To date, this has been one of the wettest years I can remember. For sure, the rain has had both a negative and a positive effect on our mountain lakes and streams. Back in February, we had a week’s worth of rain and the lake levels in Fontana jumped overnight. The walleye fishing had just started to get good and the rains came and if you spent much time on the water, you know what it did to the bite. We went from catching limits of really big walleye to searching for hours, watching a depth finder, hoping to catch a school of fish off the bottom feeding on a school of threadfin shad. I saw a drop in the Santeetlah bite as well, with the fish feeding sporadically and you better have been in the perfect place right when the feed happened, or you might just miss out on the bite completely. During one of these trips, me and my son in-law got on some really nice yellow perch and bass for what turned out to be a great 2 hour bite. Float trips down the Tuck were off as well with the high waters making fly fishing difficult. After the water cleared, it seemed like both rainbow and brown trout bounced back fast, with good numbers and size. One trip where a client preferred fishing spinning gear, some really big fish were brought to the boat.
As sure as the rains made for tough fishing, it should pay off with some great spring and summer fishing as a lot of fish were spared to complete their spawning runs and also our springs and mountain creeks should be in really good shape for the summer. I would say the water table should be the best it’s been in 20 years. It will be interesting to see how the summer plays out but
I would be shocked if the fishing isn’t awesome. We’re getting close to the time of year for some good crappie fishing, not to say you can’t catch them now, it just seems like the ones caught now tend to run small and are bunched in the same place day after day. A submerged slide where the trees are still standing barely above water is like getting the perfect parking spot at Wal-mart. You better be there early and stay till the fish decide to bite because if you leave to look elsewhere, someone will be tied to the branches when you come back. All the up and down lake levels have picked up a lot of wood and debris from the shoreline, so be extra careful to not hit a submerged stump with your boat. Hopefully TVA will have a cleanup but it doesn’t seem Fontana is on their list of priorities as far as this is concerned. Dress warm as the temps are bone chilling and as always, stay safe!
Ronnie Parris is the Owner and Head Guide of Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited-Fontana Lake Fishing Guides, headquartered in Bryson City, North Carolina, heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. www.smokymountainoutdoorsunlimited.com.