Photo: Capt. Gus holds a barracuda caught on a recent trip to the Bahamas.

What a difference a little rain makes!

Rising water levels, combined with relatively warm weather conditions, have helped produce better than normal fishing in January. Should this trend continue, anglers can expect February excursions to produce nice catches of bass, hybrids perch and crappie.

The key to success when fishing this month is water temperature. The warmer, the better! Savvy anglers will spend considerable time casting in and around the hot water discharge channels (hot holes) at the Marshall and McGuire Power Stations, where water temps can be as much as ten degrees warmer than the rest of Lake Norman.

But, not all of the lake’s fish will find their way to the hot holes. Other places that afford higher temperatures are:

  • Shorelines with a southern exposure to the sun.
  • Coves protected from the chilling effect of northerly breezes.
  • Cement boat ramps and docks with black flotation material.
  • Rocks and rip-rapped shorelines.
  • Sandy bottoms that are usually a few degrees warmer than those covered with clay.
  • Stained and murky water that tends to hold the heat of the sun better than clear waters.
  • The radiant effect of the sun’s rays, is best felt by fish in the shallow and calm waters of back coves.

As for best practices, winter fishermen know that slow and deliberate retrieves will attract more bites than fast moving lures. Since fish tend be lethargic when water temps are in the fifties, repeated casts to the same spot might be needed to get their attention. When a bait isn’t producing, change colors or downsize and slow the retrieve to a crawl.

Perch fishing has been phenomenal, particularly for those fishing the main river channel between Marker 18 south and Marker 3. It’s a long way from marker to marker, but once diving sea birds or clusters of fishing boats are located, a quick check of the fish finder should show fish images on the screen.

The recent warm spell moved bass to the backs of coves where they’re feeding on shad and are relatively easy to catch. Best lures are square bills, rat-l-traps, flukes, Alabama rigs and whopper ploppers. Free swimming live bass minnows are also producing strikes for those who do not wish to cast artificial lures.

Here’s a Fish Tale to kick-off to a new season:

On a New Year’s Day, I ran into a guy with his arm in a cast. I asked what happened and he began with, “This is no lie”. It seems that he was walking along a Florida beach at sunset, when he came upon a stranded bull shark. It was thrashing and rolling in a fruitless attempt to get back to the surf, but the tide was out too far. Knowing it would die before the next high tide, he began to dig a hole in the sand. The deeper he burrowed, the more seawater seeped in, until it covered the shark’s mouth and gills. The Good Samaritan draped towels over its body and kept them wet throughout the night. At dawn, the incoming tide started covering the shark. It began to wiggle and squirm until the water was deep enough for it to swim. Suddenly, the shark turned to sink its teeth into the benefactor’s arm, and then disappeared into the pounding surf. The next day, we learned that the white cast was covering a splint that was holding his broken arm in place caused from a fall off his son’s skate board.

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 are similar in profile and color and look very much alike. The difference is the distinct and usually broken stripes on the body of the hybrid.

Upcoming Events: Free Fishing Seminar – “Late Winter Fishing Tips” – Capt. Gus will conduct this ninety-minute session beginning at 6:30 p.m. on February 15th at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, in Mooresville, NC. For additional information, contact Jake Bussolini at 704 201 8709.

Lake Norman’s water level is about 4.0’ below full pond. The surface water temperature is in the fifties in water not affected by power generation.

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.