Winter Mountain Trout Trolling
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Thread: Winter Mountain Trout Trolling

  1. #1
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    Default Winter Mountain Trout Trolling

    Hello All. I spent five great days on four different lakes over the holidays.....Fontana, Santeetlah, Bear Creek and Wolf Creek. I fished mornings for Bass....and would change over to Trout around 10-11 am each day. I found Bass easily on Fontana and Santeetlah....still chasing the bait balls and eager to take Spybaits and Damiki blade baits. They were fun to catch and plentiful.

    The Trout were still Very Active and I caught many that were ready to spawn. I caught several males that were "spraying" when held.....and females loaded with eggs.....it's the season. I trolled custom and stock hoochies....along with Rapala's, spoons and spinners. By the end of the trip I was exclusively trolling hoochies and here's what I found.

    I caught far more Stocker Trout (11-14 inches) than on the previous trip and they mostly wanted the stock hoochie. The slightly larger custom hoochies produced All of the Larger Trout. I did manage a 19 inch Leroy and an 18 inch Rainbow and a few other 16 and 17 inch fish.....but this trip was more about quantity than quality.

    The Fish were Everywhere! On two different Lakes.....I dropped the FishHawk Thermometer down.....and in Both.....the difference between the Surface and 80 ft was less than One Degree! It averaged 49 degrees on the surface....and 48.2 degrees at 80 ft. The Fish only needed to find Food and occupied nearly the entire water column. Take a look at the Humminbird pic and you'll see what was happening. I wound up flat lining about 15 ft deep for the majority of Trout caught......easy trolling!

    Over the last two years I have dialed it in. I have learned to locate schools, wolfpacks, groups....whatever you prefer....and my thoughts on Trout have evolved. I initially began believing they were Nomadic....and that you just trolled until one hit. Now I target specific areas and make much shorter and productive passes.....repeatedly. Over the five days, I caught 60 plus Trout and kept just a few. The action was pretty constant. The scenery was Beautiful.

    The weather was Foggy and Great......in the 60's each day and 30's each night. I mostly had the lakes to myself. In the afternoons I would see a few other boats. A couple of boats wandered over to see what I was doing. It's a great time for Trout......Best of Luck to everyone....D

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  3. #2
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    I think that Trout are somewhat nomadic. However, from what you're saying, maybe they're a bit like Racoons in that they have a circuit they work....??? Maybe they go back and forth from where the bait fish are to where the nymphs and crayfish are good pickings...??? When the bait fish get thin, the hunting grounds may morph into where the nymphs are...?

    I have not fished for Trout in the winter very much in the past but this late fall/early winter I've discovered that most of the Rainbows in Chilhowee Lake are up the Abrams Creek arm probably spawning and feeding on nymphs. I was at Watauga Lake recently and the Rainbows sure were not out in the channel. All I caught was Lakers and a Catfish. These days are so short, I didn't get around to fishing the upper end of the lake. Some of the Lakers must of been in the upper end. I didn't mark even half as many Lakers on sonar as in the summer months. I'm probably not gonna fish again till late February or March. I winterized my boat and parked it last Monday.


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  4. #3
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    To be clear......I'm still learning, but, I've been having a blast and have been pretty successful so far. I think the Trout make some pretty Obvious moves.....Deep in the Summer....and Shallow in the Winter. They also move towards the Dam in summer if necessary.....and up the feeder streams in winter to spawn. There are several important factors.....Oxygen, Food, Temperature and of course Spawning. This past summer, I located some "Wolfpacks" of Brook Trout on Cedar Cliff Lake. In the ten years prior.....I had never even seen a Brook Trout on that lake. I didn't know they were even in there! I found a "seam" at 35 ft....and three locations where I could consistently catch them. I caught 23 Brookies that day last July....and had Never even seen one before on that lake. That opened my eyes.

    I went back a couple months later.....and it was mostly Rainbows.....but, in the same specific locations. Cedar Cliff is now closed for the next two years for work on the dam.....but, I can't wait to get back there and continue what I've learned. I then tried to reproduce the same thing on Fontana Lake. In the summer I was unsuccessful. This winter however, I managed to locate two excellent spots, however, the water level fluctuates wildly....so that will be a long term project. The Trout were definitely up-the-creeks though. One of the pics is a shot from Fontana of a "pile" of Trout up Eagle Creek in about a 150 yard section. I caught a 17 inch Brown that was living well and looked like a football along with some smaller Rainbows.

    There's still Much to learn. I'll be heading over to Watauga this spring to try my hand at Lakers. (Nice Laker pic by the way!) I'll be packing some extra large hoochies.....along with the standard spoons and plugs. I think you may be missing out a little on these mild winters. You're right about the short days though. I didn't have time to check out out nearly all the fish I marked. The second depthfinder pic shows an absolute party going on at 60-80 ft......but, I didn't get a strike. I would have liked to have spent more time there. Next time!....D

