Nantahala Lake, a 1,065-acre reservoir in Clay and Macon counties, has spawned two state records for kokanee salmon in less than a week.
On June 6, Fred Mix, of Rainbow Springs, broke the existing record of 3 pounds, 9 ounces, held since 2009 by Ashley Swann, of Swannanoa, after reeling in a 3-pound, 15-ounce fish, using a homemade spinner.
Five days later, on June 11, Jeffery Todd Smith broke Mix’s record, catching a kokanee salmon that weighed 4 pounds, 1 ounce. He used flashers and dodgers as lures.
Like many anglers in the area, Smith, who is from Mills River in Henderson County, knew that kokanee salmon are found in North Carolina only in Nantahala Lake, having been stocked in the mid-1960s by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in an attempt to establish the species as a forage fish.
He said he has been trolling the lake for the last two years, hoping to catch a record-breaking salmon. On June 11, which happened to be his day off as well as his birthday, Smith finally achieved his goal, reeling in the state record fish after trolling for nearly nine hours.
He had the fish weighed on certified scales at the Ingles supermarket in Bryson City that night, and the next day, Jacob Rash, the Commission’s coldwater research coordinator, examined and certified the fish.