Photo: Capt. Gus holds a winter crappie taken from sixty feet of water.

Two of the best places to catch fish on Lake Norman in February are the hot water discharge channels at the Marshall Steam Plant in Terrell and the McGuire Nuclear Station near Huntersville, NC. Each winter, bass, hybrids, stripers, white perch and catfish follow threadfin shad to these waters warmed by the power generation process.

Early mornings often find feeding bass crashing baitfish (shad) on the surface. At times, they’re joined by hybrid striped bass, that also dine on shad and other hapless forage fish. When surface feeding subsides, fish can still be caught on live bait and sub-surface artificial lures. If using light tackle, cast small lures that imitate the one to three-inch baitfish. If fish are holding on the bottom, soft plastics, jigs and spoons cast up current and allowed to sink, will tempt the predators that live their winters in these warm water channels.

The deep-water sloughs and channels surrounding the islands at the entrances to both Ramsey and McCrary Creeks, are also prime areas to catch bass and hybrids. Live shad, herring and shiners are the baits of choice. But top-water plugs, Alabama rigs and other casting lures should be ready to throw when the seabirds begin to dive.

Finally, the boat docks associated with marinas, apartments and condos at the eastern shore of Ramsey Creek, hold some of the biggest schools of spotted bass and white perch found on Lake Norman during late winter. Fishing is particularly good when a prevailing west wind blows the warm water from McGuire to the back of Ramsey Creek.

A few winters ago, I asked local fisherman and author, Jake Bussolini, if he knew what the water temperature was below the surface. After sampling the entire water column, he reported 46.1° at the surface near Channel Marker 7 in Reeds Creek, 47.0° at thirty feet, 47.5° at forty, and 49.0° at sixty feet. He commented that, “Three degrees doesn’t seem like much, but to a small baitfish, it means the difference between life and death.” He went on to say, “The reason the stripers, bass and perch swim so deep this time of year is because that’s where the baitfish are!”

Other places that fish find warmer water in the winter:

  • Boat docks with black flotation
  • Muddy water
  • Cement boat ramps
  • Rip-Rap shorelines
  • Sunny banks

Tips from Capt. Gus:

For anglers who are tough enough to weather the cold weather, bass, hybrids, white perch, crappie and occasional stripers can be caught throughout the month. But, be reminded that cold water fishing is best when an area is fished thoroughly, and the retrieve is slowed to a crawl. Those who use live bait should be patient, and give the fish ample time to ingest the offering before setting the hook.

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.