Important Notices for this Waterbody
|Lake Shenandoah Water Level Drawdown|
Updated March 11, 2020 — A flood occurred at Lake Shenandoah and during this event the emergency spillway (north side of dam) on the dam was damaged and is going to require extensive repair. The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) engineering staff inspected the damage and due to the severity we are required by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Dam Safety to lower the lake approximately 5 feet from full pool and remain at that level until the emergency spillway is repaired. We have recently lowered the lake to stay in compliance with DCR and our engineering staff and to reduce the threat of the dam failing during a high water event.
Additional improvements to the dam are necessary to be in compliance with the Virginia Dam Safety Program. As owners of the dam, DWR is required to make these improvements to eliminate any safety concerns. The requirements are enforced by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Currently the plan is to make the repairs to the emergency spillway at the same time the improvements are made to the dam. Contractors will be onsite this summer to construct a road and replace the culvert over the stream entering from the golf course (north bay). This is necessary to get the heavy equipment to the dam for repairs. The repairs for the dam are not yet scheduled and will likely not be in 2020.
DWR understands this is going to impair the use of the lake. DWR staff have already begun discussing temporary improvements so anglers and boaters can access the lake. DWR plans to improve access where feasible once the lake is lowered to a safe level for the summer. We also plan to seed the newly-exposed areas around the perimeter of the lake to reduce potential turbidity in the lake and to improve the overall appearance of the property. During these unfortunate circumstances we will strive to do our best to eliminate any inconveniences.
Lake Shenandoah is a 36 acre impoundment owned by the Department of Wildlife Resources. The lake is located in Rockingham County near the City of Harrisonburg, providing a unique outdoor experience within an urban setting. Much of the lake is shallow (less than 3 feet) and the maximum depth near the dam is 25 feet. Anglers have the opportunity to catch largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, common carp, channel catfish and musky from Lake Shenandoah.
Throughout its history Lake Shenandoah has had chronic fisheries problems that can be attributed directly to development within the drainage. A public golf course and expanding residential housing have introduced excessive nutrients and sediments to Lake Shenandoah. The result has been severe negative impacts on water quality and habitat.
However, despite these difficulties, the lake is a fantastic choice for introducing novice anglers to the sport of fishing. Lake Shenandoah has excellent bank fishing access, boat ramp, fishing pier, restrooms, bait hut (open seasonally), and wildlife viewing trail.
Lake Shenandoah Pollinator Trail
For those interested in wildlife viewing, the pollinator trail is an excellent place to start. This area of the lake was restored and replanted with native wildflowers and grasses to attract pollinating insects and other wildlife species. The interpretive trail located on the west side of the parking lot provides a safe outdoor experience and serves to educate the public about wildlife and conservation.
The trail is a loop, with a distance of 1.5 miles, running around the perimeter of the lake. Many species of song birds, waterfowl, and other wildlife can be spotted along the way. Check out our interpretive signs to learn more about wildlife, habitat, and our conservation and management practices.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) will require an Access Permit for visitors to department-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and public fishing lakes, who are age 17 and older, unless they possess a valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license, or a current Virginia boat registration. Learn more about the Access Permit.
Maps & Directions
Lake Shenandoah lies a few miles east of Harrisonburg in Rockingham County. To get to the lake, take Rt. 33 east out of Harrisonburg, then go south on Rt. 687 to the lake.
“Fair” with a good size distribution best describes the largemouth bass population of Lake Shenandoah. In the 1970’s and 1980’s the bass population consisted mainly of fish less than 12 inches in length. The 18 inch minimum-size regulation put into effect in 1989 has worked to restructure the bass population. Largemouth can be found in modest numbers, with fish 9-15″ making up the bulk of the fishery. Currently, biologists stock advanced fingerling Largemouth Bass (< 12”) to help improve the overall numbers of bass and to try to reduce the numbers of sunfish to help improve their size structure.
Historically, black crappie in Lake Shenandoah have been severely “stunted”. In the past biologists experimented with annual water level drawdowns to concentrate the prey species. The goal was to increase the opportunities for bass to catch and eat the stunted crappie. With less competition, the remaining population of crappie should grow larger. So far data suggests that the sizes of crappie are improving, but the emergency drawdown for dam repairs may alter these results. Biologists deployed numerous habitat structures within the lake to help concentrate fish in the spring. Try casting from the floating fishing pier in the direction of the sunken fish habitat structures, marked by a buoy. We also see them nesting on the breast of the dam during the spring months.
Bluegill and Red Ear in Lake Shenandoah are also moderately “stunted”. Few fish over 6″ have been collected by biologist in recent years. However, the lake does harbor good numbers of sunfish and anglers can expect high catch rates. Lake Shenandoah is an excellent choice when introducing a novice angler to fishing.
The Department annually stocks channel catfish fingerlings in the lake and anglers report modest catch rates of 12 –20” cats. Biologists have deployed numerous catfish spawning boxes to help improve the catfish population. After careful monitoring, we’ve documented successful spawning within some of the artificial habitats and captured a small number of wild spawned individuals during electrofishing surveys. However, more monitoring is required to determine if the introduction of spawning boxes had a beneficial impact to the catfish population. Anglers have reported success fishing from the floating fishing pier as well as near the red barn.
The one bright spot at Lake Shenandoah is the musky fishery. Musky do not naturally reproduce in Lake Shenandoah therefore the Department must stock fingerlings each year. Musky are top predators on the food chain and are never found in large numbers. However, Lake Shenandoah offers anglers a great opportunity to catch a trophy species. Musky are a “cool-water” fish and are active even during the winter months. Musky are caught from the lake every month of the year. Due to the lake’s murky water, anglers should use baits with bright colors and erratic action. If fishing from a boat, target the weed edges located in the main basin of the lake. Try bank fishing from the cliff area and the dam breast targeting fallen trees and logs.
For more information about fishing for Musky: https://dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/fish/muskellunge/
Only one bass over 18 inches total length may be harvested per day. All bass less than 18 inches long must be released.
No Daily Creel Limit.
No Daily Creel Limit.
5 catfish over 15 inches total length may be harvested per day. All catfish less than 15 inches long must be released.
Only one musky over 40 inches total length may be harvester per day. All musky less than 40 inches long must be released.
Gasoline motors, swimming, wading, ice skating, hunting, trapping, camping, and alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Fishing is permitted from 1 hour before sunrise to 1 hour after sunset. All other activities shall be conducted only during daylight hours. Fishing regulations shall conform to general statewide regulations unless otherwise posted.
Facilities, Amenities, and Nearby Attractions
- Fee ✘
- Parking ✔
- Handicap-Accessible ✔
- Food Concession ✘
- Picnic Tables ✔
- Grills ✘
- Restrooms ✔
- Hiking Trails ✔
- Bike Trails ✘
- Viewing Blinds ✘
- Observation Platforms ✘
- Fishing Pier/Platform ✔
- Boat Ramps ✔
- Motorboat Access ✘
- Horsepower Limit ✔
- Electric Motor Only ✔
- Paddle Access ✔
- Camping ✘
- Primitive Camping Only ✘
Lake Shenandoah has a large gravel parking lot, gravel boat ramp, bait hut (open seasonally) and restrooms. Almost the entire perimeter of the lake is accessible for shoreline angling and excellent for wildlife viewing.
Baits, Boats and Bobbers is the concessionaire at Lake Shenandoah. They sale bait and tackle for fishing, snacks, and also have kayak rentals.
For more information about Lake Shenandoah contact:
Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources
517 Lee Highway P.O. Box 996
Verona, VA 24482
For more information about Rockingham County:
Rockingham County Chamber of Commerce