North Carolina’s Lake Norman

Lake Norman is considered a top fishing destination in North Carolina. With Lake Norman’s southern shore less than 20 miles from downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, the lake is a great fishing getaway and short drive to catch largemouth bass, among other species of fish. Lake Norman is one of 11 impoundments of the Catawba-Wateree Rivers. And it is the largest body of water entirely in North Carolina with 520 miles of shoreline and a total of 50 square miles of surface area.

From the upper end of Lake Norman at the Lookout Shoals dam to the Cowan’s Ford dam at the downstream end, the substrate is made up of a variety of clays. Numerous bridges cross arms of Lake Norman and the NC 150 bridge crosses the lake near mid-point, creating an easy reference point for anglers on the water.

Fishing Lake Norman

More than 25 years ago, bait-bucket stockers introduced Alabama spotted bass to Lake Norman. The spotted bass have expanded their range, often out-competing largemouth bass in the lake. Spotted bass have become so common at Lake Norman, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) no longer has a minimum size limit on spotted bass and no limit on the number of spotted bass which may be legally taken per day. Largemouth bass still have a five fish limit and only two of the five may be under 14 inches.

Despite the somewhat smaller size of spotted bass compared to largemouth bass, the winning weight limit at bass tournaments has increased over the last few decades. Twenty years ago most tournaments would be won with a 12 pound weight. Currently a 15 pound catch is more typical and periodically winners weigh in with 20 pound limits. Eric Weir caught the North Carolina spotted bass record, a six and a half pounder, December 26, 2003, in the Ramsey Creek arm of Lake Norman.

On the Water at Lake Norman

Lake Norman can be divided into three separate areas for fishing. The northernmost section of the lake starts below the dam at Lookout Shoals and stretches to Lake Norman State Park. In this area, the terrain is more of a riverine than what some visitors might expect for a lake. Anglers will find a relatively narrow section of water for fishing, only a couple hundred yards wide in most places. In this area of lake Norman the shoreline is not as heavily developed as the rest of the lake to the south. Fallen trees along the shore and small creeks entering the river provide cover for fish. Casting jerk baits near these features can often tempt lurking fish.

The drop off in the lake bottom between the shoreline and the old river channel is another area to throw a line. In this part of Lake Norman, the water is typically pretty clear and the drop off sections are often visible. Texas-rigged worms and jigs are good bets along the drop-off, particularly if the local power company is running water for power generation.

The middle section of Lake Norman is between Lake Norman State Park and the NC 150 bridge. In this area, there is more residential development along the shoreline. The best prospects for fishing in this section of the lake are adjacent to piers, under docks, and off points of land. Texas-rigged worms, spinnerbaits and suspending jerkbaits work well along the piers and docks. Carolina-rigged worms and deep-diving crankbaits work well typically on the points of land. In the areas near Lake Norman State Park in the springtime lipless crankbaits are a good bet.

The southern section of Lake Norman stretches from the NC 150 bridge to Cowan’s Ford Dam on the southern shoreline of the lake. The area of the lake is heavily developed since I-77 provides close and quick access to nearby Charlotte.

Thinking Like a Fish

Fishing in the southern section of lake continues to be best along piers, under docks, and off points. Docks with rod holder tubes mounted on them are likely to have strategically placed brush piles of discarded Christmas trees within a 15-foot range. For home owners who wish to fish only off the pier or dock attached to their property, a specific license is available and must be displayed to be visible from the water. That, too, is a clue that brush piles may be nearby in these locations, Texas-rigged worms, shallow running crankbaits, suspending jerk baits, shallow crankbaits, or topwater lures work near piers and brush piles. Tube grubs with ¼ ounce weights can be productive near piers and docks. Unweighted worms are also great skipped under floating docks.

For fans of fishing rocks, the best bet is riprap near bridges. Both ends of the NC 150 bridge mark long dikes on which the highway rests; the riprap can be consistently productive for anglers. Riprap along the dikes supporting the rail road on Mountain Creek is another good spot to cast a line.

Check out a Baitstick Box for North Carolina and fish local water out of the box with bait and tackle handpicked by Baitstick team members with local knowledge. Seasoned anglers can resupply with essentials and new anglers can go fishing right out of the box. Just specify the fishing locations of interest in the note section of the order form.  The Baitstick team will take it from there to assemble the lures needed for specified locations and season of year.

Compared to most fishing impoundments in North Carolina, Lake Norman usually enjoys relatively clear water. Norman is large enough that muddy water entering the Lake typically has time to settle. Anglers fishing the lake can use crankbaits and jerk baits in black or blue back and with silver sides. Translucent plastic worms, red, blue, purple, are good choices as well. Tube and curly tail grubs in white, smoke, and brown are reliable options.

Beyond the introduction of spotted bass, Lake Norman has also seen the establishment of alewives, blueback herring, and white perch. These pelagic baitfish have moved the forage base of spotted bass and largemouth bass into somewhat deeper water than was the case a few decades ago. Off-shore brush piles and shoreline points are prime locations to find spotted and largemouth bass.

In addition to bass fishing, Lake Norman is an excellent crappie lake. Blue catfish and flathead catfish also provide prime fishing opportunities at Lake Norman. In recent years, Lake Norman has attracted anglers seeking hybrid bass, a striped and white bass cross.

Accessing Lake Norman

On Lake Norman, anglers without boats have multiple points of access. There are fishing piers at Lake Norman State Park, Mountain Creek, and Ramsey Creek. Shoreline fishing is an option at the public site on Stumpy Creek. Walk-on fishing is an option at the Marshall Steam Station on the west end of the NC 150 bridge and at McGuire Nuclear Plant on NC 73.

Whether fishing Lake Norman from the shoreline or by boat, anglers can find some of the best fishing in North Carolina. Lake Norman holds a wide variety of fish, including largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and several other fish species. Regardless of experience or skill level, there are many different ways to fish and catch fish at Lake Norman, making it well worth the trip for a morning fish or several days spent on the water.

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