Fall Freshwater Fishing Abounds

In the mist of the morning, father and son fishing at Falls Lake in September. PHOTO BY LUIS SUAU

Luis Suau

Have you heard the expression a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work! Well, that is true in many ways, and to me, there is no better time to get good or bad days of fishing than during the fall.

Fishing happens year-round, but I believe fall fishing is king! During this time of year, bass fishing is bountiful and, in most cases, big fish are more active and they tend to move to shallow water as the surface water begins to cool. This will allow for fishermen without a boat to have plenty of opportunities at quality fish in lakes, ponds, creeks or rivers. So, if you are looking for an activity to get outside with minimal investment, fishing is the way to go.

North Carolina enjoys one of the best freshwater fisheries in the nation and locations around the Triangle area are no exception. So, if you are considering venturing into the world of fishing, you are in the right place. To accomplish this, you will only need a few things: location, equipment, time and skill or luck (more luck than skill). Easy right? Well, not so fast!

Locations are plentiful but finding the right equipment can be somewhat intimidating. For example, if you have never been fishing before and decide to give it a try, you might ask yourself: what now?

Let’s start with the equipment. If you go to any outdoor or fishing store, the thousands of possibilities for equipment (rod, reel, and lures) can be burdensome. Luckily, these places have trained individuals with knowledge and one thing in mind: to get you hooked into fishing.

Now, if you still have second thoughts about it, my advice is that before you go and buy equipment, rent it. There are a few parks that can loan you equipment (no bait) for free: In Wake County, Lake Johnson and Lake Wheeler (fishing fee of $3 for residents, for non-residents) allow you to fish in designated areas but a state fishing license is required.

Lakes Benson, Forest Ridge Park, Bonds Lake Park, Bass Lake also have NC free tackle loaner programs, and if you want to venture further, they also have boat rentals. For more information check lake websites for local rules, and regulations.

After your first experience, if you are con­sidering getting your own equipment, the rod and reel are the most important components. There are many arrangements you can choose from, but as a beginner, you should only think of two options: a spinning or a spin-caster reel and rod combo.

Of the two, spinning reels are easy to use, very durable and they cast a long distance. In many stores, you can find a combo with the proper line loaded into the reel starting at $25. But before you buy one, consider the length and sturdiness (action) of the rod and don’t be afraid to ask. A good overall rod should be 6.5-7 feet long and medium action and if it comes with a reel, you won’t have to worry about the reel size.

The next step is the bait. There are too many kinds of lures to catch fish with, from topwater to jerk baits and soft plastics, they all come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. However, if you are new to fishing, most likely you are looking for quantity and not quality, and for that, live bait is your best option. Not only for beginners, but live bait is also used regularly by many seasoned fishermen. Why? They produce fish and they do the fishing for you. You can get shads or minnows that will swim around attracting fish or you can use the most popular of live baits: worms. Many stores will sell them cheap, can be stored days and now, some don’t need to be refrigerated. For this, you will only need a hook, weight and a bobber. I highly recommend you look at a few videos online that can show you what to do (from hook sizes to bait hooking techniques and how to tie the proper knot). After that, it’s  just going out there and wait and once you catch your first fish, you will be hooked for life.

After the equipment, comes access. One of the main methods of fishing is with a boat, and while some parks will rent you one, it’s not necessary.

Many fishermen are extremely successful in doing shore or bank fishing. Around the Triangle, there are several lakes that are great for bank fishing and they also have boat ren­tals: University Lake in Chapel Hill, Little River Lake in Durham, Lake Johnson, Lake Wheeler, Shelly Lake, Umstead Park in Ral­eigh and Bass Lake in Holly Springs to name a few. Each of these lakes has different sets of rules, operational times and fees on their websites so be sure to check those before you go. Remember, some lakes like University/Cane Creek and Little River/Lake Michie close for the season in early November. Keep in mind that lake levels may be down in some areas due to lack of rain.

Finally, be sure you comply with NC fishing regulation as in many lakes, adults over 16 need a fishing license unless you are fishing on a private pond. Usually a basic North Carolina fishing license costs $7 for 10 days or $20 per year for residents but fees might increase depending on the type of activity (coastal, inland water, trout, etc.)

Once a year on the Fourth of July no license is required in NC.

To see all your license options, visit the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission ncwildlife.org or call 1-888-248-6834 Mon­day-Friday, 8 -5. Also, the website will provide you with all public places to fish in NC and their size limits and regulations. This website also has information about water quality and if the fish are safe to eat at a specific location if you choose to keep your catch.

Now you’re ready to go out, catch some fish and make some memories. Just remember to be aware of the weather before you go and to take insect repellent in case of mosquitoes or other bothering insects but most of all, be sure to enjoy the experience.