Photo: Capt. Gus holds a Permit caught on recent visit to Belize.

The Permit is a hard fighting saltwater game fish found on shallow flats in tropical waters (Florida Keys, Bahamas, Belize). They can be caught on fly or spinning tackle. The average weight is around ten pounds. The one pictured was over thirty, It was on the line for over forty five minutes before being landed, photographed and released.

Brrrr!! The recent SUPER COLD weather has caused many fishermen to shiver! Boy is it difficult to concentrate on fishing when the body gets cold. So, how does one stay warm on a thirty-degree day with the wind blowing hard enough for the lake to whitecap?

It is most important to wear moisture wicking layers of clothing and an outerwear that don’t allow the cold wind or rain to penetrate. Pay particular attention to the head, hands and feet. If the extremities are cold, the rest of your body will feel even colder.

Hats, toboggans, buffs, facemasks and even motorcycle helmets help to the keep the face and head warm. Insulated Thinsulite gloves, mittens and pocket hand warmers will help to keep the hands dry and warm. The feet seem to be the hardest to stay warm, so heavy socks and waterproof, insulated shoes or boots are recommended. Anglers who seem to have the biggest problem keeping their feet warm are usually wearing athletic shoes of some type.

Catalytic heaters are nice to have on board. They might not keep you toasty warm, but they will help to keep the chill off your hands and face. A poplar version is the Coleman Catalytic Golf Cart Heater operated by a one-pound propane cylinder. I have one in a cup holder on the helm of my center console Ranger Bay Boat.

Staying warm is critical to a successful fishing trip, but sometimes staying dry is even more difficult. The clothes you wear are important, but how you trim and run the boat to minimize waves and spray can also be very important when trying to stay dry.

Choose fishing times based on weather conditions. Don’t go if the weather forecast is to be extremely cold with high winds or heavy rain. Remember, too, that a later start in the day, when air temperatures are usually higher, can make a difference.

January Lake Norman Fishing Forecast

By early January, most baitfish will have left the creeks and found their way to the river channel were water temperatures are a bit warmer. Above the shad and herring will be schools of bass, hybrids and perch. What makes deep-water fishing so good, is that baitfish and predators bunch up in tight knit schools, often near S-turns in the river channel or where two or more channels meet to form a delta.

Three easy ways to locate feeding fish are:

  1. Find diving seabirds feeding on baitfish that are pushed to the surface by hungry predators.
  2. Look for boats clustered in close proximity. Approach at slow speed to not scatter the fish.
  3. Watch for images of bait and fish on your sonar screen.

Once fish are found, a variety of methods can be used to catch them. Two of the most popular are: (1) suspend live baits, or (2) use jigging spoons (below the boat) just above the feeding fish. Best live baits to use are bass minnows, shad and herring. Bucktail jigs and metal jigging spoons are preferred by those deep dropping artificial lures. When bass and hybrids are surface feeding, a variety of top water lures, including jerk baits, shallow running crankbaits and Alabama rigs will do the trick. On days when fish are hard to locate, trolling is a viable option. Another choice is to fish the hot water discharge channels at the McGuire and Marshall power stations. Occasionally, bass and hybrids will be boiling the surface, particularly at dawn and on cloudy days. When they aren’t, lures fished near the bottom will reap rewards.

Those who wish to catch crappie should concentrate their efforts around bridge pilings, boathouses and submerged brush. Best baits are crappie minnows on 1/64th to 1/16th ounce jigs fished to forty feet.

The surface water temperature on Lake Norman is in the forties and the lake level is about 3.3′ below full pond.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures, Inc. is an Outdoor Columnist and a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his website at or call 704-617-6812.