Photo Credits Capt. Gus
Capt. Gus holds a Lake Norman hybrid striped bass. 

It’s been cold, but fishing has been fantastic!

If you haven’t been on Lake Norman since the holidays, you’re missing out on some of winter’s best fishing. The good news is that February is not over, and the fish are still biting.

Traditionally, with water temperatures in the forties, both forage and predator fish seek the warmest water they can find. That’s why Lake Norman’s fish gather in and around the two hot holes and in deeper stretches of river and creek channels. As a rule, white perch and catfish are nearer the bottom, while the more aggressive bass, stripers and hybrids feed throughout the water column.

Winter fishing is simple. Cruise the river channel and look for diving sea birds, fish breaking the surface, clusters of fishing boats and fish images on your sonar screen.  Once located, the key to catching a limit is to keep the bait above the fish. This is done by using several time tested techniques, including drifting live-baits, deep water jigging, or trolling and casting.

Anglers who fish live baits have several advantages over those who fish artificial lures. Anglers who can throw a cast net can actually use the same natural bait the fish are eating. Both live and even fresh dead baits have a natural smell that fish can’t resist.

Deep water jigging works best when fish are directly under the boat. Simply drop a jigging spoon or bucktail jig to the desired depth and use a slow yo-yo action. This is the favorite method to use by anglers who can interpret the images on a fish finder. An astute angler can even estimate the size, quantity and depth of the fish swimming under the boat. The images also allow one to position the lure just above the fish as they move through the water column.

When the fish are spread out, anglers troll Alabama rigs, roadrunners and a variety of deep diving lures. Some anglers circle back and troll through the school again, while others stop the boat and fan cast the area.

Tips from Capt. Gus:  Regardless of bait preference, the forage fish (shad/herring) in Lake Norman are small, so in order to match the hatch, use small baits. Small baits will catch big fish, but large baits are often ignored because they can’t be swallowed by smaller fish.

Hot Spots of the Week: Look for surface feeding stripers, hybrids and bass at daylight around the Highway 150 Bridge and south to the hot water discharge at Marker 15. Throughout the day, fish can be found on the edges of the main channel from Marker 14 to 12 and, at times, in the mouth of Hager and Mountain Creeks. Farther south, fish are also hitting in front of Sailview and on either side of Governors Island. On some days, one of these areas will be active and others won’t be, so stay in contact with other anglers or keep moving until you can locate them.
The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the forties in open waters not affected by power generation. The lake level is about 4.1′ below full pond on Lake Norman and 2.6′ below full on Mountain Island Lake.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures, Inc. is an Outdoor Columnist and a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his website, or call 704-617-6812.  For additional information, e-mail