Forecast for Lake Norman

By: Captain Craig Price

“Beware the Ides of March” the soothsayer warns in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Caesar would have been wise to heed the warning. According to Wikipedia, he was assassinated on March 15, obviously bad news for him in its own right, but especially bad because most gamefish are in full pre-spawn feeding mode by mid to late March. Poor ole Caesar probably missed the bite that year, and every year after.

More recently, March continues to be a transition month when the last strong weather fronts of winter push through central NC with lots of wind and rain as winter gives way to spring begrudgingly. Growing up here, our deepest snows always came in March when southerly fronts containing gulf moisture collided with cold air from the artic. In between the fronts, the conditions could be quite balmy.

The ever-changing weather presents challenges for area anglers, but opportunities are also part of the deal. This a great time of year to catch big bass, hybrids, perch, and crappie. These fish are fat from winter feeding and full of eggs or milt, and they become more aggressive in March’s warming water as they “feed up” before spawning.

More so than in times of stable weather (summer), anglers may need to adapt their fishing techniques and locations numerous times this month. Water temperature and multi-day weather patterns are the keys, though other forces like longer days and moon phases influence late winter, early spring fish behavior.

Though not a March summation without exceptions, strong wind (and rain) generally scatters the bait and moves gamefish deeper. Stretches of warmer days with lighter winds generally allows the bait to gang back up, and the gamefish move shallower to feed when the forage goes to warmer water in shallow or near the surface.

The overall warm up usually happens on a different schedule every year, and some years it might not happen until April. A good rule of thumb follows: As long as the water temps remain below 50F, look for hybrids, spotted bass, and perch along the floodplain or points in the river channel, or in creeks impacted by the power plant hot water discharges. As water temps climb above 50F, look for true pre-spawn staging to increase in creeks, on primary and secondary points near the mouths of coves, or on drops near flats and shallow banks.

Pay particular attention to south facing shores near protected pockets where the water warms more quickly than north facing or stretches exposed to recent wind. Don’t overlook docks with black encapsulated floatation on sunny afternoons, they radiate warmth into the water and gamefish alike.

As always, it’s a matter of determining the depth the fish prefer on any given day, and presenting baits they’ll strike. In early March, I’m often still employing my winter trolling setup, mainly using artificial lures I can troll quickly while chasing the open water bite. By late March, I’m back to deploying live baits and fishing more specific targets (points, humps) with a combination of free lines and/or down rods.
Capt. Craig Price is locally born and raised, and has been fishing the Catawba River and its impoundments since the 1960’s. As his guide business has grown, his area of operations has also grown to include numerous freshwater lakes in NC & SC, plus inshore saltwater charters along the coasts of both states. Capt. Craig is a master rated USCG licensed captain, fully insured, and trained in first aid/CPR. Visit or call 704-996-0946 to book your fishing adventure today.