No other fish pulls with as much force on Lake Norman as a striped bass. If stripers jumped, one angler said, people would switch from largemouth bass.
Stripers seldom jump when hooked, but they make up for it with bulldog-like tenacity and long, powerful runs that challenge even the best angler's skills.
Winter is a prime time to catch Lake Norman's premier game fish. Cold waters allow stripers to swim the full range of the water column in search of feeder fish. Remember, the daily creel limit is four 16-inch stripers per angler. Since the fillets trim out relatively large, it takes only a few fish to make a delightful meal.
The key to catching stripers is to find areas that hold large concentrations of forage fish. On Lake Norman, threadfin shad and herring feed stripers.
Herring are deep-water dwellers, so watch for thick banded images near the bottom of your fish-finder screen. Threadfin shad images appear as puffy clouds, usually suspended in the upper third of the water column.
Anglers use a variety of methods to tempt stripers. Live bait is the most popular, but some use cut baits or artificial lures. Each has its time and place, so be prepared to change techniques as conditions dictate.
If using live bait, either drift or use an electric trolling motor to maneuver the boat quietly over schools of feeding stripers. Good bets for live bait are shad, herring, trout, shiners and bloodworms. Cut baits are best when fresh. Frozen and pre-packaged baits lack the scent needed to attract stripers from a distance. Stripers will hit a variety of artificial lures, including bucktails, roadrunners and jigging spoons.
Winter havens for striped bass are many. Just remember they change locations as baitfish move. Best places to fish above the N.C. 150 bridge are the river channel between markers 19 and 21 and the deeper parts of Hicks and Stumpy creeks. Below the bridge, bank fishermen catch stripers in the Marshall and McGuire warm-water discharge channels. Boat fishermen target Mountain, Reed and Ramsey creeks.
Jake Bussolini and I will conduct a new free seminar, "How to Catch Fish Using Sonar and GPS," from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Gander Mountain, off Interstate 77 Exit 36 in Mooresville. Bring your instruction book. Details: 704-658-0822.
Boater safety training
The Lake Norman Sail & Power Squadron will conduct its first boater safety class of the year 8 a.m. Saturday at the Denver Volunteer Fire Department. The cost is $45. Registration is required. Details: www.usps.org/lakenorman; 704-660-5568.