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
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FONTANA LAKE - An Experience of Nature's Beauty

Fontana Lake could be called the best-kept secret in the Smoky Mountains. Just consider a 29-mile long lake, with more than 240 miles of shoreline and 11,685 acres of water surface. Its deep, cold waters provide ideal habitat for a variety of fish. In fact, record size musky and walleye have been pulled from its depths. Some people even claim that it's one of the best smallmouth bass lakes in the country. It's one of the prettiest lakes I've ever been on, and I've been on one or two.

Fontana is unique in many ways. Unlike most lakes in the area, the shoreline of Fontana is almost totally undeveloped. More than 90 percent of the land around the lake is owned by either the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or the US Forest Service, and all development has been kept to a minimum. Only a few marinas exist and almost no homes are other structures can be seen anywhere. With no development, Fontana's waters and shorelines are clean and undisturbed by man. In fact, we could only identify 4 decent ramps and they were all maintained by the Forest Service.

Fontana Dam itself is an engineering marvel. When completed in November 1944, to produce electricity to help the country out with its unpleasantness with Germany and Japan, the 480-foot high dam is the highest in the Eastern United States and the fourth highest in the entire country. Here are a few facts:
  • Height: 480 feet.
  • Length: 2,365 feet.
  • Thickness at base: 376 feet.
  • Power: Three generating units with a total capacity of 250,000 kilowatts.
  • Construction started: January 1, 1942.
  • Start to fill reservoir: November 7, 1944.
  • First electricity generated: January 20, 1945.
  • Project cost: $74.7 million.
  • Drainage area: 1,571 square miles.
  • Reservoir size: 11,685 acres.
  • Shoreline: 240 miles.
  • Man-hours to build: 34.5 million.
  • Total concrete poured: 2.8 million cubic yards.
  • Annual area rainfall: 75-80 inches.
We approached fishing Fontana on its lower end a few miles above the dam. Launching out of the Cable Cove facility, one of the Forest Service concrete ramps, we took a look at the depth finder. Sure enough, it was deep!! Step a few feet off most any shoreline and you would be in 70-90 feet of water; a LOT more out in the channel areas. And, the water was exceptionally clear, with lure visibility to 15-18 feet in most places.

Knowing this depth and water clarity would be tough, and not wanting to fish 30-50 feet deep, we headed for the back of the first big feeder creek on our map - Hazel Creek on the north side of the lake.

Thank goodness for prior experience on these types of water. Our decision to go to the back of the feeder tributaries paid off and gave us a largemouth pattern to work with.

Most of the feeder creeks had running water, tumbling out of the mountainsides and down through the many small gullies. In most cases, there were visible rock masses that the water ran over just before it dumped into the main lake waters. And, there was always some cover at the rear of the tributary in the form of bushes, trees or drift.

The accompanying photo shows the standing timber and accumulated drift at the back of Hazel creek. With this cover and shallow water, the start of the creek channel, and the moving water, we found largemouth bass in pretty fair numbers. Interestingly, we saw more bass there than we caught, as they seemed to move about in and about the available cover with disdain for the boat and us. Of the many we saw, none appeared to be over 2 pounds. Small 4-inch worms were all we could get them to take.

Chambers Creek, Eagle Creek, Forney Creek, Hazel Creek, Lands Creek, Nolands Creek, and Pilkeys Creek are some of the other major tributaries that feed Fontana Lake. Pilkeys Creek was another location on the north side and a few miles further upriver that was productive for largemouths.

Small jigs and worms also worked out on points and any structure (high spots/mounds) at reachable depths. However, these fish were nearly always smallmouths.

We did not try for trout or any other species of fish, but did see what appeared to be a pike take a swipe at a lure coming to the boat on one occasion.

The next time we visit Fontana, I think it would be best to address the upper end, close to the Byron City area, where we can reduce the ratio of water to land and reduce the depth a bit. That should allow us to cover more potentially productive locations and reach more submerged structure.

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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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