Fishing with Gus: Capt. Gus gives strategies for February fishing

Jack Spaleta, of Charlotte, holds a striped bass caught on a cool Lake Norman fishing trip in January.

If the weather and water temperatures stay cold, the warm water discharges at the Marshall and McGuire power plants will be in play during early February.

Large schools of spotted bass will concentrate in Ramsey Creek at the lower end of Lake Norman, where temperatures rise to 10 degrees higher than those in the creek farther from the nuclear plant.

Likewise, the waters from the N.C. 150 bridge south to channel marker 13 will benefit from the warming effects of the Marshall power plant.

Anglers casting to boat docks will catch larger bass, but those who fish in deep water will catch more. Big schools of 12- to 15-inch spotted bass will gather along the edges, ledges, drop-offs and deep points in Ramsey and McCrary creeks.

The striper fishery is still recuperating from last summer’s fish kill that reduced the lake population by an estimated 16,000 to 30,000 adult fish, but there are still plenty of stripers to be caught, and February is a prime month to catch them. Good locations to fish are the deeper parts of major creeks, including Reed, Mountain and Stumpy, where stripers have been caught throughout the winter months.

Stripers will stay in these cold-water haunts as long as the water temperatures remain in the 40s and the baitfish do not wander. Anglers who drift or slow troll live baits, vertical jig spoons or pull umbrella rigs can achieve good results.

While cruising, keep an eye towards the sky. Low flying terns and gulls will indicate the presence of feeding fish, and the arches on your fish finder will indicate the depth they are feeding.

Not only do stripers feast on the baitfish below, but spotted bass, white perch and flathead catfish often enjoy the free meal as well. Best baits are 3/8- to 1/2-ounce bucktails, Roadrunners and Little Fishie’s for casting and 1/2- to 1-ounce spoons when vertical jigging.

Crappies are the first fish to move toward the shallows each spring. That migration begins in February. Manmade brush piles in water depths of 20 feet are good places to catch them early in the month.

In cold water, a small jig tipped with a crappie minnow will usually see more action than plain plastic and Malibu skirted jigs. Mountain and Beaver Dam creeks are known for a brush pile-rich habitat. Most are submerged Christmas trees.

Those who fish from their own boat docks can expect to catch a variety of fish, particularly with worms and minnows suspended a few feet below a bobber. Chumming around docks with dog food or fish pellets will attract fish from nearby docks and brush piles.

Upcoming events

• I’ll host a free fishing seminar, called “Bank and Dock Fishing for Sunfish, White Perch, Catfish and Carp,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Feb. 24 at Gander Mountain, 236 Norman Station Blvd. I’ll cover everything from fishing with cane poles, hooks and bobbers, to using live and cut baits. Details: 704-658-0822.

• The Lake Norman Sail & Power Squadron hosts a boater safety class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Duke Energy Environmental Center, 12700 Hagers Ferry Road, Huntersville. The class costs $45. Register in advance. Details: www.usps.org/lakenorman or Bob Yannacci, 704-660-5568.

Tips from Capt. Gus

When casting or jigging under seabirds, it is best to drift or maneuver the boat with an electric motor. Otherwise, bait and predator fish will become spooked and stop feeding.

Hot spot of the week

White perch, bass and stripers are suspended in the deep water at the mouth of Hagars, Mountain and Reed creeks. Spotted bass are active around boat docks and deep brush at the eastern end of Ramsey Creek. Those using bloodworms and mussels are catching a mixed bag of bream, bass, perch, stripers and catfish at the Marshall Steam Plant discharge.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures is an outdoor columnist and a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. His website is www.fishingwith
gus.com. Contact him at 704-617-6812 or Gus@LakeNorman.com.

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