The original developer of Connestee Falls in 1972-73 created four lakes by totally clearing the land and hence leaving the lake bottoms barren of any structures or fish habitat. When inflowing streams and rain had filled the lakes, the developer stocked them with bluegills and bass. The banks and berms were barren and eroding, causing a copious amount of sediment. One of the first efforts of the Fishing Club was to appeal to the CFPOA to hydro seed the new banks and berms. This was followed by the creation of sediment basins.
In 1991, past presidents Phil Caccavale and Larry Host, along with then-president Sherwood Barker, felt the need for expert advice on correcting the declining health of the fish population. With financial assistance from the CFPOA, two retired North Carolina state wildlife fish biologists , Mel Huish and Jim Borora, and a third biologist conducted a comprehensive study of all four lakes. The study was completed in January 1992. The results of this study have provided management recommendations which are being followed to this day.
Data for the study came from two buoyed sampling stations on each lake monitored over a six-month period. Water chemistry analysis involved measurements of temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, PH, alkalinity, hardness and turbidity. The results: All waters are clear and soft with low conductivity, a PH from 6.0 to 7.6, low hardness and alkalinity, low turbidity (clear), and a thermocline (dissolved oxygen) around 20 feet in the summer and 50 feet in the winter in the two deepest lakes. All this means that the lakes are good for swimming and viewing, but poor for fish. The key is the softness and low conductivity (lack of basic minerals to promote growth of photo plankton, the basic ingredients of the fish food chain). Soft water and infertility will always be a limiting factor. We can not change the water. An attempt to chemically alter the fertility in Lake Ticoa resulted in an algae bloom, with outcries from many lake residents. We won’t do that again!
Part of the study consisted of electro shocking and seining of fish in all lakes. This showed a good mix of largemouth bass, bluegills, catfish and a small number of yellow perch. As a result of the ban on live minnows from outside sources, there were no undesirable species found.
Southern Pond Management did a similar comprehensive study in 2004 with the same findings on water quality of all four lakes. They made the same recommendations. These were to remove as many bass under 12 inches as possible, create fish hides (we tried old tires once; now we use discarded Christmas trees.), monitor creel census by means of lunker awards and the quantity of tagged trout caught, and provide forage fish (Gambosi minnows, crawfish, Threadfin shad) when economically feasible. Limiting boats on the lakes to those owned by residents, and chemically spraying boats entering Connestee from outside waters has successfully limited introduction of problematic foreign species of both flora and fauna. Overproduction of natural grasses has been successfully controlled by introducing grass carp to the lakes and golf course ponds.
Certain periodic natural events are sometimes interpreted as problems, but are self correcting. One is a temporary spring time algae bloom caused by the lake ‘turning over’ due to water temperature changes. Another is surface discoloration caused by massive amount of pollen collecting on the water.
Monitor the lakes -the habitat for fish.
- Sample water quality on a continuing schedule for the important parameters of dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, total dissolved solids, sediment, algae, and any obvious pollutants or visual problems (e.g., fish kills).
- Report issues of concern to the POA Assistant General Manager.
Monitor fish populations and health
- Continue promoting the “lunker” program.
- Continue managing and promoting the trout “tagged fish” program .
- Encourage catch reports.
Manage fish stocking
- Continue the schedule of cold water stocking of rainbow trout within the POA and CFFC budget allocations in all four lakes.
- Stock forage fish ( bluegill, trout fingerlings, and/or crawfish) by lake, on a priority basis, to improve the growth of largemouth bass, within the POA and CFFC budget allocations.
Promote species limited to rainbow trout, largemouth bass and brim in all four lakes
- Encourage harvesting other species (catfish, perch, crappie).
Manage Lake Wanteska as a bass enhanced fishery through 2016
- Continue to add structure ( Christmas trees, and artificial fish attractors/hides).
- Continue to add forage fish (crayfish and trout fingerlings).
- Encourage harvesting small (12” or less) overpopulated bass.
- Release unharmed all bass over 12”.
- Decrease trout stocking from 19% of total allocation to 10%, and limit the size to 14”.
- Evaluate results and consider expanding the actions to other lakes.
CFFC Fishery Management Committee, November 2013
The club’s active stocking programs began in its first year with catfish. Members bought 9,000 fingerlings. The club arranged with a scuba diver to observe the aquatic life. His suggestions on diversifying species helped to form the club’s long-running stocking programs. So, Florida Bass and Georgia Giant Bluegills have also been added. This close attention to the community’s four lakes has continued over the years, with the club keeping watch on water quality and fish populations, using periodic professional help. Bass and Bluegill are the predominant species and have good reproductive success. The studies also showed that none of the lakes has suitable habitat for trout to reproduce. To create and support that fishery, the Club stocks rainbow trout periodically. The quantity of fish put in each lake is in proportion to each lake’s surface size. Funding for fish management programs comes from the CFPOA, Club dues and revenue the Club derives from the sale of donated boats.
The Club intends to continue monitoring our lakes and their water quality through measurement of chemistry and other means. Observations have expanded in recent years and volunteers are now able to look below surface with the Fishery Management Committee’s new underwater camera. Control of sediment through the proper construction of silt fences and silt traps is also an important concern. These areas are critical to fish health. We shall also include forage fish in our stocking programs and, with the help of NC State Mountain Center in Asheville, monitor fish diseases. These activities are critical to maintaining large populations of healthy fish.
The Lake Wanteska Bass Enhancement program started in 2012 and is continuing. The program includes:
- Revised fishing regulations for Wanteska only (release unharmed, all bass over 12 inches)
- Adding more structure to the lake ( fabricated fish attractor / hides and Christmas trees).
- Adding more forage (crawfish and trout fingerlings)
During the 2015 season, Bill Roehrich and Ron Silverman fished Lake Wanteska and reported many of the bass caught were "chunkers", full bodied, most 11-12", some smaller. Bill felt the Bass Enhancement program is doing well based on their catches.