Each fall, the lake levels on Lake Norman and elsewhere drop several feet from summer highs.
The main reason for this winter drawdown is that river and stream inflows are less during the cooler months than in spring and summer. The good news is that lower water levels give boaters and anglers a chance to see areas of the lake bottom.
However, most recreational boaters stay in port until water levels rise again in spring.
But is important for anglers to know what lies below the surface. The same hazards to boaters provide excellent habitat and gathering places for bass and other species of fish when the lake rises.
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Savvy fishermen cruise the lake looking for evidence of stumps, brush piles, rocks and anything else that is exposed by low water conditions. Once a potential fishing spot is located, a waypoint is placed on the GPS and/or marked on a waterproof topographic lake map. In addition, photos and notes about the newly found fishing hole can be documented for future reference.
The winter drawdown makes some locations unfishable, particularly around shallow boat docks. But, low water conditions tend to concentrate bass, perch and hybrids near turns in creek channels and on deeper points and underwater humps.
A few words of advice for those who might feel uncomfortable navigating area lakes when water levels are low:
• When negotiating unfamiliar waters, refer to a topographic map or your GPS.
• Keep an eye on the depth finder.
• Set the shallow-water depth finder alarm to warn of low water.
• On Lake Norman, stay between the red and green day markers, where water is deepest.
• Be cautious when navigating near Shoal Markers. They indicate shallow water is nearby.
Tip from Capt. Gus
To check the lake level on Norman and other area lakes, call 800-829-5253 or visit www.duke-energy.com/lakes/levels.asp. Lake levels are updated every 20 minutes.
Hot Spots of the Week
Spotted bass fishing has been outstanding, particularly for those casting soft plastics around docks, points, rock reefs and submerged brush piles. Bass are also hitting crank baits trolled along the shoreline and spoons fished vertically in water to 50 feet. White perch and a few hybrid striped bass are hitting minnows and Sabiki rigs. Catfish guide Mac Byrum reports that 5- to 10-pound blue catfish are hitting cut baits while drifting at speeds of less than a half-mile per hour.
Lake Norman’s lake level is about 4.4 feet below full pond and 3.4 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake. The surface water temperature is in the 60s in water not affected by power generation.