"Because the lake has two hot-water discharges, we can have some good fishing days during winter," said guide Craig Price of Denver (Fish On! Lake Norman Fishing Guide Services, 704-996-0946, www.fishonlakenorman.com).
Those hot spots include a creek north of the Marshall Steam Plant and one north of the Cowan's Ford Nuclear Plant at Lake Norman's southern tip.
"During cold winter days, when the wind is right, that hot water definitely helps us," Price said.
The veteran guide, who slow trolls live bait for striped bass, spotted bass, perch and largemouth bass, lives near the Cowan's Ford nuclear plant and the lake's dam, so he usually fishes at Ramsey Creek.
"Everybody here knows when the wind direction is south to southwest, it pushes hot water into Ramsey Creek, and that's where I spend most of my time," Price said. "The water temperature, in the 40s elsewhere on the lake, will be in the mid-50s in the creek, and that's ideal for stripers and spotted bass.
"Ramsey Creek also is a little more rocky and has some sandy banks that keep warm water in it better than any other area on the lake, I believe, so spots do well there in the dead of winter."
Using six rods, Price slow trolls large shiners (2- to 4-inches long) and rainbow trout (4- to 6-inches).
"We get shiners and trout from local bait shops," he said. "If we're slow trolling and get over a school of fish, I'll change to bucktails or lead jigging spoons, and we'll jig for fish."
Price said in the past when he saw a school of Lake Norman fish on his depth-finder, he could be almost certain they were stripers. But now he said they may be stripers, spotted bass and white perch, with a few largemouths or catfish in the mix.
"(Fish species) are mixed together now," he said. "You never know what you'll catch until you bring one up. If I get deep bumps (on larger baits) and fish don't hook up, I'll go to smaller size baits because it's usually spots or perch instead of stripers. They'll hit the same live baits, just different sizes."
Winter stripers average 18 to 25 inches in length at Lake Norman, Price said, while spotted bass usually weigh from 1 to 4 pounds. White perch average from 6 to 12 inches in length.
"The same things hold true at McCrary Creek north of the Marshall Steam plant," Price said. "When the wind blows warm water into that creek, you can catch stripers, spotted bass and perch using the same fishing technique."
If anglers don't fish Lake Norman's hot-water discharge areas, Price said another option is to try creek mouths that connect to main-lake channels.
"But you might be fishing 40- to 50-feet deep," he said. "Lead jigging spoons are effective on these fish. I also always keep a throwing rod rigged with a bucktail or a topwater lure in case I run across some surface-feeding fish."