Cool Weather Stripers and Smallmouth In Western N.C.

Summer has drawn to a close, and with its passing comes cool weather smallmouth and striper fishing, my favorite of the year. The Murphy, N.C. area has long been known as a beautiful and increasingly popular tourist destination, especially with the construction of a full-service casino, but Murphy is also quickly becoming a destination for hardcore anglers, and there is no better time to visit than fall and winter.

Cool Weather Small Mouth and Striper Fishing

Stripers are a year-round probability on our lakes, but they really get going with the cooler weather of early fall, which often brings a topwater bite, and continue to bite all the way through the winter. The truly appealing thing about cooler weather stripers is that, with higher water temperatures a thing of the past, your probability of encountering one of the gigantic Hiwassee Lake “rogues” increases. These are striped bass that were not stocked in Hiwassee. The hypothesis is that flood waters bring them in, and they grow to gigantic proportions with limited competition for resources.

In addition to blueback herring, I always try to take along a few big gizzard shad and rainbow trout to try and lure in one of these behemoths. The lake record is 66 pounds, and I have zero doubt that a bigger fish is in the lake. I would love to hunt for it with you.

As good as striper fishing in the cooler months can be on our local lakes, the species that really warms me up in the cold weather are smallmouth bass. We are blessed to still have a viable population of these beautiful, hard-fighting fish, and they seem to be energized by cooler weather.

They also congregate in large schools when it’s cold. It is not unheard of to catch 50 fish in a day, with a day of less than 20 fish being a bit of a disappointment. While tactics vary from hair jigs to Alabama rigs, a cold water staple is a tank full of lively blueback herring, which I supply for each trip.

Striper Fishing Season

Fall and winter are traditionally thought of as football and hunting seasons. But if you put the rods away at the end of summer, you truly miss out on some of the best fishing of the year. In addition to stripers and smallmouth, we also often encounter largemouth, hybrids, trophy spotted bass, walleye, crappie and brown trout.

If any of this interests you and you would like a first-class striper fishing experience on one of our local Murphy area lakes, give me a call. I have over 30 years of local knowledge, and I would love to put you on a boatload of fish.

by Aaron Kephart

Aaron Kephart is the owner of Mountain Lakes Guide Service in Murphy, N.C. He can be reached at (865) 466-1345, via facebook@mountainlakesguideservice, or by email at

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