said this kind of stringer of crappie has become
said this kind of stringer of crappie has become "common" at Lake Norman in the past two or three years.
"Five or six years ago, you could catch crappie at Lake Norman, but not many - a good day might be about 15, but they'd be real slabs," said Jerry Neeley of Carolinas Fishing Guide Service.
"Now, a good day is 100 fish, and a fair day is 50 to 55.
And it's not unusual to catch 2½-pound crappie at Norman.
Last year, I caught seven or eight over two pounds one day at the end of March when they were so shallow you could see them up against the bank in the back of coves."
said the uptick in crappie fishing started at about the same time that striper fishermen brought in alewifes, a non-native baitfish, and did a little "bait-bucket stocking" in Norman to try and improve the striper fishery.
"I thought what happened was, when they put all that bait in there, it meant more forage in the lake for crappie and other species," he
"I think it's been a great benefit for them."
But Neeley's guiding partner, Chris Nichols, points to another facet that Neeley also mentioned: a rise in Norman's overall fertility.
"At the end of February, I start watching my temperature gauge," Neeley
As the water warms through the low- to mid-50s, Neeley
said you can follow crappie back into creeks toward the coves where they'll eventually spawn.
The best fishing will arrive when the water temperature is in the 59- to 65-degree range, when fish will be spawning.
When they get to the bank, Neeley
said it's a matter of going down the bank with a minnow or mini-jig a foot under a cork, "stopping and popping" the bait down in front of every little piece of visible cover that might be holding a fish.
"Last year, I caught seven or eight fish over two pounds the same day at the end of March when the water was 60 degrees and they were so shallow you could see them in the back of the coves."
But the fishermen who waits for the spawn to arrive misses most of March's great action, which takes place a good ways off the bank.
and Nichols focus on the lower end of the lake, which has had the reputation of being less fertile and less "productive" than the upper end, above the NC 150 bridge, but only because it's more convenient to their homes in Gaston County.
According to Neeley
, they're not as common on Norman as they are on other lakes up and down the Yadkin or Catawba systems, where crappie-fishing is something akin to a religious experience during the spring.
said that brushpiles he's
found or put in - along with Nichols' brushpiles - he
can jump from pier to pier and brushpile to brushpile, catching a few crappie at each stop; he
calls it his
"If you've got a depthfinder on your boat, you can go find brush around piers," he
starts in early March looking for places where crappie will stop as they move into a creek.
He'll find the first secondary point back in the creek and fish the two docks closest to the point on either side.
"One of those docks will be holding crappie," he
"When they're getting ready to spawn, they stop there going back in.
You need to fish the biggest and widest parts of the dock and the parts with brush.
And they'll get stronger and stronger on those piers before they move farther back in the creek."
said that he
catches more black crappie than white crappie on Lake Norman, but that whites seem to be more prevalent in Mountain Creek, a major tributary on the lake's western shoreline.
"The white crappie are usually bigger, and if you find them, usually you'll catch all of them," he
said it's no longer unusual to catch slab crappie in the 2-pound range as the spring spawn approaches.