Anglers who want a chance at catching a trophy largemouth while snow melts on Piedmont hillsides should consider a warm-water discharge lake such as Hyco Lake in Person County. Barry Joyce, co-owner of Hyco Marina & Outfitters in Semora (336-202-5210), saw a fishermen near the NC 57 bridge this week who showed off a bragging-sized catch of largemouth bass he and his girlfriend had landed.

“They had six bass, and the largest one weighed 9.58 pounds,” he said. “The smallest was a good 5-pound fish.”

What makes Hyco Lake such a hot place in winter is that, well, it’s a hot place — the water is warmer compared to other reservoirs during the winter because Duke Energy has a power plant on its shoreline that dumps heated water into the lake, raising the temperature to 75 degrees in places, while the coldest water is in the low 60s.

As a crappie fishery, “this lake has really come back,” Joyce said. “It’s full of (threadfin) shad and tilapia.’

Tilapia? Did he mean those fish that restaurants serve?

“Yes,” he said. “People are fishing live tilapia on (bottom) rigs. That’s what the big bass are hitting.”

Tilapia is a tropical species and can survive only near the hot-water discharge canal.

The best spots places seem to be around bridges, such as the NC 57 bridge near his marina.

“People can’t fish the bridges in boats,” he said. “It’s a lake-authority safety rule. But you can fish from the bank, and that’s what the guy and his girlfriend were doing.”

The crappie fishing also has been excellent. Joyce and his wife recently caught “slabs from 1 to 1 ½ pounds” while casting crappie jigs at submerged tree tops. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission recently felled trees and allowed them to fall into the lake to create more fish habitat.

“Nobody else was fishing those trees,” he said. “Other people use spider rigs and some pitch (jigs or minnows) at (boat) docks. The biggest crappie were full of eggs.”