N.C. roadsides provide easy fishingPublished 2:16pm Friday, May 9, 2014
By FRED BONNER
It’s great to see that the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is adding short fishing piers near their boat launching facilities. By providing easy access to good fishing areas, anglers without a boat can now conveniently practice their skills. Most of these public fishing piers have ramps for the handicapped too.
While the fishing piers are nice, fishermen often overlook the hundreds of miles of man-made canals that the Soil Conservation Service has excavated to allow nutrient-rich farmlands to drain off excess water. Invariably, these canals lead into the brackish water of the coastal streams. People may not realize it, but those largely freshwater canals hold a good population of both freshwater fish and some saltwater fish as well.
Several years ago, I was driving near Plymouth and saw a couple of youngsters fishing in a roadside canal near their house. Recalling the fun we youngsters used to have fishing in similar ditches near Aurora, I stopped and asked the two kids what they were catching. This small ditch was maybe five feet across and was surprisingly deep looking. I had expected the kids to pull out the fish stringer that was tied to a bush to show off some small catfish. What the stringer held was about a dozen nice-sized “robins” (pumpkinseed sunfish) and a still very active largemouth bass that weighed maybe a couple of pounds. Some more experienced anglers would have been proud to catch a fish like that.
Over the years since these large drainage canals were dug, a few local anglers have learned that these man-made streams hold some surprisingly nice fish. A few observant fishermen from upstate and a few from out of state have learned that these canals are quite fishable by anglers who have a minimal amount of gear.
Some of these roadside streams were excavated to pull up soil and create a roadway through low-lying areas. Examples are the roadside canals that run alongside Highway 33 between Aurora and Hobucken.
Canals like these are easily fished by anglers who walk along the banks and cast fly rods or casting rods as they walk. Having a relatively clean bank with a wide-open road at your back makes for ideal back casts with a fly rod, just don’t let your line tie into a passing car. Small popping bugs can usually catch some nice pumpkin sunfish or maybe an occasional largemouth bass.
I’ve had good luck fishing for bass along these roadside streams by using the proverbial black plastic worm rigged with a weedless hook. Interestingly, most of the few bass that I did kill from these streams had been feeding on crayfish.
Drainage canals that do not follow along a road will usually have one side with a high bank where the dragline deposited the spoil as it dug the canal. This dirt bank often offers access to a vehicle. Just watch for mud holes and be sure that the landowner allows fishermen to access to these trails. In many cases, areas that don’t welcome fishermen usually have posted signs near access areas.
Some banks along these drainage canals may ridden with vegetation and on these warm spring days, snakes find them to be an ideal spot to take a sunbath. Watch for snakes as you walk.
Another hazard fishermen might witness are fire ants. I recently watched as one elderly lady, who was seated in a lawn chair while fishing a canal with a cane fishing pole, was vigorously scratching at her legs ever few minutes. She was seated very near a fire ant hill. Tough luck.