White Lake fishing is peaceful prelude to summer ski season

Only three pickups towing boat trailers were parked in the White Lake Water Sports and Marina Parking lot on the final Sunday of March.

One trailer held the 17-foot Bass Tracker aluminum boat of Patrick Nazworth. The 42-year-old welder from Clinton and his family were on the lake for a day of fishing and were using a trolling motor to weave in and out of the boat docks. Though he had been to White Lake in the past, he had not fished there. It was also the first fishing trip at the lake for his daughter, Marissa, a 14-year-old freshman at Union High School.

“It’s my first trip to the lake, that I can remember,” she said. “I was too young to fish when I came here before. We’ve caught three fish, so far.”

“They were yellow perch,” Patrick Nazworth said. “I like to fish, but we never had a boat. We bought this boat in February and this is the first time we’ve had it on the water. We figured we would have a family outing because it’s a beautiful day.”

The Nazworth’s picked White Lake because it is only 25 minutes from their home in Clinton. Patrick Nazworth said he heard the lake held fish.

“I heard stories about bass in the lake,” he said. “But we haven’t caught any.”

The marina provides the only public boat access on the 1,065-acre lake, which is a state park. The park boundary stops at water’s edge and the shoreline is almost lined with private homes and boat docks.

In a prelude to the upcoming summer season, a ski boat zoomed past, towing two children on water skis. A man on a water scooter slowed down to take a look at a fish dangling from Patrick Nazworth’s lure.

“It’s a bluegill,” he said. “It’s a pretty big one.”

Anglers in two other boats were catching White Lake’s hallmark fish, yellow perch. The lake has no inlet or outlet, but is filled by groundwater. Carolina bays that are permanently filled with water are unusual. But one with no inlet or outlet is even more rare.

White Lake takes its name from gin-clear waters that reveal a white sand bottom. However, its clear water supports fewer species of fish and less total pounds of fish per acre that dingier, more fertile waters of muddy piedmont reservoirs.

The lake’s reputation for poor fishing is undeserved, however. Yellow perch thrive in the acidic lakes of the Northeast and tannin-laced waters of black water creeks entering the nearby Cape Fear River and Black River. A recent sampling of largemouth bass showed bass as large as 8 pounds live in the lake, but their population and growth rates are hindered by the lack of fertility.

The lake attracts a huge following among boaters and water skiers as soon as warmer weather arrives. More than 200,000 tourists arrive to revel in the sun and sand in summertime. However, the town’s year-round population is only 500 residents. It is so out of the way that most fishermen can find another body of water closer to home. Another obstacle is marina’s $8 launch fee. Before the summer tourist season opens up the marina, anglers place their money in an envelope and stuff the envelope into a slot.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Melissa Nazworth said. “The lake is pretty and we’re so happy we came. It was worth paying the launch fee to come here and we might even catch enough fish for supper.”

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