Great fishing lakes don’t just happen. They need to be tended to and treated like a garden, because that’s what lakes really are: gardens for fish. A poor lake produces a poor crop while a well-managed lake, such as Lake Orange, is extremely productive. We here in Central Virginia are blessed to have Lake Orange, an amazing fishery, so close at hand.
Lake Orange was dammed and formed in 1967. It is owned by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), bought and paid for with the revenues from the sales of licenses, fees and permits. Because it is department-owned, it is managed by the most skilled biologists available, and the results show.
The 124-acre lake, which averages 14 feet in depth, is stocked and fertilized as needed. Vegetable gardens need fertilizers to replenish nutrients and so do lakes. The richer the water, the more pounds of fish it can produce. That’s the goal of the department biologists, to produce as many quality fish as possible for the public’s enjoyment. The lake is regularly examined by biologists to adjust creel limits and sizes for maximum production and receives an annual stocking of catchable size channel catfish.
I first fished Lake Orange in 1971, just a few years after it was formed. I caught that day a huge redear sunfish, well over a pound. Since that first trip, I have been captivated by this beautiful piece of water.
One attraction for visitors is Anger’s Landing (540-672-3997). Managed by Darrell Kennedy, the shop dispenses bait and tackle and sound advice. The marina also rents jon boats with electric trolling motors. There is a very nice ramp at the lake—with no ramp fees—but for the many anglers who do not have access to a boat, the 14-foot crafts allow complete access to the entire lake. The fees are also reasonable at just $25 for a half day and $40 for anything over five hours. Anglers must purchase an access permit if they don’t already own one and they can be purchased per day, though an annual permit is $23 and is used for access to Wildlife Management Areas, as well. Visit www.dgif.virginia.gov/access-permit to purchase your pass.
Another attraction is a splendid handicapped-accessible fishing pier. Many piers like this are constructed in shallow water, which limits fishing success for much of the year, but the Lake Orange pier extends to deep water, 12 feet on the far side with access to even deeper water. The pier itself draws baitfish, which in turn draw bigger fish.
The availability of baitfish is another asset for the Orange County impoundment. The lake has a sustaining gizzard shad population as well as yellow perch, a favored bait for walleye, one of the lake’s main attractions. There is also good fishing from the well-groomed banks with picnic tables, which attract many families along with casual fishermen.
The variety of fish in Lake Orange is impressive. There is world-class fishing for largemouth bass, plus strong populations of bluegills, redear sunfish, yellow perch, crappie, pickerel, channel catfish, carp and walleye. When you toss a bait in the water, you don’t know what you might catch and that makes it extra fun.
To access Lake Orange, from the town of Orange, go east on Rt. 20. Turn right on Rt. 629 and then left on Rt. 739 to the lake.
In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at the different species of fish available at Lake Orange, where to look for them and how to catch them.
To contact Jim Brewer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.