Down at the dam: Reservoir spillway a popular fishing hole

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Troy King throws his bobber upstream, letting the current drag the bait in front of the fish.

King gives the line a jerk or two in hopes of stimulating a strike from below a constellation of brown suds floating down Contentnea Creek from the spillway at the Wiggins Mill Reservoir dam.

It is a popular fishing hole in Wilson.

The 60-year-old Wilson man has been fishing here for 30 years, half his life.

Wise, he wears boots high enough to walk out into water without getting his socks wet.

But staying dry is really not his concern.

“Sometimes when I’m down here I see those snakes up around those rocks,” King said. “You’ve got to watch for them.”

King makes a point of coming down to fish in the turbulent water at the dam’s base when the water is moving swiftly over the spillway.

He fishes with crickets, often catching bream or bluegill. The flat fish fits nicely in a frying pan.

Titus Shipp, 69, of Wilson, eats them fried or baked.

“I like any fish,” Shipp said.

For Shipp, the bait of choice is the worm.

“I raise some of them myself,” Shipp said. “Worms are the best. But that’s just my opinion.”

Shipp is seated on a more or less flat rock by the water’s edge.

Cascading water is virtually all that can be heard. The sound seems amplified as it bounces off the concrete spillway wall.

Water swirls below Shipp’s feet. The early angler gets his choice of the fish that congregate in the whirl.

“There is a pretty good-sized hole in there. When the water gets low, they can’t get out,” Shipp said.

Shipp drops his worm into the water, and it is carried under a thick layer of tannin-stained bubbles.

“When the water is running kind of hard like this, you fish under the foam,” Shipp said.

Fish hang out under the foam in the dark waiting to prey on the minnows, he said. “It’s like setting up an ambush.”

Shipp has a long fly rod extending out over the water.

“A fly rod is just a sophisticated cane pole,” he said. “These fly rods are so sensitive, if a dragonfly lands on the end of it, you can feel it.”

Shipp catches a lot of fish in almost no time at all.

He throws back the little ones and keeps the big ones in a bucket to take home to his wife.

“About a week ago Saturday I heard a little noise behind me. I looked up and there were three game wardens standing behind me,” Shipp said.

Shipp knew what they were looking for — his license and a look in that bucket.

No problem for Shipp, who knows the rules and abides by them.

Shipp’s largest fish from this spot is a 3-pound catfish he caught a while back.

But Shipp said the best fisher at this hole is an old great blue heron that uses its beak to snatch fingerling minnows while perched on the rocks.

Shipp said he used his cellphone one day to take a video of that bird catching a fish. “He never misses.”

King knows the lanky blue bird too.

“He’s out here early in the morning. He’s knows what he’s doing. He catches them just like that,” King said with a snap of his fingers.

“This is his house,” Shipp said.