During October, water temperatures drop with each passing cold front, and striper fishing improves daily. When temps finally reach the mid-60s, striped bass, or linesiders, leave their deep water summer haunts and migrate to the shallower waters of major creek runs. Feeding activity will occur in the upper third of the water column at depths of less than 25 feet.
The early morning surface feeding seen in late September gains momentum throughout October. The bite lasts longer, and larger stripers will join adolescent fish in the fray. Anglers with spinning rods should cast a variety of artificial lures to the fish feeding on bewildered schools of shad and herring.
Bucktail jigs, roadrunners, spoons, flukes and top-water plugs with trailing ice flies are all baits of choice. Although the major bite is at daylight, a second flurry occurs just before sunset. On overcast days, unexpected surface action can erupt at any time. Have at least one rod per angler pre-tied with a casting lure. Don't miss the opportunity to catch a feeding fish because you have to re-rig a rod.
By mid-October, fish begin to settle into a predictable pattern. Fish the breaks and shallows early and move deeper as the day brightens. Live baits are recommended throughout the day. Shad and herring will be easier to catch and keep alive than they were in September. By midday, stripers will relocate to deep points and over S-turns in creek channels.
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As mentioned above, many fish leave the main river channel and move to the numerous creek channels that feed the main river. Hicks Creek, in the Lake Norman State Park; Rocky Creek, commonly known as Skipper's Creek; and Stumpy Creek are all good bets above the N.C. 150 bridge. Anglers who fish below N.C. 150 will find lots of fish in Mountain, Hagars and Reed creeks.
Bass fishermen will also see more activity. Largemouth and spotted bass will concentrate on points and near stumps and blow downs at the back of coves. When fishing for stripers, do not be surprised if you hook an incidental spotted bass. This hard-fighting fish was introduced several years ago and is now well established in Lake Norman, particularly below the N.C. 150 bridge. Spotted bass can be identified by a rough patch on the tongue that they use to hold crayfish before crushing and swallowing them.
October weather can feel like summer one day and winter the next. Striper fishing is best during low pressure and in rainy periods that precede a cold front. If your schedule is flexible, plan to fish before the weather clears.
Tips from Capt. Gus
To head a fish in the direction in which you want it to swim, apply pressure with the rod tip. If it decides to go elsewhere, follow it. A big fish might lead you around the boat several times before tiring. The trip is worth it.
The Norman Fishery Alliance annual meeting and fish fry will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 11 at Gander Mountain in Mooresville.
Hot spot of the week
The hot spot of the week is Reed Creek, where striper, bass and white perch have been particularly active off points and humps in water depths from 15 to 40 feet deep.
The lake level is down about 2.5 feet from full pond. Water surface temperature is in the 70s.