Springtime Has Arrived

By Ronnie Parris

Hey folks, it’s looking like springtime is finally here. My favorite time of year—turkeys are gobbling, and fish are biting. It’s a great time to live in the mountains.

One of my favorite destinations this time of year is Cheoah Lake in Graham County. It’s located about a mile below Fontana spillway and is shared by Swain and Graham Counties. Multiple species of fish live in these waters, but my target species is trout, both brown and rainbow.

The waters coming out of the dam tend to keep the water temperature very low, even in the hot months, with temperatures in the 50s in the headwaters and around the discharge from the Santeetlah power station, which is located about 2 miles downstream of the boat launch at Llewelyn branch. The Llewelyn launch is going to be your best launch location as it’s paved parking and concrete launch ramp with a floating dock.

Take some precautions when navigating this first 2 miles and stay in the main river channel ‘til you reach the power station, because you will have some really shallow water on either side. Most years I tend to catch more brown trout in the river run above the bridge with the lower section holding more rainbow and steelhead. Walleye really like this upper stretch, but when they go deeper they’re hard to troll for, since standing timber that was left when the lake was flooded is still standing. I use a variety of lures, from spoons to Rapalas and Flicker Shad’s. My main method for fishing these trout is trolling both service lures and downriggers above the treetops. Occasionally, we will hook a Muskie, but I really don’t target them.

Pictured is my good friend John Singer holding a good mess of trout. He loves coming up from Florida and getting on this cold mountain lake as well as taking home a few of these great-eating fish.
If you’re looking for fun, fast action and some great table-fare, give me a holler, and I’ll be glad to hook you up. As always, stay safe an take a 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, www.smokymountainoutdoorsunlimited.com; (828) 488-9711.