Lake Orange - Fishing Opportunities
The main target species at Lake Orange are black crappie and largemouth bass. The majority of the fishing pressure is placed upon these species. The lake provides angling opportunities for walleye, channel catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish and northern pike. Yellow perch, white perch, warmouth and common carp also provide some action.
The largemouth bass fishing is very good at Lake Orange. There are numerous bass in the 10 to 12 inch size range with a decent number in the 15 to 18 inch size range. The 2005 electrofishing sample by Department fisheries biologists produced a CPUE-P (catch per unit effort of “preferred” fish) of 31 per hour. CPE-P is the index used in analyzing sample catch rates. It stands for the "catch per effort of preferred fish." The CPUE-P for LMB is the number of bass 15 inches or larger that are collected in one hour of electrofishing. Based on CPE-P, Lake Orange was ranked 6th out of 17 popular northern VA impoundments sampled by VDGIF biologists in the spring of 2003-2007.
Lake Orange had a 12-inch minimum size limit on largemouth bass that caused stockpiling of sub-legal fish. The population consisted of an overabundance of 8 to 12 inch bass with age 3 fish showing slow growth. The stockpiling of these bass was directly related to strong year class production and survival with no legal harvest of bass less than 12 inches. The 12-inch minimum size limit was thus removed to allow for harvest of the abundant smaller bass. Samples from 2001 electrofishing revealed the population of 9 to 12 inch bass to be thinned out compared to previous years. This likely allowed the remaining fish to grow faster and resulted in a more balanced bass fishery.
Due to desirable attributes including fast growth, good genetics, and ample forage, it was determined that this fishery was a good candidate for a “trophy” LMB regulation (meaning that production of exceptional fish was likely given a reduction in harvest of large fish). The largemouth bass population has produced fish in the 11-12 pound range. In order to protect larger bass while encouraging the harvest of smaller bass, a new regulation has been established in 2004. The regulation is a 16" to 22" protective slot, which means bass less than 16" or larger than 22" can be harvested (however, only one bass larger than 22” can be harvested per day). Daily creel limit remained 5 bass. Analysis is on-going to determine the effect of the protected slot length limit.
Lake Orange bass feed heavily upon schools of gizzard shad. The abundance of shad in the lake has made fishing for bass a little more difficult. Anglers should try using crankbaits and other artificial lures that resemble a shad pattern and shape. Jigging spoons through schools of bass feeding on shad is another good pattern to try. A good fish finder will allow for finding schools of shad.
The Lake Orange crappie fishery is in good condition with a healthy and abundant population. Creel surveys have been conducted at Lake Orange over the years with angler species preference being recorded. Black crappie and largemouth bass have been the most sought after species. The 2000 creel survey showed black crappie to be the predominant species caught. Harvest by number was 2,141 comprising 51% of the total lake harvest. Crappie harvest comprised 34% of the total harvest by weight. With a release rate of 26%, anglers caught and released 768 black crappie in 2000. Harvest increased during the 2003 creel survey to 2,667 fish.
The average size crappie was 8 inches in length. Gill netting and trap netting of Lake Orange has produced numerous crappie in the 10-13-inch range. Anglers consistently catch crappie in the 1-pound range. Anglers do well catching crappie off of the fishing pier, fish attractors, or near the many beaver lodges. Anglers are encouraged to try various crappie style jigs until they find a pattern that works best. A good technique for Lake Orange crappie is using light jig heads tipped with small minnows.
Lake Orange offers a decent walleye fishery. It was initially stocked with walleye in 1977. The lake has been stocked annually (except 1983, 1993-1995) at a rate of 50 walleye/acre. Stocked walleye usually measure about 1.5 inches in length. Due to the difficulty and cost of raising walleye to larger size in hatcheries, biologists have decided to stock higher numbers of small fingerlings in hopes they will survive to keep the fishery alive.
2003 electrofishing of Lake Orange yielded 18 walleye during a routine sampling run. Walleye sampled were in the 15-26 inch size range and 2 to 13 years of age. The evidence of different year classes is always a good sign for future fishing success. Lake Orange has the potential to produce large walleye. In the 1998 gill netting, a 27-inch walleye that weighed 8.5 pounds was caught. Anglers who actively target walleye have some success. Walleye in the 4 to 5 pound range have been caught at Lake Orange.
Lake Orange provides a good channel catfish fishery. Channel catfish have been stocked since the lake was first impounded in 1964. The lake has been stocked annually since 1986 (except 1996 and 2000) and is currently stocked at a rate of 10/acre. The lake annually produces numerous catfish in the 2-pound-plus range. Gill netting over the last few years has shown a good number of catfish in the 16-20-inch range.
The bluegill population is abundant with fish averaging in the 6?7-inch size range. The bluegill fishery has suffered the impact of the gizzard shad introduction and proliferation. The gizzard shad population has fully established itself in Lake Orange. Largemouth bass are feeding heavily upon the shad and less on the bluegill. This switch in the food chain is causing an increase in the survival rate of bluegill. As a result, more bluegill are surviving to spawn and larger year classes of bluegill are being produced. The biomass of bluegill over the course of time, if not thinned out by predators or angler harvest, will lean toward slower growth and smaller size, a stunted population. Anglers are encouraged to harvest bluegill. Based on the creel survey, bluegill was the second most harvested species in 2000, comprising 12% of the total number of fish harvested (508 fish).
Lake Orange provides a limited northern pike fishery. The extent of survival and population size are not fully known. Northern pike were initially stocked into Lake Orange in 1965. The lake was stocked annually from 1965 to 1993 (except 1967 and 1975). Since the 1993 stocking, Lake Orange has only received three additional northern pike stockings in 1997, 2001, and 2002. Over the years, anglers have caught a few northern pike up to 5 pounds. The population of pike is probably relatively low, and anglers should consider it a bonus if they are able to hook and land one. Northern pike are very aggressive fish and can be caught on a variety of artificial lures typically used by bass anglers.