With winter clinging to North Carolina like a deacon’s grip on a collection plate on Sunday morning, fishing success comes to anglers mostly in the forms of dreams — except at lakes that receive infusions of hot water. Take Lake Norman, for example.

“We got a lot of stuff going on right now at the upper hot hole above the Marshall (Steam) Plant and at the main channel from markers 5 to 10,” said guide Craig Price of Denver. “We’ve been seeing some of the biggest white perch and biggest bait schools — three-quarters of a mile long schools of herring in the main channel — I’ve ever seen. We’ve been catching spotted bass, stripers and smallish hybrids at the same places.”

That said, Price (704-996-0946) said most of Norman’s fish species have started their spring moves toward the shallows where they’ll spawn in coming weeks.

“I’m finding a lot of creeks at the mouths of creeks,” he said. “Mountain Creek has been good.” 

The white perch are stacked and may weigh from 1 to 1 ½ pounds, with females full of roe.

“I wish we didn’t have a single (perch) in the lake, but the (N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission) just passed a new rule where you can keep any white perch you land in a cast net west of I-95,” he said. “They want to knock back their numbers.”

Best lures for spotted bass and stripers are small minnows on 1- to 2-ounce Carolina rigs or Sabiki rigs with a jig or spoon tied to the bottom for perch.

“But stripers and spots also will hit Sabikis,” said Price, who has been catching fish on baits staggered from 15 to 40 feet deep in 25 to 90 feet of water.

“There’s been good striper fishing on either side of the NC 150 bridge, depending on which way the wind pushes the hot water,” he said. “I’ve caught ’em down to the mouth of Mountain Creek.”

When Price goes looking for stripers in that section, he trolls Little Fishie paddle-tail lures hooked to Alabama rigs.

“Sometimes I just hang one or two rods over the side,” he said. “Of course, the small minnows work, too.”

Anglers have caught 14- to 17-inch, 2-pound crappie at big, community docks near the upper hot hole.

“They’re moving to prespawn areas,” he said, “really quality 2-pounders.”