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Thread: Winter Mountain Trout Trolling

  1. #16
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    I will also add....that of the four lakes I fished a week ago.....Fontana was the warmest at 55 degrees. The other three lakes were all around 48 degrees. That was a surprising and significant difference. Fontana has such an incredible range of habitat and changing depths......that locating the Trout can be the hardest part.....D

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  3. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artisanthe View Post
    I will also add....that of the four lakes I fished a week ago.....Fontana was the warmest at 55 degrees. The other three lakes were all around 48 degrees. That was a surprising and significant difference. Fontana has such an incredible range of habitat and changing depths......that locating the Trout can be the hardest part.....D
    You shouldn't be surprised by Fontana's temp. Because of it's great volume of water, it's temp is gonna move up or down slower than smaller lakes. I suspect that it has more water in it than any other reservoir in North Carolina.

  4. #18
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    I would agree with you mostly, but, I've noticed over the years that Fontana is always different. It is such a vast Lake....with the Little Tennessee, Tuckaseegee and Nantahala rivers all flowing into it with different temperatures. Add in streams like Eagle and Hazel and dozens of others....along with the ever-changing depths..... and you can often find localized conditions. For example....I can almost always catch Trout in July up Hazel and Eagle Creeks in the cooler waters before they mix with the lake waters. Meanwhile, they will be 60 ft or deeper on the main lake.

    It's estimated by the TVA that waters entering on the Little Tennessee end.....take 4-5 months to travel through the lake. So....while I agree with you on the Larger-equals-Slower changes normally.....Fontana has so many other factors going on that it's not that simple. Bottom line.....we need some colder days and nights to get Fontana down closer to the 40 degree mark, so that the upper layers mix with the dead lower layers. As I write this.....it will be in the 60's again today at Fontana. Colder weather is on the way though....and with nights in the teens predicted soon......another Mountain Trout Factory should recharge it's waters again. The nineteen inch Rainbow below was taken from the upper Hazel Creek area last July while temps were in the 90's and surface temps were close to 80. I don't usually keep them this size....but this one was too far gone to release due to the heat....D

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  6. #19
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    I think that Fontana is starting to silt-in enough to reduce it's volume significantly. It's discharge water has been getting warmer in the last decade. I can't imagine any other reason for this development. More sand and less water in the depths near the dam. That 4-5 months for the water to turn-over is eye opening! For the past 6 months Fontana's oxygen injection system has been having problems periodically. To compensate they open a gate slightly to bring the oxygen level up in little Cheoah Lake. They've been back to that for about the last week. Maturity is changing Fontana and many other TVA lakes. They've raised Fort Loudoun Dam 4 feet to get back some storage capacity for flooding situations. They've done the same at 3 other dams including Douglas.

    I read one time that with average flow, all the water in Chilhowee Lake rolls over in 2 days. I bet it's 1-2 days or less with little Cheoah…???
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  7. #20
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    I think it fluctuates (churn) on Fontana as well....and that was the actual Point i was trying to make. Fontana is a Catch-All Watershed lake for the area and the TVA uses it for Flood Control. The Lake Level can change as much as 25 Feet in a week if sustained rainfall hits the area. Ten foot fluctuations are not unusual at all. Conditions are always changing. I Always check the Lake Level before heading there. There can also be an influx of warmer waters from the Rivers in the form of run-off causing temperatures to change.

    As far as silting in.....the depths near the dam have not changed much over the years. I still find 400 ft of water....but I can't say it hasn't changed at all. Usually with silt you start to get vegetation....and there's not much of that anywhere on Fontana.....except up the rivers and larger streams where the silt is obvious. What I am fairly certain is changing is the overall temperature of the lake. Mild winters make for easier fishing, but, as I have already said.....Fontana and ALL Mountain Lakes need the colder weather to recharge and mix the oxygen with the deeper waters. I can believe the discharge is getting warmer. I plan to fish Cheoah some this summer and will log the temperatures and share them.

