As an avid fisherman that frequents Westhampton Lake to get my fishing fix, I am asked the same question by fellow students almost daily: “Are there even fish in Westhampton Lake?” The short answer: Yes, and there is no better time to fish in Westhampton Lake than the months of April and May for the spring largemouth bass bite.

It is a common misconception among students that Westhampton Lake is a disease-ridden, scum-laden body of water at the center of our campus that could not fathomably contain life. I am proud to say that our very own Westhampton Lake is teeming with plenty of sport fish and it is an incredibly accessible resource for students to learn to fish and appreciate the hobby.

Westhampton Lake is stocked by the state of Virginia from the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery approximately every five years with bluegill (a species of small sunfish), largemouth bass and channel catfish. Largemouth bass are the primary target for most fishermen in Westhampton Lake because they fight hard, have a diverse diet and grow very large (within a 1-7 pound range for Westhampton Lake). However, bluegill are the most abundant species in the lake and serve as the primary food source for largemouth bass, according to a 1978 study about the feeding habits of largemouth bass specifically in Westhampton Lake.

Spring, especially the months of April and May, is the best time to fish for largemouth bass because the warmer water allows them to emerge from their period of winter inactivity in the depths of Westhampton Lake. The fish begin to mate and spawn in late March and early April on shallow beds close to shore. Typically, the fish are hungry after their winter dormancy induced by the cold and they become more aggressive as they protect their spawning beds.

I have caught countless bass in Westhampton Lake in less than one year of fishing. The most effective lures are slow swimming spinner baits and beetle-spins that simulate small minnows and bluegill as well as weighted, sinking jigs that simulate worms and crawfish. Bass love hiding in submerged structures, so common places to catch fish include under the Tyler Hanes Commons Bridge or near the gazebo.

Because the lake experiences a large inflow containing pesticides from the Country Club of Virginia golf course, the fish are not suitable for consumption. However, the fish are still able to grow and thrive in the lake and catch-and-release fishing should always be practiced.

If you are interested in picking up fishing as a hobby or even going out once to try and catch a fish, the University of Richmond Fishing Club (URFC) is a budding community of anglers dedicated to experiencing the beauty of Richmond fishing. I founded the club my junior year along with several friends, and the club now has more than 70 members interested in fishing. The club is free to join and uses school funding to provide rods and tackle for students that do not have their own gear. Students without a fishing license are allowed to use their student IDs as a permissible form of identification to fish in Westhampton Lake, but all other fishing in Virginia must be done with a fishing license.

The James River is another superb resource for fishing in Richmond. The James River is home to many species including smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, shad, crappie, bluegill and others.

Please contact URFC President Todd Westerman (todd.westerman@richmond.edu) or myself (john.obeck@richmond.edu) if you want to join the University of Richmond Fishing Club or to try out the wonderful pastime of fishing – we would be happy to share our knowledge. Westhampton Lake is the best place to start because it is easily accessible and filled with many fish waiting to be caught and released.

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