Photo: Capt. Gus with a Lake Norman hybrid striped bass.

Lake Norman residents have watched water levels drop significantly this fall. With the lake currently down over six feet from full pond, it is no wonder boaters are having difficulty launching at public boat ramps and navigating back coves and secondary channels.

“Boaters Beware” – Low water levels have increased the risk of boat groundings and created a higher likelihood of hitting submerged objects. Current water conditions on Lake Norman are similar to those along the coast at low tide. That is why it is timely to remind boaters of certain safety procedures.

  • Stay between the red and green channel markers where water is the deepest.
  • When launching, get out of your vehicle and inspect the ramp before backing the trailer into the water.
  • Assure that the outdrive/outboard motor is tilted high enough to avoid scraping the ramp while launching.
  • Do not back the boat trailer wheels past the end of the ramp.
  • Cruise at lower the normal speeds and try to stay in familiar waters.
  • Don’t assume that water is deep enough to navigate. Set your depth finder alarm to warn of shoals.
  • Use the GPS or refer to a lake map when uncertain about water depths.
  • Watch for dark spots, brown water, unusual wave patterns or objects protruding from the surface of the water.
  • Avoid cruising after dark unless you have considerable experience.
  • Don’t assume all grounding occurs after sunset. A careless boater can hit bottom any time of the day or night.
  • While there are obvious dangers associated with water low levels, boaters should not be deterred to the point of not using and enjoying the lake. There is ample water to enjoy all recreational boating and fishing.

December Fishing Forecast:

Avid fishermen agree that December is a prime month to fish on Lake Norman. But, cold weather fishing is for the hearty, so dress warmly and bring plenty of hot coffee. Those casting for bass, hybrids and stripers will often be rewarded with strong tugs and tasty meals. Water temperatures in the fifties cause fish to expend a lot of energy and to feed aggressively throughout the day. These conditions are likely reasons why large numbers of anglers fish during the holidays. Great fishing, and a chance to try out new Christmas fishing presents, makes fishing even more fun.

Fish can be found roaming the lake almost anywhere during December. Locations change with each pod of bait as it moves constantly to escape the fury of feeding schools.This is the time of year when some prefer to fish the sheltered back waters of major creeks. These areas not only provide anglers with shelter from the winter winds, but are also ideal places for schooling fish to corral and feed upon hapless herds of shad and herring. Mountain, Stumpy and Hicks Creeks have a proven track record of limit stringers in December. Should extremely cold weather arrive early, the hot water discharge channels at the Marshall Steam Plant and the Nuclear Station will see large concentrations of all types of fish.

The best gift for finding schooling fish is free. It doesn’t come wrapped in a box, and it is available to all who choose to use it. The gift is the flocks of white seabirds that spend the winter diving and feeding on Lake Norman’s shad and herring. Their presence, particularly when vigorously hitting the water’s surface, indicates that bass, hybrids and the few remaining stripers are feeding.

Lake Norman’s water level is about 6.2’ below full pond. The surface water temperature is in the high fifties and low sixties in water not affected by power generation on Lake Norman.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Fishing Year!