North Carolina during July and August can be brutally hot for fishing, on both freshwater and saltwater fisheries.
Most summers the temperature slithers up and down the scale between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit with the humidity index hitching a ride. Air conditioning works overtime, and one can break a sweat just thinking about going outside.
Happily, places exist in the Tar Heel state where anglers can enjoy the outdoors, catch a cooling breeze and have fun fishing, rather than feeling like you’re being pulled across South Carolina on a trashcan lid.
Here’s a look at some of those places:
In Burke and Caldwell counties, Rhodhiss is a Blue Ridge foothills lake.
It doesn’t look much like a lake but instead a wide section of the Catawba River. Just upstream nearer to Asheville is Lake James, which resembles a real lake.
At 3,060 acres and almost 1,000 feet above sea level, summer temperatures usually top out in the mid to low 80s and sometimes lower, so fishing is almost always pleasant.
Rhodhiss has largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappies, catfish and striped bass. But the lake has two distinct regions that different species find amenable. That’s because of various drainages that feed the lake.
Hayes Mill Creek snakes out the town of Hudson then into Rhodhiss while Island, Hoyle and McGalliard creeks come out of Valdese. Gunpowder, Warrior and Lower creeks flow from Morganton, and the Johns River’s clean water falls eastward out of the Pisgah National Forest into the lake.
“Morganton’s treated sewage discharge goes into Rhodhiss near the dam, and I believe Lenoir also dumps into Gunpowder,” said N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission fisheries biologist Kin Hodges. “It’s all treated stuff, so it supplies safe nutrients for a big shad forage base. The lake’s water quality walks a fine line between a happy medium when it comes to nutrients. That’s why the forage is so good and (why it) produces really good largemouth and striper fishing, perhaps the best on the upper Catawba chain of lakes.”
Electro-shocking samples in the eastern portion of the lake hit the 100-bass-per-hour mark, challenging Raleigh-Durham’s Shearon Harris. The bass don’t grow as big as Harris’ lunkers, but they’re as plentiful.
“The lake can be finicky,” said District 8 biologist David Goodfred. “You might have the best day you ever had one day and the worst the next. For guys who know how to fish it, it’s a great black bass lake.”
Smallmouth fishing can be excellent in the Johns River section because that water is upstream, cold and clean.
Downstream anglers can find other species, including largemouths and catfish.
One secret spot is the Rhodhiss Dam, where magnum stripers wait to ambush baitfish in the tail race.
The Triangle-area’s lakes — Falls of the Neuse, Jordan and Harris — each have impressive numbers and sizes of black bass.
But at Falls and Jordan, largemouths go deep during July and August. The only way to catch them is to cast Carolina-rigged worms or lizards with 3/4- to 1-ounce weights or jig spoons. A select few throw and retrieve deep-diving crankbaits.
However, at Harris anglers discovered fish schooling on the surface during 100-degree days, mostly from dawn until 10 a.m. Catching them only requires being there.
“It doesn’t happen every morning, but at times, you’ll have bass schooling on top at daybreak until the sun gets up in some of the coves near the dam,” said Jeff Thomas, a Broadway-based guide.
Thomas, who fishes the lake more than any other Triangle-area impoundment, chooses a buzzbait, Zara Spook, Zara Puppy or Pop-R lure to throw at Harris schoolies.
“They’ll come up on top to feed on small threadfin shad,” he said. “If you can drop a lure where a bass has blowed up on top (and) get it close, you’ll get a hookup almost every time.”
Harris surrenders largemouths that reach 10 pounds and larger, but most school bass run 2 to 4 pounds. Not huge, but lots of fun.
The 15,180-acres impoundment along the Yadkin River isn’t going to be as cool a venue as foothills and mountain lakes during the summer.
But great catfishing makes up for the discomfort. Just bring some sunscreen.
Lexington guide Maynard Edwards (Yadkin Lakes Guide Service, www.extremefishingconcepts.com, 336-249-6782) has been plying The Rock’s waters for decades and knows every nook and cranny where stripers, bass, catfish and bream are likely to be at any given time.
As a sure bet for summertime clients, Edwards attaches Extreme Concepts rod-holder bases to the cleats of his bass boat, then puts four to eight rods in the holders and goes “strolling” at High Rock.
Strolling is his term for allowing the wind to barely push his boat along relatively shallow creek channels or using his trolling motor if the wind’s not helping.
He puts an Eagle Claw 4-0 to 6-0 hook at the end of a 1 1/2- to 2-pound section of 20-pound-test monofilament leader with his own version of the Santee trolling weight tied in front of the leader’s swivel.