[This article was first published by North Carolina Sportsman Magazine in May 2014]
Everyone who has ever put a line in the water understands the best places to fish are not always in huge open lakes and rivers. In fact, most of us likely had our best early successes on farm ponds and small lakes. We also know the shoreline is not always accessible on the small bodies of water.
The fact is there are many great places to fish that are neither accessible by motor boat nor from the shore. Luckily, many are accessible by boat and paddle.
Located in Wilson in the eastern part of the state is one such area. Wiggins Mill is a 285 acre lake located on Highway 301. It offers boat rental, a bait shop, and some shoreline and pier fishing. It also prohibits gasoline motors. Trolling motors are allowed, and are a necessity during duck season, a kayak or canoe makes great companions for fishing.
With lots of underwater logs, weeds and other structure, trolling motors can actually become a hindrance for fishing some of the better areas. The mill is loaded with fish ranging from largemouth bass, crappie, shellcracker and other panfish, to hard fighting roughfish such as gar and bowfin.
A short paddle from the boat ramp due west will put you in lots of weedy, shallow water with plenty of tree lined shores to provide shade which is ideal as the months start to heat up.
As you follow the mill northward along the banks you will encounter thick lily pads and hydrilla. This area is great for soft plastic worms and frogs. However it is almost impassible unless using a paddle powered vessel.
At the north end of the mill lies a channel that accesses mainly swampy area. The channel has been known to bring in nice catfish and crappie if you find the right spots. The channel looks like a feeder creek and crosses under Downing Street Extension.
Another great area only accessible by paddle only is hidden away on the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. The 75 acre Lake Raleigh has a small boat ramp, fishing pier, fish attractors, and is surrounded by protected woods.
The size of the lake makes an easy paddle. Along the north side of the lake lies four pockets, each offering a different structure to fish. Underwater logs dot much of the area which is shallow enough to use a stake out pole to anchor once you find a hot spot. Much of the shoreline is muddy or inaccessible by foot when the water is high.
Hydrilla and other underwater vegetation cover much of the northern side as well, especially towards the northwestern corner where the lake becomes swampy.
Largemouth bass can be found but crappie and catfish are easy catches.
Also located in Raleigh, Lake Johnson offers kayak and canoe, as well as electric motorized boats access for fishing. The 150 acre lake is located on Avent Ferry Road. Fishing from the shore is not allowed, so boats are the only way to fish the lake. Lake Johnson does have kayak and canoe rentals; however fishing from the rental boats is prohibited.
There are other areas which do offer kayak and canoe rentals if you are fishing with the family or do not have one of your own. Bass Lake Park in Holly Springs is one such place.
Bass Lake is stocked with catfish from April through September by means of the North Carolina Community Fishing Program. Along with the boat rentals, they are also part of the North Carolina Rod and Reel Loaner Program. Along with the stocked catfish, bass, bream and crappie are plentiful in the lake.
The rental kayaks and canoes are available at the 100 acre lake daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and on weekends in the spring and fall.