Sister Lakes

By Ronnie Parris

Hey folks! Hope the nice warm weather has got the fish in your home lakes doing well. Fontana, after having an extremely slow winter, has finally turned on with a really good smallmouth and spotted bass bite. The main reason for the slow winter was the overload of bait, both threadfin shad and blueback herrin. This brings me to my thoughts on this article; Lake Hiwassee, in Murphy, North Carolina, is probably the closest in size and feeder streams to any other. Hiwassee seemed to go thru the same bait overload with the bluebacks taking over and the walleye numbers dwindling. You can look back and make many comparisons with Fontana. The turning point seemed to be with the stocking of the striped bass. Almost immediately, the blueback numbers seemed to be put back in check with this being the stripers favorite bait source.

A big school of stripers will get on a school of bluebacks and follow ‘till they get triggered to feed and eat hundreds at a time. Just a few years after the stripers were introduced, we began to see the other gamefish species making a comeback and making Hiwassee one of the best lakes in the state for both size and numbers of all fish species. I talked to our state Biologist, Powell Wheeler, at one of our boat ramps recently about the comparisons and got the feeling he agreed with me that stocking the stripers could be a big success in Lake Fontana. Hopefully, we can get a lot of positive angler feedback in support of the striper stockings. These striped bass are one of the best fighting fish and make great table fair.

If you’re interested in getting the ball rolling on the striper stocking, I would suggest contacting our fisheries biologists and letting them know you would like to see this species and give them a chance to try and get Fontana headed back to the number one lake it used to be. Although I do take a few of my regular clients to Hiwassee to striper fish, it’s about a 2-hour drive for me, so I don’t like to guide on it as much as our closer lakes. If you would like to go to Hiwassee and try to catch some of these hard fighting bass and see how you like them on the table, I would suggest booking a trip with my buddy, Aaron Kephart, Owner of Mountain Lake Guide Service of Murphy, North Carolina. In my opinion, he is the most knowledge about Hiwassee Lake and the striped bass movements. Well folks, hope you have a great spring on the water. Stay safe and take kid fishing.

Ronnie Parris is owner and head guide of Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited-Fontana Lake Fishing Guides, headquartered in Bryson City, N.C., heart of the Great Smoky Mountains; (828) 488-9711.