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The 3000+ acre Leesville Lake is another of Virginia's prolific fishing and outdoor recreation reservoirs. It is part of the Smith Mountain Lake hydropower generation project. Leesville Lake's well-developed public recreation areas provide many opportunities for a fine mix of water related outdoor activities. Boating, fishing, birding, and wildlife viewing are some of the highlights for any visitor. There are an adequate number of boat launching ramps along Leesville Reservoir, a day use and picnic area and a couple of marinas for boaters and anglers.
Leesville Lake is located mostly in Pittsylvania County, near Altavista, stretching along the border of the Central and Southern tourism regions. There is little shoreline development around Leesville Lake, contributing to much less crowding and a more enjoyable experience for anglers and sport boaters.
Leesville Lake was created by damming the Roanoke River exiting from the Smith Mountain Lake Dam. The reservoir is part of the Appalachian Electric Power's (a unit of American Electric Power) Smith Mountain Lake Project, flooding farmlands along the river, and was finished in 1963.
The Smith Mountain Lake Project operates on a process called pumped storage. Water from Smith Mountain Lake's hydroelectric generators is captured by Leesville Dam and is pumped from Leesville Reservoir for later re-use. Some of the water is used by Leesville Dam for its own hydroelectric power generation. Leesville Lake has an average depth of 31 feet and storage of up to nearly 100,000 acre-feet of water. Due to this pumped storage system, Leesville Reservoir experiences daily water fluctuations of 1 to 10 feet.
Fishing along the 100 miles of Leesville Lake shoreline is excellent, especially for striped bass. Annually, the reservoir is stocked with striped bass and walleye and walleye taken there will reach up to six pounds. Virginia's record striped bass was caught in Leesville Lake in 2000. Fishing opportunites include black bass, striped bass, walleye, white bass, yellow perch, black crappie, white crappie and white perch. Fish populations in Leesville Lake vary considerably by location and therefore present a challenge to the interested angler. Prime fishing is from late fall and early summer and is best from Leesville Dam to Howell Creek.
The day use and picnic area near Leesville Dam is quite pleasant and generally not heavily used. For the geocachers among us, there are over 20 caches in the area, so bring your GPS receiver and some 'booty'.
Pack your rods and head out to Leesville Lake. Stay for a few days and gather in the peacefulness under a night sky of a million stars. The memories will stay with you forever.
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