A few friends and I spent a weekend at a large freshwater lake in NC. It was my first time fishing the lake and I wasn't sure what to expect. The lake has a reputation for amazingly clear water and great bass fishing. The first-morning I got up before dawn and the conditions were perfect.
Glass calm and even though there was rain the night before the water wasn't murky. It took me awhile to start seeing fish. The color of the bottom was a light tan and my eyes were looking for dark shadows. What I found is the bass were lighter colored than I'm used to. They actually looked more like redfish under the water than bass. I was able to hook a few on a stealth bomber. I ran into one bass that seemed to not spook at all. I cast a clouser a few times and the fish didn't budge. As it started to swim away into deeper water I made one last cast in the direction the fish headed. When I started to take in the slack line I felt pressure and made a strip set. The water swirled and I couldn't believe I had hooked the fish. There was some not quite right about this bass. When the fish got closer I realized it wasn't a bass at all. It was a bowfin and the hook was barely in its lip.
All I have ever heard about bowfin is how hard they fight. I was able to get the fish to the kayak but I didn't have any grippers or anything to lip the fish. A bowfin's mouth is lined with small needle-like teeth. Against my better judgment, I grabbed the fly and moved the fish. The bowfin didn't want to give up and it took several tries to get it calmed down. My weekend was made. This fish was well over 22 inches and qualifies for an NC citation. It swam away as though it was never caught.
The fishing slowed down after that until I saw some activity. Water splashed every now and then between the weeds and wakes would move the blades of grass. Something was obviously chasing bait in the shallows. I waited until I saw a splash and cast a popper in the area. A mouth opened and inhaled the fly seconds after it landed. It was a nice bass and it tangled itself in the weeds. The water was so shallow I was able to get it free.
A few casts later I had my first pumpkinseed.
The coloring on this fish was striking. I have seen pictures of pumpkinseeds but never caught one. The markings on the face are beautiful.
In the same area, this yellow perch came to hand a couple casts later.
It was a great morning. Later my friends and I took a trip to the other side of the lake. It was a huge contrast from the south side. Instead of light colored sand, the bottom was dark green and you could not see the banks through the cypress trees.
We found an area that had a mixture of grass and trees.
The wind started to pick up and we decided to make the trip back across the lake. This is where things got interesting.
The sky started to get very dark and storm clouds moved across the horizon with gale force winds. This lake is shallow, the average depth is 4ft. When the winds pick up the lake acts like a wave machine. We had 2-3ft waves all around and several came close to coming over the bow. The boat couldn't get speed with the rough water and we had to surf the waves more than go through them. The trek across the lake was spooky and the view at the dock wasn't any better. There was lightning and thunder at our backs. The plan was to leave the boat tied up and run to shelter. Breakers prevented us from doing this. The boat could smash into the dock and be destroyed.
The next plan was to load the boat on the truck until the storm subsided.
The boat and ourselves got out of the water unscathed. It was a scary experience and a reminder that nature is always in control. The wind continued through the weekend and made fishing tough. It was still a great trip and I'm already planning my next trip back.