Photo: Captain Gus holds a Lake Norman Crappie.

A VERY COLD winter has most people looking forward to spring. Fishermen, in particular, are tired of howling winds, freezing conditions and fish that don’t always cooperate. The good news is that the days are getting longer, air and water temperatures are on the rise and fishing conditions are improving.

Crappies are among the first species to move to the shallows in February. Fishermen begin catching them early in the month on small jigs and crappie minnows. Most are caught while swimming near deep water brush piles, bridge pilings and beneath boat docks. As the lake water warms, crappies move closer and closer to the shoreline, near stumps, laydowns (fallen trees), discarded Christmas trees and other woody debris.

Since crappies aren’t as aggressive as other gamefish, light tackle and slow-moving baits should be used to trick them into biting. Patience is often the key to filling a stringer. When in doubt, fish slowly. Leave the minnow in the water and let it soak. Don’t pull it away from a spot unless the float goes under.

Much of a crappie’s popularity comes from the way it tastes when battered, fried and served with fries, slaw and hushpuppies. Some say the flavor rivals that of the walleye, another popular freshwater fish. But, as delicious as they are, a lot of anglers just enjoy the way they tug on the other end of a fishing line. Some will proudly tell you that a crappie was the first fish they ever caught.

Knowledgeable fishermen have learned that a few degrees can make a big difference in the way crappies and other species react to the bait. They search out the warmest water on the lake, which on Lake Norman in February, is in and around the McGuire and Marshal Power Plant’s hot water discharge channels. At times, these waters can be five to ten degrees higher than the ambient lake water temperature.

Tips from Capt. Gus:

A thin coating of grease will prevent the shaft of your electric trolling motor from freezing when not in use.

Upcoming Events:

Free fishing seminar – “Spring Fishing Lures, Rigs and Techniques” – Jake Bussolini will conduct this ninety-minute session beginning at 6:30 p.m. on February 8th at The Lake Norman Volunteer Fire Department, 1518 Brawley School Rd, Mooresville, NC 28117. For additional information, call 704 658 0822.

The surface water temperature on Lake Norman is in the high forties and low fifties in waters not affected by power generation. The lake level is about 2.8′ below full pond.

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.