Photo: Capt. Gus holds a Holiday Largemouth Bass

It wasn’t that long ago when a fishing trip on Lake Norman was just that – a fishing trip. Catching fish was another thing. It was so bad, in fact, that savvy anglers chose to go to Lake Wylie, High Rock and Lake Murray where there were more and bigger fish. Adding insult to injury, disgruntled anglers nicknamed Lake Norman, “The Dead Sea”.

Lake Norman’s fishing fortunes turned for the better when spotted bass were introduced. They adapted quickly to Norman’s deep-water habitat, and before anyone knew it, there was a resurgence in bass fishing. The once “Dead Sea” quickly became a Mecca for tournament bass anglers who enjoyed matching wits with the feisty spotted bass.

How white perch came to the lake is a mystery, but like the spotted bass, they have become so plentiful that they’re easy to catch in large numbers. White perch feed on the same baitfish schools as the spotted bass do, so more times than not, when one is located, the other will be feeding in the same general area. Spotted bass and white perch have helped to polish Norman’s once tarnished fishing image.

To make matters even better, in recent years, anglers have been catching hybrid striped bass in good numbers. This deep-water fish is the perfect match for Lake Norman’s extremely hot summer water temperatures and low levels of dissolved oxygen. Hybrids are known for their tackle-busting tenacity, and grow quickly after the stocking size to a minimum size limit of sixteen inches.

Herring (forage fish) were planted to supplement the lake’s fragile threadfin shad population. It was originally thought that herring would be just what the mismanaged striped bass fishery needed. But instead, they provide fodder for the growing populations of spotted bass, white perch and hybrids.

If you haven’t fished Lake Norman in a while, give it a try. You will probably catch a lot more fish than the last time.

December Lake Norman Fishing Forecast

Hybrid striped bass bite at dawn and dusk in Reed and Mountain Creek, as well as, in the main river channel above the State Park. While the most exciting action will be on the surface, fish will also be hitting live and artificial lures fished throughout the water column. Those who like to troll, will enjoy good results when Alabama rigs and deep diving crankbaits are pulled behind the boat.

Spotted bass school with the hybrids at times, but most will be taken on lures fished around boat docks, under water humps and near channel points. As water temperatures chill, bass respond to slower lure presentations. Soft plastics, bumped slowly along the bottom, are used by tournament anglers.

Live bait fishermen can expect to catch crappie in good numbers near submerged brush, bridge pilings and commercial boat docks. For those who can accurately cast under boat docks, a 1/64th to 1/16th ounce crappie jig can be the ticket to limit catches.

White perch, another winter favorite, will school-up on river channel points and anywhere the channel makes a sharp turn or intersects with a creek run. Metal spoons ¼ to 1 oz. are lures of choice in white, chartreuse or silver. Sabiki rigs, used with a spoon, might improve your chances of attracting perch. When the bite is slow, fish crappie minnows near the bottom.

Expect overall fishing to improve as water temperatures continue to drop throughout December.

The lake level is about 3.0′ below full pond and the water temperature is in the high fifties and low sixties.

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 at or call 704-617-6812.