Fishin’ with Capt. Gus! The Fish of Lake Norman 1-18-2015

Photo credit – Capt. Gus: Dan and Tyler Cohn of Cornelius holding striped and hybrid bass taken on a recent Lake Norman fishing trip.

Photo credit – Capt. Gus: Dan and Tyler Cohn of Cornelius holding striped and hybrid bass taken on a recent Lake Norman fishing trip.

The most frequently asked question about fishing is, “What types of fish can I expect to catch on Lake Norman?”  Following, are the most sought after species:

Black Bass are the favorites of many, and Norman has both largemouth and spotted bass. The largemouth gets its name from the size of its mouth. The spotted bass, although smaller in size, is predominate. Known as a “spot”, it can be identified by rows of dark spots on the lower sides of its body, and it has a smaller jaw than the largemouth. The state record spotted bass (six pounds, five ounces) was caught in Lake Norman in 2003.

Crappie are a member of the sunfish family. They are relatively easy to catch and taste great.  The flaky white meat is delicious when fried and served with fries, hush puppies and slaw. The best time to catch them is early spring when they’re spawning in the shallows, but savvy anglers hook them year round.  There are two types: black and white.  They can be distinguished by counting the dorsal fin spines. Black crappies normally have seven or eight; whites usually have six.

Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass are the hardest fighting gamefish in the lake. Both are stocked, since they don’t reproduce naturally. In 2013 the NCWRC began stocking hybrids in place of striped bass. It will take time for them to mature, but some already exceed the sixteen inch size limit. Both are silver in color and have lateral lines on both sides of their bodies. 

White perch, a non-game fish that averages about half a pound, is the most numerous of all fish in Lake Norman. Its body is similar in color and shape to the hybrid, but lacks the dark lateral lines. White perch swim in large schools, which makes it easy to catch dozens or more per trip. There is no size or creel limit, so you may keep all you want. They too make excellent table fare.

Catfish: The three types of catfish that live in Lake Norman are the Channel, Arkansas Blue and Flathead. They can be caught year round. Catfish move freely up and down river & creek channels, as water temperatures, food supply and spawning urges dictate.  During the spring, they are typically found in shallow water. Catching them is easy. Cast a bait, preferably one with a pungent odor, and wait for a bite. The catfish will follow the smell to the hook.

Sunfish: Blue gill and other sunfish populate the shorelines during the warmer months. These small fish tug pretty hard for their size and are easily caught on bread balls, worms and insects. Some may wonder why smallmouth bass, walleye pike, trout and other species common to northern streams, rivers and lakes aren’t on the list. The answer is simple. The water temperatures during our summer months exceed their tolerance levels.

Upcoming Events: Free Fishing Seminar – “Using Sonar, Structure Scan and GPS to Catch More Fish In 2015” – Jake Bussolini and I will discuss the theory and practical application of locating and landing fish with the aid of electronics. This ninety-minute session will begin at 6:30 p.m. on January 21st at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, in Mooresville, NC. For additional information, call 704 658 0822.

Hot Spots of the Week: Cold weather has slowed the fishermen down, but not the fish. Fish the hot holes and under diving sea birds in the river channel. Large groups of bass, hybrids and white perch are being found at Marker 15 and the Highway 150 Bridge, between Markers 11 and 14 and from Marker 3 to Marker 8. Others are located in the deeper water of Reed Creek between D6 and D2. 

Tips from Capt. Gus! On days when sea birds aren’t diving, slow troll Alabama rigs, and use your electronics to locate feeding fish.

Lake Conditions: The water level on Lake Norman is about 3.1 feet below full pond and is 2.9 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake. The surface water temperature is in the mid to high forties in water not affected by power generation.

Capt. Gus Gustafson is an Outdoor Columnist and a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his website at or call 704-617-6812. For additional information, e-mail him at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s