North Carolina Lakes Information Guide - North Carolina smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing guide to Lake fontana, Bear Creek and Lake Glenville.
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North Carolina Lakes Information Guide
Fontana Bear Creek Wolf Creek Cedar Cliff Tuckasegee River
Little Tennessee River   Fishing Reports


Four small lakes were built on the east fork of the Tuckasegee River by Nantahala Power and Light Co. in the mid-1950's to provide hydroelectric power for the area. Those four lakes have since become prime habitats for trout and bass. Tanasee Creek Lake, the smallest impoundment, is at the far eastern end of the chain, followed by Wolf Creek Lake, 183 acres; Bear Creek Lake, 476 acres (the largest), and Cedar Cliff Lake, 121 acres. Because of their small size, the lakes are easy to explore, even with a small boat. Bear Creek Lake's shoreline is 13.5 miles; Wolf Creek has a mere 6.9 miles of shoreline. Large powerboats are not permitted on Tanasee Creek Lake. Fishing pressure is light to moderate, probably because of the remoteness of the lakes. All four lakes have public access areas with concrete ramps, boat docks, and gravel parking lots.

Tanasee, Wolf, and Bear are managed as hatchery supported waters, which means they are regularly stocked by the Wildlife Resources Commission. Although Cedar Cliff is not stocked it does have a small population of trout that enter the lake from the Tuckasegee River. While the abundant trout certainly attract area fishers to the lakes, the primary draw is smallmouth bass. In addition to smallmouth and trout, the lakes also have crappie, rock bass, some largemouth bass and loads of sunfish and bream.

We asked the local anglers how they approached these lakes and here is a synopsis of what they recommended. For smallmouth, small worms and 1/8th oz. Jigs in dark colors are effective, as are crankbaits to depths of 8 to 10 feet. Crickets and nightcrawlers also work well. Best crappie hangouts are around downed trees and brushy coves. Live minnows and jigs are recommended baits. For trout, the 'locales' suggest fishing the sandy sections of the lakes and around feeder streams. Suggested lures were Rooster Tail spinners, especially white with yellow and black dots.

David Yow, fishery biologist for the Wildlife Resource Commission, said threadfin shad have been stocked in Bear Creek Lake since 1995 to help boost the forage base for game fish. Yow said the samplings are scheduled in the near future to determine the effectiveness of the shad stockings.

So, armed with this data, 6-lb. line and some small lures and jigs, we ventured to Bear Creek Lake.

Boy, it is a bit of a remote area around Bear Creek Lake, to say the least. The mountain roads get narrow and winding, but are paved and well maintained. The road down to the ramp scared us at first. It turned off the highway right at the very top of a high hill and we figured it was going to be a trip to 'Steep City'. But, to our surprise, it was a very good gravel road that wound easily down the side along a draw and came out on a large gravel parking lot and double concrete ramp launch area.

Bear Creek Lake showed us 160+ feet of depth at the dam and about 50 feet as we neared the headwaters. Unlike Fontana, a short step off the Bear Creek Lake shoreline did not plunge us into a zillion feet of water and we were able to work 10-25 feet very consistently. This was also the productive range, in that the water clarity was pretty good and sight of the lure usually was lot at about 10 feet.

We started at the very upper end of the lake where it turns back into the small Tuckasegee River. Here we found moving water entering the lake, with an area of drift and trash caught in a back eddy. We caught largemouths from in and around the driftwood and old logs, as would be expected. A 4-inch worm was the key, again, like it was in similar areas at big Fontana Lake the week before.

As we worked out the mouth of the river and began to enter the lake, the old river channel snaked back and forth across the basin. In the shallow areas, we could see the remains of a multitude of stumps. This indicated that the timber in the lake had been cleared up to the shoreline prior to flooding. This was a good thing to know, in that most flats and high spots found were noted to contain stump fields.

Another interesting thing we found was that the bottom of the lake, down to about 20 feet, had a lot of very fine grass. In Florida, we nicked name this growth 'hair grass' because of its thinness and length. On Bear Creek Lake, it had a tendency to foul crank plugs that ran to the bottom and heavy sinkers and jigs. Lightweight lures did not foul too much. When we used Carolina Rigs, we went with 1/8th-oz sinkers.

The grass issue led us to remember our good friend, the late Charlie Brewer, and his famous Slider lure. Boy, did it save our day. We swam the Slider down the drops and along parallel to the rock banks, all the while holding it just above the bottom. Slow and steady, with not jerks or other action - just like Charlie taught us. Refer to the photo of the Slider. Fish it on 6-8 lb. line and retrieve it slow and steady, just off the bottom. It is like my Swimming Worm - it works just about anywhere!!

The next best lure for us was the 4-inch worm worked down to 12-18 feet off the flats on the backside of the channel turns. All these fish were largemouths. We did not catch a single fish on crank plugs.

Down at the dam, we found large riprap along the south side of the natural shoreline and chunk rock along the face of the dam, itself. Here, the only thing that worked for us was a homemade 1/8th oz rubber-legged jig. We simply tied the rubber material on a jig head with monofilament, separated the legs, and cut it off at the end of the hook. The jig head was a crappie style, with a ball head and a #1 light wire hook. This was our tournament weapon for years in Alabama on the TVA lakes and it worked great on Bear Creek, as well (as there was no grass growing on those rocks). The fish at the dam were all smallmouths and came at depths of about 12-20 feet. (I strongly suspect trout were holding at the 20-25 foot level for someone with red worms or corn.)

Despite their remoteness, the lakes are fairly easy to reach. Bear Creek Lake, Wolf Creek Lake and Tanasee Creek Lake can be reached via N.C. 281 off N.C. 107 about six miles south of Western Carolina University. The road to Cedar Cliff is the next road to the left, State Road 1135 (Shook Cove Road). Because Bear, Wolf and Tanasee are stocked, a special trout license is required in addition to a basic state fishing license.

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A common question that we get: "Is there somewhere close to get bait and tackle?" This is where we get our bait.

Pete and Tina Heinz / 9 South Mulberry St. / Fellsmere, FL 32948 / 772-571-9855

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