Norfork Lake fishing has been good for most species over the last week. Topwater activity has begun in earnest and will only get better. Crappie fishing continues to be very good and fishing for the 3 bass species has also continued to be strong. The latest species to show up more frequently is walleye.
Over the past week topwater action for striped, hybrid and white bass has been exciting. The best bite at this time for topwater activity is right before sunrise. The bite can last until the sun gets above the tree line. On cloudy days, it may last longer. I have been using 3 different baits for this action, a Zara Spook, a 1/2 ounce Kastmater and a 6 inch swimbait with a paddle tail and 3/8 ounce jig head. I have had the best luck with the swimbait. Prior to the feeding frenzy on topwater, I have been casting a jerkbait or a swimbait up to the shoreline. This time of year, stripers tend to feed on shad in very shallow water. As the sun gets higher in the sky striped bass tend to move out to a little deeper water. It appears that 30 feet down is where stripers are suspended during the middle part of the day. You can vertical jig for these fish or troll an umbrella rig. As the day wears on, look for topwater feeding fish about an hour or so before sunset. But your fishing day is not done at sunset, there is still a good after dark bite for striped, hybrid, large & smallmouth bass and walleye. The bite does not necessarily start right at dark, but can occur all though the night. The fish tend to feed heavily on shad after the sun goes down. Your fishing method after dark is to throw a suspending jerkbait, retrieving the bait very, very slowly with an occasional pause. The best place to find striped bass is from the mouth of the larger creeks to part way back. Main points and secondary points are good feeding spots for this species. If you find shad in the area, you can almost bet the stripers will not be too far away.
Crappie fishing has continued to be excellent. Most of the crappie have spawned out, but there are still a few continuing their spawn process. The best method that I have found is to slow troll a Berkley Flicker Minnow Pro about 1.2 to 1.5 mph in 20 to 30 feet of water. For best result make sure there are brush pile in your trolling path. The best colors have varied for me depending on the weather conditions. On a cloudy or dark day, I've been using a darker color such as the purple back and white body or the fire tiger pattern. The white, as well as, the purple and white tend to work the best on sunny days. You can also fish the traditional way of dropping a small jig or spoon in the brush or use a live minnow in the brush. I have found that crappie have been suspended 12 to 20 feet down on or very near brush with a few fish buried inside of the brush. Down imaging on your depth finder is absolutely amazing for seeing crappie inside of brush, as well as, for finding schools of crappie when they are roaming between brush piles.
Bass fishing has also been very good. My fish have been coming out of or very near the sunken buck brush along the shoreline. I use a fluke or a bass assassin with a weighted shank hook. I cast it into the brush and twitch it out. The hard part is getting the fish out of the brush without breaking off. There has been some good topwater action for bass and it can occur any time of day and also in any depth of water. This morning the bass started to chase shad in 80 feet of water and I got to land several quality fish on my big swim bait. After the early morning bite, start throwing some of your favorite plastics up near the sunken buck brush and then work it back slowly along the bottom. The fish will be from 8 to 20 feet down on the bottom. There are still a few bass continuing to spawn, but the spawn season for bass is almost to a close.
Most people's favorite fresh water fish to eat is walleye and they are starting to show up in all the same areas as the other species. Very early this morning (5AM) I found a large school of walleye feeding heavily. I was casting my swimbait and was getting a hit on every cast. Walleye tend to be very active in the dark. Swimbaits and jerkbaits are 2 great methods of fishing for walleye this time of year, not to say that live bait will not work great. Areas that I have found walleye, have been near brush in about 20 feet of water while trolling the Flicker Minnow for crappie. I have also caught a few throwing a jerkbait up next to brush very early or very late in the day when it is dark or almost dark. The other time to look for walleye is when you find a feeding frenzy on the surface, walleye will typically be hanging out below the feeding fish picking up the scraps and this can occur in any depth of water.
Norfork Lake's water level is rising very slowly due to the current rains and minimal power generation. The lake currently sits at 558.20 MSL. The surface water temperature this morning was 64 to 66 degrees and it typically rises some during the day, and then falls back during the evening. The main lake is clear and some of the smaller creeks and coves are stained.
Happy fishing and see you on the lake.