Lake resident, Karl Koschnitzke holds a striped bass caught on Christmas Eve.
Photo courtesy of Capt. Gus

It’s a fact that forage fish (shad/herring) in Lake Norman are smaller than those in other Piedmont lakes. That’s why those who try to “match the hatch”, fish with small baits. Savvy anglers know that small baits catch fish of all sizes, while big baits are often ignored, particularly by smaller fish whose mouths aren’t wide enough to swallow them.

Crappie fishermen understand better than most, the importance of fishing with small baits. They choose the smallest minnows (crappie minnows) available, or tie tiny jigs (1/32 to 1/16th ounce) to the line. Small minnows not only tempt area lake crappie, but are also great for catching white perch when fished with a small hook and a light split-shot weight. Bream (sunfish) have similar size dining preferences, which make them more likely to bite a piece of worm, rather than a whole one.

If pan fish aren’t your thing, bass, hybrids and stripers are also attracted to slowly moving small artificial baits. Popular mini-lures are roadrunners, silver and gold spoons, rooster tails and 2-3”soft plastics. If you prefer to drift live baits, suspend a medium size minnow, or a worm, below a float or allow it to free-swim without a weight or float.

When using small baits, lighter than usual tackle is required. Experienced anglers prefer 6 – 6 ½ ft. spinning tackle loaded with 6-10 pound test line. In addition, small hooks and miscellaneous terminal tackle should be used.

Finally, when using small baits and light tackle, it’s important that the drag on the reel be set to less than fifty percent of the line’s breaking strength. In addition, care should be taken to not put undue pressure on the tackle while playing the fish.

Tips from Capt. Gus! Hybrid and striped bass on Lake Norman have a 16” size limit and a daily creel limit of four fish in combination. Note: Hybrids and white perch look very much alike. The difference is the distinct and usually broken stripes on the body of the hybrids.

Hot Spots of the Week: Spring temperatures over the holidays have activated both the fish and the fishermen. Some say fishing is the best it’s been in years. Those targeting bass, crappie and perch consider it to be the best December in decades. An angler, showing off his catch at Little Creek Boat Access earlier this week, said, “When they’re biting, everyone catches fish.” In his live well were two limits of crappie with an average length of 12.” Not bad for the last week of December!

Good catches are coming from both ends of the lake, but some of the most productive waters have been Stumpy, Little, Reed and Davidson Creeks. While most fish are shallower than normal for this time of year, stripers and hybrids are along the edges off drop-offs in relatively deep water.

If you missed the fabulous holiday fishing, remember that January is also a great month to fish Lake Norman!

Upcoming Events: Free Fishing Seminar – “Using Sonar, Down Scan, Structure Scan and GPS to Catch More Fish in 2016” – Jake Bussolini and I will discuss the theory and practical application of locating and landing fish with the aid of electronics. This ninety-minute session will begin at 6:30 p.m. on January 20th at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, in Mooresville, NC. For additional information, call 704 658 0822.

Lake Norman is about 0.8’ below full pond and is 1.1’ below at Mountain Island Lake. The water surface temperature is in the high fifties and low sixties.