Lake Jocassee was established back in the early 1970s as a trophy trout fishery. Anglers fished for trout in the spring, then moved elsewhere to fish the rest of the year. But over time, savvy trout fishermen discovered that trolling tactics that were popular up in the northern states, using downrigger balls and flutter spoons, also worked well on the deep mountain lake.

"Nowadays, people believe the only way to catch trout in this lake is by trolling a bunch of hardware, using downriggers and spoons and heavy tackle," said guide Steve Pietrykowski of Fishki Business Charters in Seneca.

"That stuff works – I do it all the time – but during the winter when the water temperatures are at their coldest, trout don't have to hold at 100 feet. We can catch them on live bait, using light tackle, anywhere from 20 to 40 feet deep."

Pietrykowski's target area during the winter is backwards from what most anglers look for. He heads to the far end of a creek where the water depths rise from more than 100 feet up to what is considered a shallow flat at Jocassee: 30 feet of water.

"The wind has been blowing pretty steady into the backs of these rivers with that last front," said Pietrykowski (864-353-3438). "The baitfish are already back here, and the weather has packed them into the ends of the creeks. I'm hoping we can catch us a good trout right off the bat."

Pietrykowski broke out several light-action crappie rods outfitted with tiny No. 4 hooks and stinger treble hooks. He opened the lid to his 40-gallon bait tank and scooped out a small blueback herring, one of nearly 10 dozen he had netted earlier from nearby Lake Keowee. He hooked the bait through the nose with the main hook and impaled the tiny treble stinger near the tail. That done, he flipped the split-shot rig 25 feet beyond the moored boat, letting the bait sink slowly in the water.

Through the course of the morning, the live bait accounted for more than two-dozen rainbow and brown trout, stockers that were immediately released, plus a handful of fat spotted and largemouth bass trying to push five pounds before spring arrives, and two nice browns – one just over, the other just under 20 inches.