By Gus Gustafson
December thru February is a favorite time to fish Piedmont Lakes. The most important reason is that striped bass bite best when water temperatures are cool. But, largemouth, spotted bass, perch, cats and crappie must eat as well, so all are fair game. The following tips might help make your next cold weather fishing trip more enjoyable and productive.
- Warm water attracts bait as well as predator fish. The areas adjacent to the power plant hot water discharge canals are likely places to find a variety of fish during the winter months.
- Cold weather fish also congregate on sunny shorelines, near underwater springs and in deeper water that is usually a few degrees warmer than the surface temperature.
- Cold water slows the metabolism of a fish. Therefore, small baits combined with a slower retrieve then normal will result in additional strikes.
- Bass, crappie and perch stay near deep cover this time of year. So fish closer than you normally would to docks, blow downs, brush, stumps and other under water structure.
- The best time to fish is whenever you can! But on Lake Norman the bite is usually early, even in the dead of winter, so be ready to begin fishing at daylight. Most successful striper fishermen are off the lake before noon.
- Best live baits for winter striped bass are shad, herring, shiners and trout. Popular catfish baits are worms, prepared baits and strips of fresh cut white perch and bream. Bass fishermen use a variety of artificial lures, but crank baits, soft plastics on shaky heads, drop shots rigs, jig & pigs, bucktails and jigging spoons will take a fair share of bass. Crappie like small minnows, and white perch will hit minnows, spoons and sabiki rigs.
- Anglers who fish from the bank or dock will find that minnows and worms work best, but they can also use a variety of prepared baits and household foods such as hotdogs, bread and chicken livers.
- Best artificial bait colors are watermelon, pumpkin seed, blue, green, chartreuse, silver and white.
- Overdress for winter weather. It always feels colder on the water than it does on land. Pocket hand warmers, catalytic heaters and a thermos of hot coffee will help keep you comfortable on the coldest of days.
- On the coldest of days, line, rod tips and fishing reels can freeze. Dip them in the water to temporarily melt the ice.
- Last, but not least, don’t forget to bring your cell phone. The lake can be a cold and lonely place if you break down and no one but you knows you needs to be towed.
See ya out there – Capt. Gus!
Captain Gus is licensed by the US Coast Guard, a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and a Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his website at www.FishingWithGus.com , e-mail Gus@lakenorman.com, or call 704 617 6812.