By Capt. James McManus
When you think about February in the mountains there are two scenarios that come to mind. The first, and probably most common to the non-angler, is “what in the world are you doing thinking about fishing in the middle of the winter?” To us nuts that neither feel cold, see ice, or read weather reports it is just one month closer to the spawning season for our piscatorial friends. While you can become cold, if not prepared, modern clothiers have enabled us to venture out in frigid temps with almost no ill effects. Layered jackets and undergarments, gloves and hats make all but the bluest temps bearable. I am not a doomsday global warming guy but there have also really been some pretty nice Februarys mixed in lately, I think there always have been. So now that you are out there what will our friends be up to? The answer here on Fontana is…almost anything. There have been days when the bass were hitting on top all day, and they would take any small jerkbait, popper, or jig moved shallow enough for them to look up at. Other days, they would congregate in huge schools where all you had to do is drop a jig, spoon or bait down or troll through to load the boat.
When conditions are stable and the mercury doesn’t read single digits, our fish get very cooperative, moving shallow and feeding up for the coming spawn. One of my recent hot places has been the vertical cliffs that are off several of the main channels in the midlake regions. These fish seem to hang close and simply move up or down depending on wave action and time of day. The backs of all major creeks hold most of the bait but the fish here seem to eat more aggressively without huge schools of bait readily available. The crowds will be thinner here also. Points at the mouths of major creeks, Forney, Greasy Branch, Eagle, and Hazel will all hold fish but they may be as deep as 80 feet…don’t quit looking without going almost to the channel. The biggest bummer is a very large rain event. Seems like when a load of fresh water comes in the fish just shut down. They will move to the very backs of smaller creeks but they often plaster themselves to the bottom and may sit for several days without eating. As always, stay safe, let folks know where you are going and when you will be back, and enjoy God’s gift to us.
Later, Capt. James