Lake Norman & Mooresville

A guide to fishing on Lake Norman

This week’s column will attempt to answer some fishing questions on the minds of Lake Norman newcomers.

Fishing is the best it has been in recent years. Bass fishing has improved dramatically since the introduction of spotted bass in the late 1990s. It is so good, in fact, that Lake Norman is a featured stop on many major fishing tournament trails. Waters also teem with crappie, white perch, hybrid striped bass and some of the largest catfish in our state.

Before you make your first cast, it is important to obtain a North Carolina fishing license. Anyone 16 years or older who fishes public waters must have one. Licenses can be purchased online at, by phone at 888-248-6834 or at Gander Mountain, Dicks, Wal-Mart and many bait and tackle shops that surround the lake.

Be certain to study the rules outlined in the 2014-15 Inland Fishing Regulations Digest, free and available where licenses are sold.

Since there is no closed season, fishing is allowed 12 months of the year.

The lake is home to many species, with white perch being the most plentiful, black (spotted and largemouth) bass the most frequently targeted, crappie and sunfish the best to eat, and hybrids and striped bass having the reputation for being fierce fighters.

If it’s big fish you’re after, catfish up to 85 pounds have been taken from Lake Norman. Trout, walleye and smallmouth bass require colder water than Norman provides but can be caught in the Smoky Mountains a short drive away.

Coastal anglers are surprised when they learn that saltwater striped bass and white perch live in area lakes. While neither species grows as large as their saltwater cousins, they have been swimming in freshwater impoundments for decades.

Getting started is simple. The same fresh-water rods, reels and terminal tackle used in other parts of the country will catch fish here. Since the majority of fish taken will be lighter than 5 pounds, light-to-medium spinning tackle is recommended.

Begin with a 6- to 7-foot rod and a matching reel with 8- to 12-pound test line. Children find 5- to 5 1/2-foot closed faced spin-casting tackle to their liking because since it is easy to cast.

While the majority of fish are taken by anglers casting from boats, others are caught from the shoreline or from piers and boat docks. Public fishing is allowed at the McGuire Nuclear Plant off N.C. 73 in Huntersville, the Marshall Steam Plant off N.C. 150 in Terrell and at the Lake Norman State Park in Troutman.

Popular artificial lures are soft plastics and crank baits for black bass and bucktail jigs and spoons for striped bass and hybrids. Crappie and perch can be taken on live minnows, while catfish prefer sink baits and fresh cut baitfish. The baits of choice for kids fishing from docks are worms, bread balls, hot dogs and chicken parts.

There are some fish consumption advisories listed on page 33 of the 2014-15 Inland Fishing Regulations Digest or online at Read them before eating fish taken from North Carolina Lakes.

Hot spots

Larger-than-normal white perch are hitting minnows and Sabiki rigs on drops to 35 feet. Quick catches of 50 fish or more are being reported when suspended schools are located. Davidson and Mountain Creeks are the hot spots for hybrid striped bass.

The best bite is at dawn and dusk with secondary feeding periods throughout the day. Spotted bass continue to fall victim to anglers casting to deep points and drop-offs. Shaky heads, bucktails and deep diving crank baits are baits of choice.

Falling water temperatures have crappies moving to shallower water. Best bets are suspended fish around bridge pilings and around covered docks over deep water brush piles.


Free fishing seminar: The topic is Deep Water Winter Fishing for Hybrids, Bass and White Perch. I will discuss using live baits, shaky-heads, drop shots, Alabama and Sabiki rigs to catch cold-water fish. 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 12 at Gander Mountain, Exit 36 in Mooresville. For information, call 704-658-0822.

Lake conditions

Surface-water temperature varies by location but is mainly in the high 60s and low 70s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 1.6 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 3.8 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake.