors take advantage of the numerous houses available for rent around the lake for lodging accommodations, like Mariners Landing Resort.
Black bass are the most sought after species by anglers at Smith Mountain Lake. Largemouth bass comprise the bulk of this fishery and far outnumber smallmouth bass. Smith Mountain lake is consistently one of the top producer of bass citations in Virginia and has been hosting an ESPN Bassmaster Elite Series tournament for several years.
Biking & Beauty
As much as recreation is a part of the lake, so too are the sweeping water and mountain views. Now all of those elements have been combined into a 50-mile bike trail on the Bedford County side of the lake. Mike Dittrich, from WDBJ7 and a part-time lake resident, came up with the idea for a trail as another way to celebrate the lake’s 50th anniversary. The scenic route begins at Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston and meanders along several of the county’s less-traveled roads. Thanks to $7500 from the 50th anniversary’s steering committee and a matching grant from the Bedford County Board of Supervisors back in 2016, signs have been posted along the route to direct riders. The route is ideal for all levels of bicyclists and gives riders the option of only doing a portion of the trail or the entire route.
Another great place to bike is in the Smith Mountain Lake State Park. You can park near the swimming beach and ride up to the Visitor Center or for a road with less vehicle traffic, park at the Visitor Center (or the Discovery Center) and bike Interpretive Trail Road. It has a few moderate hills after the trail heads for Turtle Island and Chestnut Ridge). For a more challenging ride, bike Overnight Road that has large hills both ways. For children learning to ride, the Discovery Center parking lot might be the place to make the move off training wheels. There are four trails that are offered at SML State Park for hiking or biking. Chestnut (1.9 miles) and Turtle Island Trail (1.3 miles) are considered moderately difficult and Lake View Trail (.5 miles) and Tobacco Run Trail (.7 miles) are considered easy.
Hiking at SML
Being out in nature is good for the soul and Smith Mountain Lake has some beautiful trails and parks to explore. One of them is Smith Mountain Lake Community Park that encompasses a wooded peninsula that stretches out into the lake. The trail leading out to the park passes through dense conifers to a mix of pines and deciduous woodland. The area hosts many of the resident birds found in the woods of the western Piedmont while providing an attractive site to look for migrant songbirds. The area’s almost 360-degree vista of open water on Smith Mountain Lake is ideal for searching for waterfowl. Some common sightings are loons, horned grebes and numerous waterfowl that you can see in the surrounding inlets; as well as, ring-billed gulls, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons and an occasional tern or other vagrant. You should also carefully search the lake shore for several species of damselflies and potentially half-a-dozen or more dragonfly species.
To get to this SML Community Park from Booker T. Washington National Monument, head east on 122 and travel 1.1 miles to Rt. 616, turn right and drive south 4.8 miles down Scruggs Road. Turn left onto Rt. 942 (at the Exxon) and continue 1.1 miles to Rt. 1291/Winding Waters Rd. Turn right and proceed 0.3 miles to the “T”-intersection with Winding Waters Drive. Stay right and follow the road 0.4 miles to Parkway Avenue. Turn left and drive 1.0 mile to the park at the end of the road.
Wonderful and Wild
Part of what makes Smith Mountain Lake so wonderful is its natural environment. Much of the acreage surrounding the 500 miles of shoreline is undisturbed green space or protected parks where wildlife and vegetation thrive. Families living or visiting the lake get amazing views of wild animals in their natural habitat, and one of the more fascinating species, that locals love to observe, are ospreys.
Over a decade ago, local parks and recreation authorities built platforms around the lake hoping ospreys migrating north for the summer would build their nests at SML. Well, the plan worked and the ospreys have been part of the summer community ever since.
There will be a third annual running of the Osprey 10K Run/5K Run-Walk at Smith Mountain Lake State Park on Saturday, April 7th. The proceeds from this event will go to the park to support programs and activities and its mission of environmental stewardship and education. The event is a 5K run/walk or a 10K run for participants of all ages and activity levels…and it’s USA Track & Field (USATF) sanctioned. The race highlights the wonderful attributes of the area as participants make their way along the beautiful roadways in the Park.
If you are interested in participating, click here for more information or to register!
Are you interested in learning about or becoming part of group whose mission is promoting, protecting, and preserving Smith Mountain Lake State Park? Well there is a fabulous non-profit charitable organization that gets together on the third Monday of each month at 9:30 a.m. at the Discovery Center in the Park. The Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park represent a significant resource to the Park and the community.
Since the establishment of the Friends, over 62,414 volunteer hours have been donated. In addition to the hours of work, the Friends contribute cash, public relations, and program assistance such as the Winter Lecture Series and Music in the Park Program.
The next lecture will be held on Sunday, April 8th at the Discovery Center from 3:00-4:00 p.m. Ben Shrader, a private practicing civil engineer/land surveyor/soil scientist, a life long outdoor enthusiast, a Virginia Master Naturalist, and board member of Cougar Rewilding Foundation, will be presenting the lecture, “Camera Trapping at Claytor Nature Study.” Ben comes to share some of the joys of nine years of wildlife trail camera data and how it may be used; while inserting tidbits of interesting facts and trends in our local wildlife. Which of the local wildlife are enjoying success and which are under stress and why?
A single ticket is $7 which includes the parking fee. All tickets are purchased at the door. Come out and see what wildlife is around you!
What was that sound outside my bedroom window so early in the morning. I often hear crows but never like this. I went to my back deck to see 8-10 crows swooping around an object in one of the trees. After grabbing my binoculars, I saw the largest great horned owl I had ever seen…right here at Smith Mountain Lake! What was so funny to me is that the owl did not even budge.
After a quick google, I quickly found out that crows and owls are mortal enemies. If a crow finds an owl roosting in the daylight, especially in a clearing, they sound the alarm. That’s why there were so many crows. Before I could get my camera, the owl swooped across the golf course to another tree and the crows followed to disturb someone else’s morning.
That was just the start of the “Animal Planet” day that you can often have on and around the lake. With the variety of environments surrounding the lake, the entire animal kingdom of Virginia seems to converge around the 20,000-acre reservoir in Bedford, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties.
As I moved down to the dock to finish my cup of coffee, I hear a rustling of the leaves on the shoreline. Then something scurrying on the riprap. A river otter, which is shy by nature, runs along the rocks with a three-foot snake clenched in its jaw. I knew that he was around and thought he lived in a den near my neighbor’s dock, but I had never seen it so bold. Back to my google and I quickly find that otters eat not only fish, but snakes, frogs, toads and salamanders. Reading further, I see that otters are social creatures and live in family groups, sometimes up to a dozen. Maybe he was bringing breakfast to his pups.
I knew I needed to start my day, but was mesmerized, again, by the wildlife that I found right outside my back door!
We will bring you all the fun things to do around the lake all year long!