Lake Hickory is bouncing back from a tough 2013, with striped bass being landed across the lake thanks to a cool spring and what looks like a mild beginning to summer. Guide Colt Bass of Colt Bass fishing has been consistently catching stripers ranging from 10 to 20 pounds, and he expects the action to only get better.
“It’s not the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s a lot better than last year,” said Bass, who has been fishing Hickory all his life and guiding for nearly a decade.
The catches follow a rainy 2013 where fishermen on the lake experienced extremely poor striper fishing. That led to sampling efforts by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission that showed plenty of stripers, at an average of 2 ½ years old. But fishermen continued to have trouble getting bites, and some wondered if the record rainfalls had swept the biggest fish out of the lake and downstream into Lookout Shoals Lake.
Fast-forward to this year, and the rainfall has returned to a normal level. Bass (828-381-3426) said water temperatures are floating between 65 and 75 degrees. With outflows from Rhodhiss Dam upstream bringing cold water from the bottom of that lake into Hickory, Bass said anglers should fish the 4-mile stretch upstream from the US 321 bridge, especially the stretch upstream from a railroad bridge that crosses the lake. The water temperature in that section of the lake has been around 65 degrees.
Stripers make upriver spawning runs every year, and while the spawn is doomed to failure because of the size of the impoundment – eggs must roll at least 25 miles downstream before they hatch into fry – that doesn’t stop them. Even though the spawning run is over, the cooler water is concentrating fish in the upper end of the lake, where Bass is catching them on live bait fished on free lines or planer boards.
One thing Bass said Lake Hickory has going for it is its relative anonymity.
“Not many people know about Lake Hickory. It’s not a lake you hear about three states away, but that’s what makes it so great,” Bass said.