If the weather and water stay cold, the warm-water discharges at the Marshall and McGuire power plants will be in play during early February.
Large schools of spotted bass will concentrate in Ramsey Creek at the lower end of Lake Norman. Temperatures there can be 10 degrees higher than the creek that runs farther from the nuclear plant.
Likewise, the waters from the N.C. 150 bridge south to channel marker 13 will benefit from the warming effects of the Marshall power plant.
Anglers casting to boat docks will catch larger bass, but those who fish deep water will catch more. Big schools of 12- to 15-inch spotted bass will gather along the edges, ledges and dropoffs and on the deep points in Ramsey and McCrary creeks.
The striper fishery is still recuperating from the 2010 fish kill, which reduced the lake population by an estimated 16,000 to 30,000 adult fish. Regardless, there are still plenty of stripers to be caught, and February is a prime month to catch them.
Good locations to fish are the deeper parts of major creeks, including Reed, Mountain and Stumpy creeks, where stripers have been caught throughout the winter. Stripers will stay in these cold-water haunts as long as the water temperatures remain in the 40s and the baitfish don't wander.
Anglers can achieve good results by drifting or slow-trolling live baits, vertical jig spoons or pull umbrella rigs.
A growing number of anglers cruise the lake, keeping one eye on the fish finder screen and the other on the sky. Low-flying terns and gulls will indicate the presence of feeding fish, and arches on the fish finder will indicate the depth at which they are feeding.
Spotted bass, white perch and flathead catfish often enjoy the baitfish below as well. Best baits are 3/8-ounce to 1/2-ounce Bucktails, Roadrunners and Little Fishie's for casting and half-ounce to 1-ounce spoons for vertical jigging.
Crappies are the first to move toward the shallows each spring, beginning in February. Manmade brush piles in water depths to 20 feet are good places to catch them early in the month.
In cold water, a small jig tipped with a crappie minnow will usually see more action than plain plastic and Malibu skirted jigs. Mountain and Beaver Dam creeks are known for a brush-pile-rich habitat.
Those who fish from their own boat docks can expect to catch a variety of fish, particularly with worms and minnows suspended a few feet below a bobber. Chumming around docks with dog food or fish pellets will attract fish from nearby docks and brush piles.
February weather is usually quite chilly, so dress as if you were going duck hunting or snow skiing. Insulated outerwear, boots, gloves and a toboggan will be needed on most February mornings.