• Volume 21 Number 3 - March 2014

    Features

    Status of most species change very little, but questions remain

    The prospects for saltwater fish species changed negligibly last year, according to stock-status reports from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

    Oddly enough, the anecdotal experiences of coastal residents, guides, captains and visitors often don’t match the information in the 2012 reports, the latest at the Division’s web site.

    Although some species are listed as “viable” — the healthiest classification — they’ve been tough to catch. Others are listed as “concern, depleted” or “recovering,” yet anglers last summer and fall reported plenty of fish. For example, sampling by the National Marine Fisheries Service was so off base the feds reopened the recreational season on black sea bass.

    Stained water means suspended crappie, which means great trolling on Lake Greenwood.

    Despite some occasional cold and rainy weather, March ushers in the spawning ritual for crappie on Lake Greenwood, and Rod Wall of Ninety Six can think of no better place to spend the month.

    The combination of rising water temperatures, crappie that are suspending and good water color is what Wall, a tournament fisherman and former guide, loves to see — not only on the day of  competition, but for the remainder of the spring.

     “Long-line trolling is a very popular tactic on Lake Greenwood, and now with the water having some color to it, the crappie are starting to suspend,” said Wall. “That puts them right in the crosshairs for anglers who long-line troll for crappie. I believe Lake Greenwood is finally going to get the recognition it deserves as one of the best crappie lakes in the state.”

    Look for water temperatures in the mid-50s and get out your bass tackle at Falls of the Neuse Lake.

    Fishing during the prespawn can be some of the most-rewarding experiences for a bass angler. Fish that have been under the influence of winter weather are beginning to stretch their gills and begin to engage in the natural process of spawning.

    A great trip to make is to Falls of the Neuse Lake, a 12,410-acre reservoir that rises north of Durham and flows east to the dam north of Raleigh. It has long been a body of water where bass begin to stir in late February and are full on filling their bellies in early March, as evidenced by several decades of huge catches.

    “I call it March Madness for bass anglers,” said Rich Szczerbala, a former fishing guide and current tournament trail gypsy. 

    Watch for moving water and get fresh baits on the bottom for big Badin blue catfish.

    Peering through the first of rays of sunlight across the glassy surface of Badin Lake, it’s a little difficult to fully comprehend how many huge blue catfish are swimming around in the lake, one of a handful of Piedmont reservoirs on the Yadkin River. Chris Hammill of Hammill Outdoor Adventures had plans to make introductions to several of them.

    “My buddy that left us bait; (he) fished last night, and said they didn’t generate at Tuckertown, so there wasn’t any flow and he didn’t catch anything,” Hammill said. “One of the big keys to catching fish here is moving water, and it has to come through the dam for that. Since they didn’t generate last night, they probably will today, and we’ll be up here pretty close to the dam to take advantage as soon as the water begins moving.  

    From one end to the other, Lake Wateree is a crappie factory like none other in March.

    If you’re looking for a lake that can produce a 20-fish limit of crappie that weighs more than 30 pounds this month, there’s some good news for fishermen: it’s one of the best times of the year to target slabs on Lake Wateree, but experts also agree it can be also one of the more complex times in terms of crappie fishing strategy. 

    Ken Boone is a 74-year-old crappie-fishing guru who lives on Wateree and has fished the lake since he was two years old, accompanying his father when he was young; he said March is a favored time for lots of slab crappie. 

    Not only does he still fish at least three days a week almost year-round, Boone owns and runs Colonel’s Creek Market, which has become a hub for fishing information on the lake.

    “I’ve been able to retain a lot in the last 72 years of catching fish from this lake,” said Boone, who is most impressed by the current condition of the lake’s crappie fishery. 

    Sight-fishing to big schools of reds is the norm around Charleston and Edisto.

    Although the weather may be a bit cooler than it is during the summer, guide Chris Chavis makes a good argument why late winter angling for redfish in the backwater creeks and bays surrounding Charleston is often more reliable than spring and summer fishing. 

    “Most people seem to think our redfishing is only good during the spring and summer,” said Chavis, who runs Fin Stalker Charters. “I can attest that our winter fishery can be phenomenal, with plenty of big redfish and tons of slot fish, and they’re not hard to catch on either artificial or live baits.”

    Two factors are in the angler’s favor when searching out coldwater reds: clearer water and the fish’s propensity to bunch together in tight groups from dozens to even hundreds of fish. Finding roaming schools is much easier, and that’s half the battle. 

    Docks and brush piles will hold plenty of Clarks Hill crappie this month.

    Guiding on Clarks Hill Lake is a business for William Sasser, but crappie fishing takes him back to his childhood. Although most of the business of his guide service and bait shop centers on fishing for stripers and hybrids, it was his ability to catch crappie on the sprawling Savannah River reservoir that got him into guiding.