    Below is a screen capture of the Lake Levels over the past three years. You can see the yearly fluctuations along with the spikes. Fontana is a special place. You could spend a few lifetimes learning it all. Good Fishing!....D

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  8. #21
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    I grew up in a Knoxville neigborhood chocked full of TVA employees including some of the bigwigs. I've always know a lot about TVA. One of the bigwigs once told me that Douglas and Fontana were the most important dams in their system, as far as flood control goes. That makes perfect sense. They're the two biggest rivers coming out of the southern Appalachians. If WW2 had not happened, a smaller Alcoa dam might have been built at the Fontana site. If that had become reality, I suspect that TVA would of built a substantial dam somewhere upstream or taken Alcoa's dam with eminent domain and enlarged or replaced it with something along the lines of Fontana.

    The summer flood of 1940 over-topped both Cheoah and Calderwood Dams. Cheoah had more damage. It's powerhouse was severely damaged. Also, farther north, Horseshoe Dam on the Watauga River, now called Wilbur Dam, took the very worst of it. It's powerhouse and gates were completely washed away. Fontana Dam was long overdue when it was finally built during WW2. It's curious that Hiwassee Dam was built before Fontana but having to deal with Alcoa probably is why. After the 1940 flood TVA went straight ahead and obtained the dam site. President Roosevelt knew WW2 was inevitable and Alcoa needed massive amounts of electricity for the coming war. Every dam site remotely close to Alcoa, TN was expedited in 1940. Apalachia Dam is a prime example.

    I presume that your graph is the same or edited version from TVA's site, yes...??? I've looked at Fontana's Operating Guide on their site. I've seen Fontana Dam from every angle. I visited when the lake was all the way down for the dam repairs back in the 80's. That was eye opening! So was the sluicing during the flooding that damaged the dam. I went to see it and it looked very different from the sluicing we've seen in recent years. It was both tubes and the water looked like chocolate milk with debris in it.

    Fontana is a subject I know well. I fished it quite a bit back in the 70's but not so much since.....
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  9. #22
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    The Graph comes from Lakes Online dot com. I enjoyed your info on Fontana's past. I have researched it myself....the buried towns, the Alcoa story and the wildlife. I was really thrilled to see that Otters live there....though I've never personally seen one. I've seen Eagles several times there along with all sorts of other wildlife. It's one of many reasons the lake is Special for me.

    I recently bought a used Oxygen Meter from a University. I am looking forward to checking the dissolved oxygen levels in many of the lakes next summer. I like to understand the ecosystems I'm fishing on.

    Meanwhile....when I fish the Dam there for Smallies and Trout.....it's always a little spooky to see all the cracked concrete. I realize that the Dam is many feet thick and full of steel....but it still looks spooky. I included some old shots of the Dam under construction from the interweb for perspective...D

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  10. #23
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    TVA knew that the heat of the sun would make for cracks in the dam's massive concrete works. They installed brine pipes in the dam to cool it. I don't know what liquid flows in the pipes but I suspect it's pressurized ammonia like what's used to freeze the ice at ice rinks...???

    There's plenty of River Otters in Chilhowee Lake. I saw a family of 5 one day last year. I've seen Otters get Rainbows, Smallmouths, and one time I saw one grab a Mallard Duck and pull it under. About a minute later I saw it emerge onto the bank with the drowned duck in it's mouth. I see Otters in my Knoxville neighborhood from time to time. They like to prey upon the legions of Canada Geese that crap up everybody's yards along the river. Go Otters!!!! I have seen Otters at Calderwood a few times. Folks tell me that Otters darn near eliminated the Browns in Slickrock Creek during the severe drought of 1995 when the fish were easy pickings.

    Eagles really like Chilhowee Lake. There's a pair living there now. I've seen additional pairs in the past. There's plenty of shallow fish to grab in Chilhowee. I've seen Eagles swoop down and grab Rainbows and Smallmouths in Chilhowee many times when the fish are shallow attacking bait fish. I'd guess that most of the Eagles working Fontana are up the creeks and rivers where they can find some fish sitting shallow...?

    I like seeing the Bears at Fontana. The last time I was there 3 years ago, I saw two Bears way up Hazel Creek, not together. The second one swam across in front of me when I was nearing the mouth of the creek. There were some guys behind me that were gonna hike up the creek to fish. I warned them not to leave anything of interest in their boat. My bet is that smarty pants Bear inspected every boat parked there. Bears are very bright!

