Norfork Lake is in its final stages of winter and spring is right around the corner. I can’t wait! I really enjoy winter fishing on Norfork Lake, but I am getting the warmer weather fever. Hahaha! We have several guests staying with us and a couple of them have been crappie fishing. Over the last several days they have caught many crappie, with most on the small side. Today was a different story. This morning they were jigging a ¼ ounce spoon in brush piles that were anywhere from 20 to 40 feet deep. They found some really nice slabs in 22 feet of water. The fish were buried in the brush. They ended up landing a dozen or so 12+ inch crappie and releasing all the smaller ones. This afternoon they went out for a short period of time and again landed a bucket full of nice crappie over 12 inches long. Over the last 5 or so years Norfork Lake has had several high-water events that lasted though out the spawn. High water is a benefit to the fishery as it adds new nutrients into the lake to help feed the new fry, as well as, provides plenty of new cover for the newly spawned fish to hide. To say the least, catching big slab crappie in Norfork Lake is common at this time and when you land a nice 15-inch fish, know that it came from the 2015 spawn year. Yes, it only takes about 4 years to grow to this this size. Over the next several weeks, as the water warms the crappie will begin to school and roam the banks from brush to brush in
pre spawn mode. This will be a great time to slow troll crank baits, such as a Flicker Minnow for these schooling fish.
Not only crappie have been positively affected by the various high-water events, but our bass population has also been greatly increased. Another of our guests has been trolling crankbaits in 20 – 40 feet of water and has done quite well with bass. Largemouth and spotted bass have been roaming close to the shorelines. They have been suspended out away from the bank down 10 – 30 feet deep. I was out looking for striped bass today and started to mark a lot of fish out in
deep water of 60 – 70 feet. The fish were anywhere from 5 to 30 feet down. I had live bait set at 30 feet and the spotted bass were just mauling the baits. I started casting out my ½ ounce chrome colored Kastmaster and letting it sink down to about 20 feet and the largemouth bass were just inhaling the bait. It takes about 8 seconds for my lure to reach this depth with 8-pound monofilament line. I slowly retrieve the bait with a jerk-stop-reel retrieval method.
Striped bass fishing has been a challenge as of late. I am finding stripers lying on top of bait that is so thick you can walk on it. The bait that I find back in one of the major creeks is only 10 – 20 feet down and is in places 20 – 30 feet thick. In a mid-lake creek, the bait is 50 – 60 down, but very few fish. The bait appears to go deeper in the clearer water. I have managed to catch a few, mainly on live bait, but I have picked up a nice fish on a swimbait, as well as, a couple fish trolling a deep diving crankbait, a Bandit Walleye Deep Diver. This morning (2/19) I found an area in the main lake out in 100 feet of water that has minimal bait, but there were
scattered stripers in the area. I did not reach this area until 11:30AM and got to land a nice hybrid. The fish were only 5 to 30 feet deep. As the water starts to warm the stripers will become more active.
As the spring time water temperature begins to rise, all species will become more and more active and aggressive. Most species will start to move in closer to the shore line to feed and topwater action will start to happen, first will be the largemouth bass. I know I am getting excited.
The surface water temperature this morning ranged from 45 – 47 degrees. The lake is fairly stable with a slight lowering of the lake level with both generators running continuously. The current lake level is 560.62 feet MSL which is roughly 7 feet over normal seasonal pool. Some coves and various areas of the lake are still discolored from the recent rains, but all the areas that I have been to are start to clear up nicely.
Happy fishing and see you on the lake.