    Sasser believes this could be a very good year for crappie fishing on Clarks Hill, aka Thurmond, an opinion bolstered by South Carolina fisheries biologists. Studies show the 2009 year-class was very strong in numbers, and those fish will reaching slab size this year: 10 to 12 inches long.

    In addition, Sasser noted, heavy winter rains have put a lot of water into the Savannah River system.

    More fishermen are finding out about Hyde County’s underused fishery.

    Just a few yards into a small creek off Rose Bay, near Swan Quarter in Hyde County, the mud trails of several puppy drum that spooked from Capt. Richard Andrews’ boat passing nearly silently overhead gave away their presence. Andrews immediately stopped the trolling motor and deployed his Power-Pole to stop the boat.

    “I didn’t expect those fish to be this far out in this creek,” Andrews said. “This time of year, they usually hold in a little pocket around the next bend. The water temperatures may have warmed a little more than I thought for them to have moved this far. The good news is if they are active enough to be out here, they are probably looking for food and should be ready to eat. Let’s get ready and see.”

    Experts, biologists expect great spring fishing for crappie on Jordan Lake.

    Fishermen have lamented for two years, wondering what happened to B. Everett Jordan Lake, one of North Carolina’s best reservoirs for crappie.

    At about the time that biologists figured it what caused a 2011 fish kill on the 13,940-acre impoundment on the Haw River and New Hope Creek, anglers started to report that things were back on track, and that’s great news for guide Freddie Sinclair of Clayton.

    “I’ve been fishing Jordan Lake since (it was) flooded it in 1981,” said guide Freddie Sinclair of Clayton. “I was working at the N.C. State veterinarian school in 1981, and me and a friend used to come over here and fish for bass. About 1988 I started fishing it seriously for crappie.

    Be patient, know your woods and calls, and be patient some more, and you’ll take more turkeys.

    Working as a turkey guide inherently gives a person more insight into the sport. They hunt nearly every day of the season and often have the luxury of not shooting a bird, but calling for another person to do the shooting. 

    The term “luxury” refers to the opportunity they have to watch both a gobbler’s approach and a hunter’s reactions. They glean a tremendous amount of knowledge on turkeys and hunters, and that will make anyone more proficient in the sport. Even when they hunt alone, they hone techniques and specific strategies for particular situations they’ll encounter during the season. 

    Are you ready for your time on the water? Here are some of the best fishing products being offered this year to help you maximize your efforts.

    They haven’t invented any new fish that we’re aware of, but the fishing industry never lets us down in terms of new products to help us catch all those fish that we know and love.

    So if you’re looking for new gear to help you catch more fish, there are plenty of options.

    Are you ready for your time on the water? Here are some of the best fishing products being offered this year to help you maximize your efforts.

    They haven’t invented any new fish that we’re aware of, but the fishing industry never lets us down in terms of new products to help us catch all those fish that we know and love.

    So if you’re looking for new gear to help you catch more fish, there are plenty of options.

    The action starts late on Blewett Falls, but the crappie fishing is unbeatable.

    It’s hard to believe that a major public reservoir with a fantastic fishery exists with hardly anyone knowing about it. In today’s world of high technology — sonar units practically detect fish at the push of a button, internet sites broadcast the day’s fishing results in an instant and a fisherman can pick up a cell phone and tell another one, “Hey, I’m on ’em” — no place is safe.

    Some fishermen have never heard of Blewett Falls Reservoir, while others swear by it. Ed Duke of Concord believes that, on certain days, Blewett Falls is the best lake in the state for crappie, especially when slabs begin staging to enter the prespawn in late winter and early spring.

    Follow Lake Wylie bass as they move from deep to shallow this month.

    Gastonia’s Mike Stone was casting a jerkbait across a point near Lake Wylie’s Buster Boyd Bridge; he gave the bait another twitch, let it settle, then a smile spread across his face as he set the hook and began to reel in a 3 1/2-pound bass.

    “This month is, by far, my favorite month to catch bass on Lake Wylie. March is when the most fish, as well as the biggest fish, bite throughout the month,” Stone said. “But it’s a bit of a strange month and probably the biggest transition month of the year on this lake.

    Follow Lake Wylie bass as they move from deep to shallow this month.

    Gastonia’s Mike Stone was casting a jerkbait across a point near Lake Wylie’s Buster Boyd Bridge; he gave the bait another twitch, let it settle, then a smile spread across his face as he set the hook and began to reel in a 3 1/2-pound bass.

    “This month is, by far, my favorite month to catch bass on Lake Wylie. March is when the most fish, as well as the biggest fish, bite throughout the month,” Stone said. “But it’s a bit of a strange month and probably the biggest transition month of the year on this lake.

    Big crappie are ready to be caught in almost every North Carolina reservoir this month. We give you the best options.