ARCADIA, Va. (WFXR) — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is addressing concerns about smallmouth bass numbers on the Upper James River, acknowledging that smallmouth numbers are down.

While the fishery remains viable, and is one of the better trophy smallmouth fisheries in the mid-Atlantic, the number of smaller fish has been on the decline. Biologists from the DWR believe it is because of poor spawning conditions in recent years.

Recruitment of young smallmouth bass has not been what it had been in years past. However, the 2021 spawning class appears to be higher than the historic average, and that may be the start of the smallmouth rebound.

The DWR is now discussing the possibility of stocking to supplement numbers until the population rises. That is covered in a recent report put out by the DWR.

While it may be a viable solution, biologists say more research needs to be done to determine if there are other issues affecting smallmouth recruitment, as well as if the state has the capacity to produce the number of fish needed for the effort.

Some questions have been raised about overfishing and predation by other species. However, the James is managed for harvest, and many smallmouth are caught and released.

Studies by the DWR and Virginia Tech both indicate that predators are not having a major impact on smallmouth numbers.