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  6. #4
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    Glad youíve been having luck. I decided to try Glenville. Havenít fished it in a while, and summer time itís taken over by wakeboard boats. Itís not know for trout but the two biggest browns and rainbow Iíve ever personally seen came out of the lake. We looked all over the lake and never seemed to be in the right areas. The wind also picked up mid morning as it usually does up there and made the 35-40 degrees almost unbare-able. My girlfriend finally had enough and laid down and got in a sleeping bag to get warm and outta the wind, I made it another 2 hours before I called it.
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  7. #5
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    Amazing how much colder it is when you're Not catching anything, isn't it? I've been there. There are three nice waterfalls and streams coming into Glenville. I would think the Trout would be very close to those right now. That was the ticket a week ago on all four lakes I visited. If you head back to Lake Santeetlah.....try Snowbird or Santeetlah Creek. I caught them there. I made a pass near the town for good measure.....nothing! Good Luck!....D
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  8. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artisanthe View Post
    Amazing how much colder it is when you're Not catching anything, isn't it? I've been there. There are three nice waterfalls and streams coming into Glenville. I would think the Trout would be very close to those right now. That was the ticket a week ago on all four lakes I visited. If you head back to Lake Santeetlah.....try Snowbird or Santeetlah Creek. I caught them there. I made a pass near the town for good measure.....nothing! Good Luck!....D
    I checked all the creeks except the big waterfall with the waterwheel that was my last stop but gave in before making it. Creek at the far end past the marina gets shallow fast once you come around the island/finger that sticks out. The rock with the danger buoy at the end was above water line and blocked from going further. It was also 3í at that point but it is where I saw the most bait. From top to bottom 3í thick and as wide as the channel im thinking the wind blew a bunch up there and they got trapped.


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  9. #7
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    Watauga is the lake where I have had the least success with hoochies. I don't recall catching a single Rainbow on 'em. I've mostly fished Kokanee hoochies there. I've caught small Lakers, Smallmouths, and a few Walleyes on 'em. I made some Salmon sized hoochies a couple of years ago and I never got a strike on them. If I'd made it up to the upper lake the other day, I was gonna fish some of my 2 inch hoochies up in the shallows of the Roan Creek arm. I ran out of time before I could do so. I might have started out up there in the morning but it was too cold to comfortably run up there.

  10. #8
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    Logan....it sounds like you were on the right track. Some days they're just not buying what you're selling. I've never fished for Trout there.....though I know they're there. The locals have even stocked Browns and Walleyes there......but NC doesn't stock Trout there as far as I know. I go there for Swimbait fishing....as the lake has Bluebacks....and a nice population of brown and green bass.

    If you're going that far though......I might suggest you take a left and head to Bear Creek if you want Trout. Head for the island and turn left. The Trout are stacked up at the mouths of the streams. It's pretty water....and you can eliminate two thirds of the lake right now. There are Walleye and Bass there as well......and a Lot of Trout. I got my largest trout there on the last trip. Good Luck....D

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  11. #9
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    Troutgirl.....I was reading all the posts in the Tennessee forum about Watauga and it got me excited. I'm sure I will have lots of questions. I'm also sure I will make plenty of mistakes, but, I really enjoy the hunt and will probably try a lot of things that don't work. I will have all sorts of Hoochies of course.....but I get through my work days by daydreaming about new things to try. Cheers....D

  12. #10
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    Default Winter Mountain Trout Trolling

    Bear and cedar cliff I fish a lot. Both I can get to in the spring and fish for a couple hours after I get off at 5. I grew up camping on glenville on the islands, you know before they put houses on them. We were actually the last people to legally camp on the small island across from the dam. I quit going there because it has gotten so crowded. It was nice to get on it and see one other boat. Also Iíve been trying to learn how to find fish at different times of year on different lakes to start building up a fairly expectation where to find trout and when. We learned it from crappie fishing down east with my buddy and itís opened us up to fishing a lot of unknown lakes to us and having success. But Iím not gonna lie I spend the time 50/50 fishing for walleye then trout.


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  13. #11
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    Yeah.....like you, I Can't Stand Glenville in the Summer.....and I have watched it get more and more crowded over the years. That's why I have grown to love winter fishing so much.......everywhere. There are also too many jet ski's on Cedar Cliff (The College) these days in the summer, but, mainly because it's so small. Cedar Cliff is a personal favorite.....and I will miss it the next couple of years. The large Bass there that feed on the Trout are what I will miss most of all. It should re-open in the winter of 2021....and I'll be there...D

  14. #12
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    Bear, Wolf and Cedar Cliff have good dissolved oxygen and temperatures from top to bottom even during the summer.

    Thats what makes them great for stocking rainbow trout.

    Few NC lakes have good year around trout habitat anymore but those 3 lakes do.
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  15. #13
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    I was pretty impressed to see the lakes had completely turned over.....and the Water Temps were nearly the same (less than one degree) at 80 ft as they were at the surface (isothermal). This is very healthy for a lake as the Oxygen gets redistributed throughout the depths and the wind is able to thoroughly mix both oxygen and nutrients. It's also important that the majority of these lakes are still covered with trees and steep hillsides....which helps keep them cooler in the summers. The three mentioned....Bear, Wolf, Cedar Cliff ......are all still Oligotrophic Lakes.....though weeds are beginning to creep in as the climate changes. As Gambusia said....it's good year round Trout Habitat. I hope they stay that way....D

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  16. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by gambusia View Post
    Bear, Wolf and Cedar Cliff have good dissolved oxygen and temperatures from top to bottom even during the summer.

    Thats what makes them great for stocking rainbow trout.

    Few NC lakes have good year around trout habitat anymore but those 3 lakes do.
    Are you implying that the big lake like Fontana, Apalachia, Santeetlah, and others are going downhill as they silt-in....??? It certainly appears that Fontana's discharge water is getting warmer as it silts-in. It used to be consistently colder. The oxygen content in it's discharge was horrid until oxygen injection came along. I remember when Trout wouldn't grow in downstream Cheoah Lake.

    Apalachia always had good dissolved oxygen. It was spitting out good water before oxygen injection. Back in the 70's Apalachia and Chilhowee were the two best tailwaters in the region....
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  17. #15
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    No what I mean is certain lakes have good trout habitat top to bottom all during the year.

    These lakes do.


    Some others do to.

    Fontana and Santeetlah can and do support trout year around but not top to bottom.
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