Photo: Capt. Gus is holding a Lake Norman white perch.

Lake Norman anglers have a lot to look forward to in 2017. Be concerned, but don’t worry too much about low water conditions, limited boat ramp space and stiff winter winds – just go fishing! Mega schools of fish are bunched up in deep areas of major creek runs and along the edges of the Catawba River channel that meanders through the lake.

While hybrids and spotted bass are the preferred targets of deep water anglers, there are a lot of large white perch being taken. Depending on the available forage fish and weather conditions, the schools of hungry predator fish can be so large that they fill the sonar screen with images. Fish moving below the boat look like a bowl of spaghetti. There are times when bass, perch hybrids and stripers all feast together, which explains why everyone on board can be hooked to a different species.

Listed below are a few hints for this winter’s fishing fun:

  1. Locate the fish. It’s easy – look for diving seabirds, a collection of boats fishing in the same general area, and/or watch for fish images on your sonar screen.
  2. Slowly drift or troll with lures or live bait positioned at various levels in the water column. Use ½ to one ounce jigging spoons, 3/8th ounce bucktail jigs, Sabiki rigs, Alabama rigs and live baits. Silver, white and chartreuse are the colors of choice.
  3. As water temperatures drop, fish will move to deeper water, sometimes suspending in the deepest parts of Lake Norman. Very slow moving lures and repeated presentations to the same location will produce more strikes than the “run and gun” techniques used in warmer months.
  4. When fishing is tough, fish slowly, and down size baits and line.
  5. Be quiet. Since fish are usually directly under the boat, care should be taken not bang deck lids or stomp your feet. In addition, approach the fishing grounds at low speeds, and use the trolling motor, when possible, so as not to spook the fish or annoy fellow anglers in the area.

The best places to find fish in January are:

  • The main river channel above powerlines at the Lake Norman State Park.
  • Stumpy Creek between B2 and the boat ramp.
  • The Marshall Stream Plant hot water discharge and its affected waters.
  • Mountain, Reed and Ramsey Creek.
  • Main river channel Marker 13 to Marker 3

Low lake levels are not having a negative impact on fishing, but boaters should exercise caution. When underway, stay between the red and green channel markers and refer to depth finder soundings and GPS readings when fishing unfamiliar areas.

Tips from Capt. Gus:

  • Tip #1 – To check the lake level on Norman and other area lakes, call 1-800-829-5253 or visit Lake levels are updated every twenty minutes.
  • Tip #2 – Underwater roadbeds that crisscross most area impoundments are excellent migration routes and primary feeding areas for a variety of fish. Topographic maps that show underwater structure can be purchased at area tackle shops or online at

Upcoming Events: Free Fishing Seminar – “Factors That Effect Fish Behavior” with Jake Bussolini will be a ninety-minute session beginning at 6:30 p.m. on January 18th at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, in Mooresville, NC. For additional information, contact Jake at 704 201 8709.

Lake Norman’s water level is about 6.0’ below full pond. The surface water temperature is in the fifties in water not affected by power generation.

Happy New Year!

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.