Tired of same ol’ spring fishing for largemouth, crappie, striped bass or catfish? Want to try something completely different, a fish that’s considered among the best-tasting in freshwater? How about walleye? And you don’t have to haul your boat several hours to reach deep, western North Carolina impoundments only to catch a handful of 1- to 1½-pound fish. That leaves Lake Gaston.
The good news is you don’t have to have silver bullets — or silver lures — to land walleye at the 20,300-acre reservoir along the North Carolina-Virginia border downstream from John H. Kerr Reservoir.
Now, it’s not easy to land Gaston walleye, but name another lake where a similar stocking effort is aimed at this species.
Because the serpentine-shaped impoundment is split between the Old Dominion and North Carolina, Virginia raises walleye fry and fingerlings at its hatcheries then releases them into the lake — and has for years.
“Virginia has stocked enough fingerlings and fry in Lake Gaston that it now has a naturally reproducing population,” said Kirk Rundle, a fisheries biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “In 2013, Virginia stocked 200,000 fry, and in 2011 they stocked 140,000 fingerlings. In 2008, Virginia stocked 100,000 fingerlings and 40,000 walleye fry. In 2007, they stocked 700,000 fry, and in 2001, they stocked 250,000 fingerlings.”
Of course, the vast majority of those fish were eaten by other fish, but Rundle said anglers in the spring can find concentrated numbers of walleye spawning in the tailrace of the Kerr Dam.
“The problem is, they don’t want to bite lures up there in the rocks and fast water when they’re spawning,” he said.
However, guide Don Enderle of Tri-Lakes Guide Service in Rocky Mount (252-813-8501) has solved that problem after fishing Gaston the past 30 years.
“There are some places near the dam, but not in the really fast water, where I’ve had a lot of success,” he said. “In fact, if you catch conditions right, you can catch them every cast. That happens more often in winter, though.”
Enderle basically vertically jigs a leadhead jig with a 2- to 3-inch-long baitfish down to concentrations of fish.
Good places to fish in spring are at the old “Steel” Bridge (replaced by a new US 1 bridge) and the I-85 Bridge.
Scott VanHorn, a retired Commission biologist, said he’s seen 7- to 8-pound fish stunned to the surface during spring sampling work with an electro-shocking boat.
Enderle said he’d caught an 11-pounder, but that is his top walleye after three decades of fishing at Gaston.