Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's White Bass Season in the Piedmont - March 18, 2011

Each year in North Carolina when mid-March roles around it marks a special time - and not just because spring is in the air. The spring peepers can be heard singing their swamp melodies and the dogwoods bloom along quiet streets and college campuses. When these things happen, it signifies a changing of water and air temperature and unofficially begins the locally infamous white bass runs of central NC.

My first ever white bass caught at the Eno in 2009

The white bass run is part reality, part legend, & part lore. There is a lot of guess work involved and some people, including myself to an extent, relish it almost as much as catching the fish themselves. Because when the white bass run, Durham and the surrounding area are abuzz. Everyone is guessing whether the reports they here - by phone, internet forums, or at the local bait shop - are legit or exaggerated. Some try to mislead on purpose so they can have a little more space to themselves on the water, while others vastly mis-judge where the fish are in their spawning journey up-river.

The peepers have been out for a few weeks now and the dogwoods are looking as beautiful as ever. And, according to my records from past years, it should be white bass time at one of my favorite locations - Penny's Bend Nature Preserve on the Eno River. The fish here migrate from Falls Lake to spawn. Usually you can catch them there until early to mid-April, but it varies every year. A good day can be well over 50 fish in a fairly short amount of time.

A big stringer of whites I caught during last year's run

Yesterday I scooped up Mary May from school and we headed for the river. We talked to a few fishermen who hadn't had much luck. The word was that the bite was slow and the fish weren't "there yet". So after a little scouting we headed down river to a spot I had fished in the past. Sure enough, on my 2nd cast I had my first white of the season. It was an above average size male - about 11" that hit a silver spinner. I fish spinners predominantly during the white bass run, but the favorite lures of others include beetle spins, grubs, road runner jigs, hair jigs, and small jerkbaits.

It was about 10 minutes later that Mary May had her first fish - a small crappie. We fished our way back up-river encountering fishermen as we walked. Many were fly fishing and having mixed results. However, we were landing fish with some regularity. At a deep bend I hooked into a small white about 7" long. A few minutes later I got a great strike and after a nice fight landed a big male - around 15". The white bass species, like many other fish, typically has much larger females than males. So, it was a real treat to catch a male that big.

We kept fishing and in the next pool and riffle Mary May landed her first white bass - a smaller fish around 6"-7". But, it was her first white bass. A short time later she had a large male follow her bait to the bank, but refuse to strike. That is the great thing about white bass fishing. In the shallow, clear river you can often see the fish come out of nowhere and either follow or engulf your lure.

Double trouble - two nice white bass males

We headed to our last spot and descended the steep bank. Neither of us were getting bites, but the area looked good. I saw a fly fisherman on the other bank and I thought I recognized him to be Kev2380, who I have had numerous virtual conversations with over the past year or so. He also writes a great blog: Fishing According to Kev. I was a little too nervous of the embarassment I may face if I said something and was incorrect, as he did have on glasses and a wide brimmed hat. Thankfully he asked if I was Drew, to which I of course replied yes. We exchanged greetings, had a little laugh, and shared info about our days. While talking to him I ended up landing 4 whites, all males ranging from 6"-9", on nearly consecutive casts. He headed back toward the parking area and Mary May and I hit one last spot before calling it a day.

After about 3 hours we also found ourselves headed for the parking lot, having caught 11 white bass, 1 crappie, and 1 bream. Not a bad 3 hour trip on a hot Friday afternoon. I hope to get back to the Eno sometime soon in search of the big females that move in behind the males. If anyone wants to wet a line with me, just let me know.

One of the three fish we kept to eat...MMM MMM good!

When we got home later I filleted the fish and put them on the grill. Topped with some summer relish and a side of biscuits, they made for an extremely tasty dinner! Until next time, tight lines!


  1. Thanks for the shout out and reference to my blog Drew. It was nice to see a familiar face on the water. It was kind of funny how many Triangle Fly Fisherman were there. It wasn't planned, we just all kind of showed up. You and I will have to hit the river some time in search of bass. That first huge eddy you were fishing I feel should be a place for a white bass of a lifetime. Although I've never caught much there. There was a kid walking past me today from where the rivers meet. He had a fish that had to be 3+lbs. We didn't catch much down there who knows when he caught the bass. It had a gut that looked like it swallowed a softball.

  2. Nice meeting you too. I probably could escape early one day next week. Depends really on the day. Not Mon-Tues.

  3. That is crazy because there were a ton of fly fishers. Last year when I was fly fishing it I was the only one.

    The spot you saw me is a good spot, but just around the corner (where there were 2 older guys fly fishing last night) is really good. I have caught some very big whites in there.

    Keep me posted about next week...tight lines!

  4. Cool. I fish at penny's bend once, but with little luck. Maybe I'll try more.

  5. Great pictures, looked like you had a great time. Seems like with the economy my time has been so tied up with my business Ablaze Home Improvement Siding that I haven't had the time for fun lately.
    I just followed you and I just started my new blog and would appreciate you coming by and follow. Maybe we can keep up with what each is doing. Thanks.

  6. Around whats the beginning month will the white bass start running up the eno river?