Paddle close to home

Wiggins Mill in Wilson is one of a handful of lakes across North Carolina where access is perfect for canoes or kayaks.

Small, municipal lakes offer plenty of access

Everyone who has ever put a line in the water understands the best places to fish are not always in huge lakes and rivers. In fact, most of us likely had our best early success on farm ponds and small lakes. We also know the shoreline is not always accessible on the small bodies of water.

The fact is many great places to fish are neither accessible by motor boat nor from the shore. Luckily, many are accessible by boat and paddle.

Wilson is home to one such area. Wiggins Mill is a 285-acre lake on US 301 that offers boat rental, a bait shop and some shoreline and pier fishing. Gasoline motors are prohibited. Trolling motors are allowed and are a necessity during duck season; a kayak or canoe makes a great fishing companion.

With lots of underwater logs, weeds and other structure, trolling motors can actually become a hindrance for fishing some of the better areas. The mill pond is loaded with fish ranging from largemouth bass, crappie, shellcracker and other panfish to hard fighting rough fish such as gar and bowfin.

A short paddle from the boat ramp due west will put you in lots of weedy, shallow water with plenty of tree-lined shores to provide shade, which is ideal as the months start to heat up.

Head northward along the banks, and you will encounter thick lily pads and hydrilla. The area is great for plastic worms and frogs, but it is almost impassible unless you’re in a paddle powered vessel.

At the north end lies a channel that accesses mainly swampy area. The channel has been known to produce nice catfish and crappie if you find the right spots. The channel looks like a feeder creek and crosses under Downing Street Extension.

Another great area accessible by paddle only is hidden away on the Centennial Campus of N.C. State in Raleigh. Lake Raleigh covers 75 acres, has a small boat ramp, a fishing pier and fish attractors, and it is surrounded by protected woods. The size of the lake makes an easy paddle.

Along the north side lie four pockets, each offering a different structure to fish. Underwater logs dot much of the area, which is shallow enough to use a stakeout pole to anchor once you find a hot spot. Much of the shoreline is muddy or inaccessible by foot when the water is high. Hydrilla and other underwater vegetation cover much of the northern side as well, especially towards the northwestern corner where the lake becomes swampy. Largemouth bass can be found, but crappie and catfish are easy catches.

Also in Raleigh, Lake Johnson offers access for kayaks and canoes, as well as boats with electric motors. The 150-acre lake is on Avent Ferry Road. Fishing from the shore is not allowed. Lake Johnson does have kayak and canoe rentals; however, fishing from the rental boats is prohibited.

Other areas offer kayak and canoe rentals if you are fishing with the family or do not have one of your own. Bass Lake Park in Holly Springs is one such place. Bass Lake, which covers 100 acres, is stocked with catfish from April through September through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Community Fishing Program. Along with the boat rentals, tackle is available for loan under a tackle loaning program. Along with the stocked catfish, bass, bream and crappie are plentiful. Rental kayaks and canoes are available daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and on weekends in the spring and fall.

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