Persistent winter weather and muddy water have dramatically reduced the number of fishermen plying area lakes.
Those who are braving the elements are finding lots of bass, stripers and perch in unmuddied sections of the lake and in the warm water near the hot holes.
Those not fishing are passing time until spring telling fish tales to anyone who will listen. Here are a few of them:
During a fishing trip to the Outer Banks, the anglers caught so many yellowfin tuna that half had to be left behind. There wasn't enough room in the small plane for the passengers and all the ice chests.
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With the plane still overloaded, the pilot taxied to the end of the runway for takeoff. As the plane began to move, the ice chests shifted to the rear. The nose pointed skyward and the tail dragged.
Before the plane had time to lift off or stop, the fishermen jumped out and vowed to never fly to the coast again.
There's a story about a couple who went fishing in a Louisiana canal. The man caught a bass he estimated at more than 11 pounds. He put it in the live well, and the two continued fishing.
Later, the game warden stopped to check fishing licenses. The man had one, but his wife didn't. She was issued a citation.
As the warden was leaving, she said, "Let me show you the big fish my husband caught." When she opened the live well, the fish jumped out and back into the canal.
The warden must have felt sorry for the couple, because he voided the citation.
This may be hard to believe, but it's worth repeating. It seems a guy was bank fishing when he almost stepped on a snake with a frog in its mouth.
Thinking the frog would make a good bait, he grabbed the snake behind the head and pulled out the frog, which he put in his bait bucket.
Fearing the snake would bite when he released it, he poured some of the contents of flask into the snake's mouth. The snake slithered away.
Later, he felt something move near his feet. When he looked, the snake was back.
This time it had two frogs in its mouth.
Don't underestimate the effect of wind chill. Layering is effective, particularly when the outer layer of clothing consists of insulated overalls and a parka with a hood.
Jake Bussollini, author of "Freshwater Fighters," and I will lead a free seminar, "Learning to Use Your Depth Finder to Catch More Fish," 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday at Gander Mountain, at I-77 Exit 36, Mooresville. Bring the instruction book for your depth finder, along with any questions. Details: 704-658-0822.
High, muddy water has bass on the banks holding near rocks and brush. Because the water is cold, you may need several casts to the same spot to produce a strike.
Schooling stripers and spotted bass are in and around both hot water canals. Spotted bass are also surface-feeding all day in Ramsey Creek. Much of the striper action is early and late.
The lake level is well above normal; surface temperature in deep open water is in the 40s.