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Lake Information for John H. Kerr Reservoir


Kerr Lake (officially John H. Kerr Reservoir, also known as Bugg's Island Lake by Virginians) is an artificial lake along the border of the U.S. states of North Carolina and Virginia. It was constructed in 1952 to produce electricity and for flood control and is the largest reservoir in Virginia. It is currently owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It is located in Vance County, NC, Granville County, NC, Warren County, NC, and Mecklenburg County, VA. At its maximum capacity, it's one of the largest reservoirs in the Southeastern United States. The lake has over 850 miles of shoreline and covers approximately 50,000 acres (200 km²). The lake is named for Congressman John H. Kerr of North Carolina, who supported the original creation of the lake.

The lake is actually an impoundment of the Roanoke River (also called the Staunton River in Virginia). The Dan River and several smaller creeks also feed the lake. The lake is upstream of Lake Gaston. Just downstream from the current John H. Kerr Dam, and still visible from the viewing platform below the dam at Tailrace park, lies Buggs Island, named for Samuel Bugg, an early settler. During dam construction from 1946-1952, the dam was called the “Buggs Island Project.” Officially the lake is named John H. Kerr Reservoir for the U.S. Representative for North Carolina's second district, a prominent supporter of the project. North Carolinians know this body of water as Kerr (“Karr”) lake. Virginians know it as Buggs Island Lake or Buggs Island Reservoir. The hydroelectric dam is located on the Virginia side of the lake and generates electricity for the Southeastern Power Administration.

Fishing Description: 

Kerr Reservoir has one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the country. Surveys on largemouth bass indicate high rates of reproduction and growth. Largemouth bass in the 2-4 pound range are typical, however, trophy bass greater than eight pounds are rare. The best fishing is on the upper end of the lake and the lower end creek arms. Structure is important, and water levels affect how much structure is available. When water levels rise into the willow and sweet gum trees in spring, anglers should be sure to fish the backs of coves and the points. Channel catfish have traditionally been the most sought after catfish at Buggs Island; however, flathead and blue catfish have become popular as well.

The striped bass population is in fair condition and should be similar to the last couple of years. During spring, striped bass may be found in the upper end of the lake and in the river above the lake as fish travel upstream to spawn. During summer, habitat (combination of temperature and dissolved oxygen) forces striped bass to be found in the lower end of the lake (the dam to about Buoy 9 and in the mouth of Nutbush Creek). Fishing during the fall and winter is typically best from Goat Island to the Clarksville Bridge, although fish may be found throughout the lake. Striped bass caught during the summer suffer high mortality rates when released (approximately 75 percent). Therefore, we ask that anglers fishing during the summer retain their legal-size fish (20 inches or over) until they are done fishing for the day, or reach their limit (four/day) rather than continue to catch fish and cull smaller individuals. During the cooler months (October-May), striped bass are less stressed and do not suffer high catch-and-release mortality.

Kerr Reservoir is also one of Virginia's best places to catch crappie. Fishing for crappie is typically best from February through April (pre-spawn and spawn); however, many anglers enjoy high catch rates year-round. Buffalo, Grassy, Bluestone, and Butcher Creeks are very productive for crappie. White bass used to be a real favorite at Buggs Island Lake. However, white bass populations are down in many Virginia reservoirs. White perch have recently become established in the lake and may have contributed to the decline of white bass. White perch are quickly becoming popular with anglers because they are abundant and can reach weights of nearly two pounds.

Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Largemouth Bass
Striped Bass
White Bass
White Perch
Optional Information
Maximum depth: 
Surface area: 
John H. Kerr Reservoir
Lake type: 

Businesses Located Nearby

Boat Rental

    Buggs Island Boat Company
  • 6463 Buggs Island Rd - Boydton, VA
  • (434) 738-6235
    Clarksville Marine Rental Incorporated
  • 66 Occoneechee Park Rd - Clarksville, VA
  • (434) 374-2525

Vacation Rental

    Story Properties Vacations Rentals
  • 1245 Nc Highway 903 - Littleton, NC
  • (252) 586-7001
    Jean Short Camp
  • 1084 Ponderosa Ln - Clarksville, VA
  • (434) 252-8762
    American Camping Association
  • 5177 Lakefront Dr - Bullock, NC
  • (919) 603-0445

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