  11. #24
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    The place I stay in Cashiers NC occasionally catches Bears on the security cameras at night in their parking lot. There are pizza and breakfast restaurants close by.....and the bears check out the dumpsters and surrounding areas for scraps. You seldom see them in the daylight. They have learned the routines and how to co-exist. My fishing partner on one trip was pretty upset that there were bears outside our door at night. I thought it was pretty interesting myself.


    Earlier this year, I was way up Eagle Creek looking for Trout....and a stumbled on a handsome Timber Rattler or Canebrake sunning himself. He blended in with the surroundings perfectly. I often see deer swimming across the lake and raccoons at the lake edge on Fontana.


    Fishing is not just about catching fish.....it's the whole adventure and experience. I remind myself often to stop and enjoy the moment. Good Fishing to All....D

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  12. #25
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    I have some great bear pictures I'd like to post. I can't find the memory stick, so far. My laptop died about 6 months ago and the pictures were in it. I have a series of photos of a 250-300 pound bear swimming across Chilhowee Lake right in front of my boat and then getting out. If I find the memory stick I'll post it.

    The best wildlife photo I've seen was a Bobcat on a downed tree leaning into Cheoah lake that a friend took. Bobcats don't like being seen! The only time I've ever seen one was when some dogs tree'd it. I have a friend who saw a Boar swim across Chilhowee Lake. I've never seen that. He didn't have a camera with him that day. I've only ever encountered one Boar and it was on Fourney Creek when I hiked in to fish it long ago. The wind was coming right at me or I'm sure I would never have seen it.

  13. #26
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    Looks like Tennessee is going to go back to putting lake trout in Chilhowee this year in addition the rainbows

  14. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by gambusia View Post
    Looks like Tennessee is going to go back to putting lake trout in Chilhowee this year in addition the rainbows
    Last time I was at Chilhowee, I talked to a TWRA agent who thought they were going to stop putting Lakers in there. He said that they must have already stocked some because he checked a guy who had a small Laker. A few Browns have been showing up in Chilhowee. Some Browns were probably stocked when the dam repairs were completed and the lake was filled. I hope they put both Browns and Lakers in.

    The Lakers were really hard to catch in Chilhowee. I had to go up to Watauga to actually land one. One day, before the draw-down, I trolled spoons for Lakers all afternoon without a strike. At dark I put out a float light and a pair of crawler lines. I started to eat my sandwich just minutes later and bam, I had a hard strike. It took me 20 minutes to get a substantial Laker ready for the net. It keep taking line every time I got it up from the depths. I thought I had a big Rainbow till I finally got it close enough to see the white, leading edges of it's fins. I was fishing alone. When I had the fish worn out, I had the net over the side and was 1-2 seconds from scooping it up, it had one last head shake left in it and out came the hook. It was about 24-26 inches long. That would make it about 5 - 6.5 pounds, probably....? We caught a Laker at Watauga one day that was only 26" but weighed 7.51 pounds. This fish looked thinner. It was probably about 6 pounds, give or take a half pound. It was a hard fight on an ultra light outfit with 6 pound test.

    I believe Lakers see your line better than other Trout in Chilhowee. They see to feed in deep, dark water like Watauga has. They must see darn well in shallow Chilhowee. Chilhowee is at most 70 feet deep at the dam. Most of the lake is 40 feet or less. There's an upside to Lakers in Chilhowee. You don't have to drag them up 60-120 feet through a bunch of warm water that's painful for them like what's the case at Watauga from mid-summer and through the fall. The warm pocket on top of Chilhowee runs about 5-10 feet depending on the flow into the lake. It's not deep enough for them to get decompression like can be the case at Watauga when the strikes are at 80 feet or more during the hot months.

    There's plenty of food for Lakers in Chilhowee. It has a huge population of Shad minnows and plenty of Yellow Perch. Lakers like eating Perch till they get big enough to have sharp, painful fins....

  15. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by gambusia View Post
    Looks like Tennessee is going to go back to putting lake trout in Chilhowee this year in addition the rainbows


    I was under the assumption that no more lakers are going in Chillhowee. Is this confirmed??

  16. #29
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    Here is an email to region 4 fishery biologists
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  17. #30
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    In the past, the stocking of Lakers in Chilhowee was always on the basis of if they had extra fish. It was never every year. I suspect that every 2-4 years some extra fish will get stocked.

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