The holidays are in the rearview mirror, and thoughts of a new fishing season are on the minds of avid anglers.
While many yearn to go fishing, few will venture out during the coldest days of winter. Folks seem to be content to walk and talk about their sport in the fishing tackle aisles of sporting goods outlets. But for the few who are willing to brave the elements, here are some thoughts about deep-water fishing that might help to jump start your next outing.
The dynamics of fishing on Lake Norman have changed in recent years. The once highly sought after striped bass have all but vanished, replaced by the plentiful and easier to catch spotted bass. The introduction of this member of the black bass family in the late 1990s has brought resurgence in recreational and tournament fishing. About the same time “spots” were imported, so were river herring, a prolific forage fish. Since both species are deep swimmers, they adapted well to Lake Norman’s topography.
While spotted bass are taken regularly by those casting to the shoreline, the main body of fish spend considerable time at depths sometimes exceeding 40 feet. Winter deep water fishing is both fun and rewarding for those who have learned to use sonar, down imaging and GPS equipment
The intent for stocking river herring was to supplement the fragile threadfin shad population that stripers feed on. As striper numbers dwindled over the last 10 years, it is now the spotted bass, white perch and catfish that follow and feast upon the deep-swimming schools of herring.
• Bass: Suspend or bottom fish with spoons, bucktails, drop-shot rigs and shaky heads.
• White perch: Use Sabiki rigs, small shiny spoons and crappie minnows fished just off the bottom.
• Crappie: Fish with small minnows and jigs near deep brush.
• Catfish: Use live perch, fresh cut bait and chunks of chicken breast fished on the bottom.
Fishermen have said for years, “Fish where the bait is.” So, the next time you go; try fishing deep water, where herring are swimming.
Tip from Capt. Gus
Catfish don’t stop biting when it gets cold. Some of the biggest blue catfish of the year are caught during January. For best results, change baits frequently. Double anchor the boat or slow drift at speeds of less than 0.5 mph.
Hot Spots of the Week
Several patterns are producing fish. For bass, try deep water off channel points and S-turns, or cast swim baits along 20-foot dropoffs. Lastly, look for bass chasing shad minnows in back-coves and boat basins. Large white perch are schooling in water to 70 feet between Marker 1A and Marker 3 on the edge of the main river channel, as well as Reed, Mountain and McCrary creeks.
The water level on Lake Norman’s is about 39 feet below full pond and is 2.3 feet below on Mountain Island Lake. Both lakes are well above their mid-December low-water marks. The surface water temperature is in the 50s in water not affected by power generation.