In December, January and February, Lake Norman's "hot holes" will be the place to fish.
Boat and bank fishing is permitted in designated locations at both power plants. The McGuire Nuclear Station is off N.C. 73, east of Cowans Ford Dam; the Marshall Steam Plant is off N.C. 150, on the west side of the Catawba River.
Before you go, be sure to ask which hot hole is producing more fish. These locations are yielding nice catches of stripers, largemouth and spotted bass. The warm, highly oxygenated water not only incubates small fish but also provides relief from the winter cold for predator fish.
At times in winter, game fish are so plentiful that bank fishermen stand shoulder-to-shoulder to cast for them.
If you haven't fished the hot holes before, walk the banks and talk to other fishermen. Regulars will be more than willing to share techniques and success stories.
Methods vary among anglers, but bottom fishing is always popular with those fishing from the shore. Most anglers choose a medium-action spinning outfit rigged with a slip sinker, a swivel, a length of leader and a hook.
Recommended natural baits for bass, stripers and perch are worms, fresh-cut fish and a variety of live baits. Catfish can be tempted with chicken livers, clams and fresh-cut fish.
At times, fish feed on the surface. Swirls, created by predators striking baitfish, usually signal the beginning of a feeding frenzy. The action doesn't last long, but when it occurs, everyone on the bank will have a hookup. Artificial lures, both top-water and subsurface swimmers, are good bets when fish are surface-feeding. Have an outfit rigged and ready to cast.
Fish are more active when a strong current is running. Remember, when bottom fishing, the faster the current, the heavier the sinker.
I recommend a long-handled net. Be careful of your position when netting your catch, as rocks are slippery and water moves swiftly. Children should always wear life preservers and should never be left unattended.
While the discharge chutes see a lot of fishing action, the hot water effect is far-reaching. Depending on wind direction, water temperatures are affected for miles on either side of the discharge.
When the wind is from the south, the water north of the discharge warms. The water to the south warms when the wind is from the north. It takes only a degree or two of temperature change to attract bait and predator fish.
Try holding the next fish you catch upside down while unhooking it. When held belly up, a fish stops wiggling and becomes almost lifeless.