Winter pool on Boone Lake will be pretty dramatic this year.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has scheduled a maintenance project on Boone Dam that is expected to affect winter lake levels.
According to TVA reports, the large chains and cables on top of the dam that are used to operate the dam’s intake and spillway gates will be replaced.
Starting in mid-December, the reservoir will be pulled down to about 1,348 feet above sea level, which is nearly 14 feet below its normal winter pool.
The work is expected to be finished by mid-February. When complete, the lake will be allowed to rise to its normal winter elevation. With normal rainfall and runoff in the spring, Boone Lake should refill on schedule for next summer’s recreation season.
Even with the proliferation of advanced 3D-imaging features on state-of- the-art electronic fish finders, many area anglers will welcome the opportunity to survey contours and features that are usually hidden by water.
Rod Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton reports that his neighbor at Cherokee Lake picked up some nice bass throwing Rat-L-Traps and Spro Little Johns in shallow water.
“They were just fishing the shad pods,” Colyer said. “Smallmouth are hitting that bone Bomber Long-A — just waking it. And they’re still catching fish on the Zara Spook.”
He said he hadn’t heard much dock talk related to striper fishing on Cherokee Lake, but took note of what should be excellent conditions for catching nice hybrids and rockfish.
“I’m sure the striper guys will be hitting it hard starting this weekend,” he said.
Local angling author Keith Bartlett has been enjoying the pre-spawn brown trout action on the sections of the South Holston tailwater that remain open to angling (which is most of the river, actually).
“They are feeding up for the spawn and they are very active,” Bartlett said.
“They are very beautifully marked at this time of the year. They have these big orange dots on them and they have this golden sheen to them when you hold them up in the sunshine.”
While he has seen quite a few bruisers cruising in the river, so far he hasn’t hung into a really big one. The small to average fish he’s been catching have been caught on larger than average baits.
“You’d think the little 3-inch minnow baits would be perfect. But they’ve been hitting much larger ones than that,” he said.
“It reminds me of smallmouth river fishing. Same tackle. Same sized lures. Same retrieve.”
On the fly fishing beat, Mike Adams at Mahoney’s Sportsman’s Paradise in Johnson City reports that low water and abundant Blue Winged Olives have translated into good fishing on both major trout tailwaters.
“The generation schedules on both rivers have been very accommodating to wading anglers,” said Adams, who had a friend pick up some very nice trout on the upper end of the Watauga on Size 18 Soft Hackle Pheasant Tails.
Most of the Blue Wings being encountered are Size 18 down to Size 22. Pheasant Tails with a Zebra Midge dropper is a good all-around combination on both rivers, he said.
If you really want to get into a memorable fish, however, consider throwing a streamer. Lots of bigger fish have moved up in preparation for the spawn.
“I’ve just had three excellent days of streamer fishing. It doesn’t matter which river you’re on,” Adams said.
George Thwaites is a sports and outdoors writer for the Kingsport Times-News. Email bragging fish photos to email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KTNSptsTwitter.