First, Danny Gunnells and his wife Claudette caught several 3- to 4-pound trout on a Feb. 28 trip to Lake Jocassee. Then it got better. Fishing with guide Steve Pietrykowski, they put a 7 ¼-pounder over the railing in their new pontoon boat. Then it got better. Gunnells landed a 9-pound brown. 

“It was a great day to be fishing on Jocassee,” said Pietrykowski. “There was definitely a lot of adrenaline pumping on that boat for such a cold day.”

The Gunnells, who life in Honea Path, had decided the cold, nasty weather would be a perfect time to try out their new boat. They bought a fresh batch of small herring and Lake Hartwell Outdoor Center, then met up with Pietrykowski, heading for the “Three Rivers” area of Jocassee, promptly catching several keeper-sized brown trout.

“We caught several trout in the 3- to 4-pound range and thought we were having a good day,” said Danny Gunnells, “then we hooked up with one that weighed probably 7 ¼ pounds.”

Pietrykowski was holding the rod when that big trout hit; he set the hook and handed it to Gunnells, who reeled in the 25 ½-inch brown. It didn’t take long for Gunnells to hook up with an even bigger brown – his biggest-ever from Jocassee.

“I had a little ultralight crappie outfit, and we were putting those herring down about 50 feet deep, using 6-pound test and just a little bit of weight,” said Gunnells. “I knew I had another good fish, and it took me about 10 minutes to get that monster in because I couldn’t do much with just 6-pound test line. It put up a fight but it was a lot of fun.”

Pietrykowski said the 9-pound fish was 27 inches long.

Lake Jocassee trout are known for their fondness of adverse conditions and often decide to feed heavily on the lake’s ample supply of blueback herring. The cold and overcast conditions provided the right conditions to draw the school of trophy browns out of 100 feet of water to within 40 to 50 feet of the surface, according to Pietrykowski, who said that spotted bass, rainbow trout and even smallmouth bass will also turn on in the cold water; they’ll frequently be found feeding on schools of herring in the backs of the creeks.