Lake Norman & Mooresville

Late spring is prime for lake anglers


Gus Gustafson holds a Lake Norman spotted bass.
Gus Gustafson holds a Lake Norman spotted bass. GUS GUSTAFSON

As spring winds down and lake temperatures rise, fish will move toward deeper water. Because they tend to bunch in tight-knit schools this time of year, it’s easy to land a limit quickly.

Better yet, the weather is usually great in late May, and the summer boat traffic is yet to come.

A much overlooked section of the lake is upriver between the railroad bridge and the dam – just above Interstate 40. Some of the best striper, hybrid and bass fishing occurs when water is being discharged from Lookout Shoals Dam.

Downriver, anglers will find fish almost anywhere there is a deep bank or drop off adjacent to shallow water. Reed and Mountain creek fishermen will see some of the best action. The island area just north of the Lake Norman State Park provides good fishing for those who choose to fish above the N.C. 150 bridge.

Largemouth and spotted bass will strike hard and soft artificial lures. Spotted bass are likely to concentrate near rocky points, riprap and underwater humps, where they prey on passing feeder fish.

When the bite is slow, give live minnows a try. They work best when pulled behind a slow drifting boat or by one controlled by an electric trolling motor. Largemouth bass will hold in the shade of boat docks and downed timber, with some of the best catches coming from soft plastic lures and spinner baits.

Late spring is prime time for white perch. Because they swim in large schools, they are relatively easy to locate with a fish finder. If you don’t have one, drift until you begin to catch them, and then anchor the boat. During the day, they swim over humps, points and brush piles at depths to 35 feet. At night, they move to the shallows where they gather near lighted docks and piers. Best baits are worms, threadfin shad and small minnows. Because of their aggressive nature, they will also attack artificial lures, small spoons, Sabiki rigs, crappie jigs and spinners.

Crappie fishermen will find excellent results this month around deep docks and brush piles. Small jigs and minnows will attract stringers of fish. As a reminder, the daily creel limit per angler is 20, 8 inches or longer.

While others move to deeper water, catfish are typically found in water less than 15 feet deep. Channel and blue cats feed both day and night and hit anything from live fish to leftover table scraps. If you are targeting channel catfish, use prepared stink baits or live worms. Blues prefer chicken parts and freshly dead fish cut in strips. When a school of white perch is found, flathead catfish should be nearby. Flatheads stalk white perch in hopes of snatching an unsuspecting stray or a wounded baitfish they might have missed.

Tip from Capt. Gus

May is a good month to experiment with spinner baits. They can be fished at any depth from the surface to the bottom and are ideal in brush and around fallen trees.

Upcoming events

Free safe-boating class. “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night” will be held at 6:30 p.m. June 10 The Peninsula Yacht Club, 18501 Harbor Light Blvd., Cornelius. Becky Johnson and I will cover “Understanding LKN’s Channel Marker and Buoy System,” “How to Avoid Shallow Water,” “10 Most Dangerous Spots” and “Interpreting Lake Maps.” For information, call Ashley at 704-892-7575.

Free fishing seminar. For “Frequently Asked Questions about Lake Norman Fishing,” Jake Bussolini and I will answer your fishing questions at 6:30 p.m. June 17 at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, in Mooresville. This session will be for those new to lake fishing and interested in catching bass, cats, crappie, perch and stripers. Bring your questions to this informative seminar. For information, call 704-658-0822.

Hot spots of the week

Anglers fishing for white perch are drifting minnows and bouncing jigging spoons off the bottom in 15 to 30 feet of water. Best bets are the deeper parts of coves in Little and Reed creeks. Bass fishing is excellent on topwater baits at sunrise and around docks and brush throughout the day.

The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the high 70s in open waters not affected by power generation. The lake level is about 2.1 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 3.7 feet below on Mountain Island Lake.

Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer and a professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. Have a story idea for Gus? Email him at