Time and tide wait for no man, and neither does spring spawning season.
In fact, it has already begun, as white perch and crappie move toward the shallows. Largemouth bass, spots and stripers are also preparing for the annual spring ritual by eating everything in sight.
With that in mind, don't let cold weather and muddy water deter the beginning of the new fishing season. Gather your tackle, dress warmly and go fishing. They are definitely biting!
To help kick off this new season, here are a few tips on water temperature, baits and presentation. I hope they will increase the number and size of the fish you put in your live well or clip to your stringer:
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A degree or two can make a difference in whether you catch fish.
Coves with southern exposures (facing the sun) warm faster than those on the northern shore.
Water temperatures surrounding docks with black floatation (for buoyancy) are usually a few degrees warmer than those constructed with plastic foam.
The waters near the Marshall and McGuire power plants are warmer than the water in other areas.
Muddy water warms faster than clear water.
The water around concrete boat ramps is normally a few degrees warmer than the surrounding water.
Live or artificial baits?
In early spring, crappie and perch prefer small minnows.
Spinner, jerk and crank baits are popular for fishing shallow water. When fishing offshore, switch to jigging spoons, drop-shot rigs and shaky heads.
Large shiners, trout, shad or herring work best for stripers. Many of the same lures used by bass anglers work well for those trolling and casting artificial baits.
Catfish eat everything! Stink baits, worms and table scraps lure lots of cats, while fresh-cut herring, shad, perch and bream lure big blues and flatheads.
In cool, muddy water, slow down the retrieve to give the fish a chance to see the bait.
Make multiple casts to the same target.
Use baits that appeal to as many senses as practical. Live fresh-cut bait and soft plastics appeal to all five senses; most spinner and crank baits appeal to sight and sound.
Cast to surface-feeding activity with your favorite topwater lure. If you don't have a favorite, throw a small popper, jerk bait or fluke.
When all else fails, downsize your baits. Both large and small fish will strike a small bait, while only a large one can swallow a large bait.
Lake Norman fishing guides Mac Byrum and I will lead a free two-hour seminar, "How to Catch Trophy Flathead and Arkansas Blue Catfish While Fishing for White Perch," at 6:30 p.m. March 24 at Gander Mountain, off I-77 Exit 36. Details: 704-658-0822.
To entice a variety of early spring fish, slowly fish small artificial baits in water less than 10 feet deep. Popular lures are roadrunners, bucktails and small silver or gold spoons.