Fishing Report: summer's just getting started, and it feels like it's been here for a while

George Thwaites • Jun 20, 2014 at 10:02 PM

It's hard to believe that Saturday is the first official day of summer.

For many local anglers, it's hard to believe the summer conditions we've already been experiencing.

High temperatures and not enough rainfall are starting to affect the fishing on area reservoirs and rivers.

The news is not all bad. But it's not all good.

On South Holston Lake, John Slagle at Lake View Dock reports average water surface temperatures as high as 84 degrees.

"As the water temperatures move up, the trout move down," said Slagle. "Night fishing for trout is still productive and trolling during the day is still pretty decent. But you need to add 10 to 20 feet of depth to what you've been fishing."

He noted that an algae bloom at the lower end of the lake has been "phenomenal." If it puts a little more oxygen in the water, he's happy to have it. It's also putting more color into the water, which ought to be a plus for bass anglers.

Many miles downstream of South Holston, bass anglers on Cherokee Reservoir are seeing the opposite effect.

"I've fished Cherokee Lake for 30 years and I've never seen the water that clear," marveled Rex Pendergrass of Watson's Marine in Bluff City.

"I just don't think they've moved much water at all through Cherokee. There must not be much current. It's breathtakingly clear," he said.

Even under overcast skies, it was a struggle to fish, he said. He finally moved up the lake, where he found a little more water color — but still more clarity than normal.

One thing he did see at several locations across Cherokee were stripers and hybrids spectacularly breaking on schools of bait. Most of the major explosions were occurring in late afternoon.

"At just about any part of the lake I fished a crankbait or a swimbait, I'd catch a striper or hybrid at some point or another," Pendergrass said.

After dark walleye fishing has been solid on Watauga Reservoir, far outfishing South Holston Lake so far. The bass bite has also been pretty decent on that upper-end reservoir.

The bass action on Boone Lake has been sluggish. Pendergrass doesn't know whether to blame the recent weather or the TVA's radical drawdown for repairs this past winter.

"Last year Boone was good, this year it's slow at best. Even in the late winter and early spring on Alabama rigs, it wasn't what it has been," said Pendergrass, who noted that even the lake's bass rodeo regulars are having a tough time bringing in keepers.

There has been a reaction bite for anglers pitching and flipping the Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver. Another solution is to fish slower. Pendergrass recommends a 4-inch Zoom Dead Ringer with a chartreuse dye job on the tail.

"That will get you a bite or two when nothing else will," he said.

On the fly fishing beat, the TVA's recreational flow has kept the Watauga tailwater fishable, but the South Holston has been exceptionally low, clear and warm.

"They are basically pulsing one time during the day," said Todd Boyer of Mahoney's Sportsmans' Paradise in Johnson City.

"There are some sulphurs coming off in the evening with the pulses. Otherwise, beetle fishing is picking up and you can still get down with nymphs and midges and stuff like that," he said.

Huck Huckaba of Eastern Fly Outfitters noted that the 70-plus degree water of the South Holston tailwater remains attractive to stripers, which move up the river out of Boone Lake.

The big predators have also been a common sight in the Watauga tailwater, which is also a tributary of Boone Lake.

"Most people in the fly fishing community are really upset about that," he said. "It's acceptable to see stripers around Douglas Dynamics. But when you see them eating trout off your nymph rig while fishing the trophy section, it's a little bit absurd."

George Thwaites

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