SANDSTONE - No, the Loch Ness Monster does not live in the pool downstream from West Virginia's Sandstone Falls.
Much to fishermen's benefit, though, just about everything else does. And while the fish that dwell there will never be mistaken for monsters, some of them get pretty darned big. Not surprisingly, the falls have become one of the New River's most popular fishing spots.
"I would say the word is out now," said Mark Scott, regional fisheries biologist for the state Division of Natural Resources. "Sandstone used to be pretty popular with local fishermen, but relatively unknown otherwise. Thanks to social media, it's not a secret anymore."
Photos of Sandstone's trophy muskellunge, walleye and smallmouth bass, posted on Facebook, chat rooms, anglers' forums and other Internet outlets, have spread the word. Fishermen from throughout the state are making the falls a must-go destination.
"During the summer, it's tough to find a place to fish sometimes on weekends," Scott said. "As recently as a few years ago, very few people tried to bring boats in there, but a lot of people are bringing them in now."
A state-maintained launch ramp, a couple of miles downstream from the falls at Meadow Creek, allows motorboat access to roughly a mile and a half of the New.
"You can't get all the way up into the falls pool because of shoals, and you can't go downstream [from the ramp] because of some rapids, but the stretch of river that is accessible is really good," Scott explained.
Most of the fishing done at the falls pool itself takes place from the riverbank, or from rocks in the river itself.
"When the water is real low, guys will use belly boats to paddle out, climb onto the rocks, and fish the pool from there," Scott said.
Anglers who make the trek to Sandstone find themselves in one of the state's most scenic spots. The New River, some 1,500 feet wide at that point, drops 10 to 25 feet off a sandstone ledge into a churning, frothing pool. The falls are the state's largest, and the National Park Service maintains an overlook, a boardwalk, a canoe and kayak launch area, a parking lot and restrooms for anglers' and sightseers' use.
The falls are best known for smallmouth, walleye and muskie fishing, but Scott said anglers should come prepared to catch most anything.
"It's a mixed bag," he said. "[The falls have] smallmouth bass, plus the occasional largemouth or spotted bass; rock bass; striped bass, hybrid striped bass and the occasional white bass; flathead and channel catfish; carp, walleye and muskie."