By Melanie Threlkeld McConnell*
Lake Junaluska, NC – Drive by Lake Junaluska on any given day and one’s likely to see a fisherman or two casting about for bass or trout, or playing catch and release with a pan-size perch. Or, if they’re lucky they’ve been idled by the show of the lone bald eagle dipping and diving for his fair share of the day’s catch.
It’s hard to beat Lake Junaluska for an easy day of fishing. Open year round from dusk to dawn, the lake’s easy access and new handicapped-accessible dock make it possible for just about anyone who likes to fish or wants to learn to try the sport. There is no fee to fish at Lake Junaluska, just the required state fishing license, which cost between $10 and $20 for a yearly license and can be purchased online at www.ncwildlife.org.
Daryl Inman knows. For 20 years he’s been casting worms or rubber bait from the shoreline, hoping to snag a bass, trout, crappy, perch or blue gill. “I just love to come out here and kill two or three hours,” he said recently, while reeling in a perch and promptly tossing it back in the water. (He’s a catch and release guy.) “A lot of people don’t know there are some good size bass out here.” The biggest one he’s caught – so far – has been 4 ½ to 5 lbs.
There are a few restrictions on the 200-acre lake that are strictly enforced, said Buddy Young, director of Assembly Public Works. “We do limit where you can fish. You can’t fish off the bridges or near the walking path because it’s so popular and we don’t want someone getting hooked,” he said. And fishing boats are limited to electric trolling motors.
Also – and these are big ones for Young—he urges anglers to pack out the trash they bring in and to abide by the dawn to dusk hours for fishing.
This is a residential community where worship services take place all during the week,” he explained. “We ask that anglers respect the quiet nature of our community and the visitors who are here to worship.”
So what’s the attraction of Lake Junaluska to Daryl Inman? “It’s clean and it’s close to home,” the Waynesville resident said. “But I’d find a mud hole if I thought there were fish in it.”
* Melanie Threlkeld McConnell is a freelance writer, former AP newswoman, editor and media consultant based in Waynesville, NC.