Fish Species of Lake Norman - What Kind of Fish Are in Lake Norman?

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    Lake Norman

    Fall at Lake Norman
    ••• Fran Jeanes/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    Lake Norman makes a great day-trip destination from Charlotte. Many different species of fish inhabit Lake Norman - including crappie, bream, several types of bass, several types of catfish and plenty more. Take a look at some of the lake's most common residents, and find out a little more about their average sizes and where to find them in the lake, as well as Lake Norman specific regulations on size and number. Keep an eye out for these fish on your next North Carolina fishing trip.

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    Black Bullhead

    Black Bullhead
    ••• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    The black bullhead catfish has an average length of 6 to 10 inches, a little smaller than other bullheads. Like most catfish, it's nocturnal - feeding at night (although young will feed during the day). You'll find them in stagnant, muddy water, as well as closed places like lake outlets or under dams.​

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    Blue Catfish

    Blue catfish ictalurus furcatus
    ••• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    The blue catfish is one of the largest species of catfish. It's not native to this area ​but was placed in the lake as part of stocking programs. The current record for a blue catfish caught in Lake Norman is 85 pounds. Generally, they will grow from 18 to 24 inches as an adult. The best places to find them is below dams, as they tend to like deeper water. Blue catfish are regarded by many as one of the best-tasting fish, so these are target species for those looking to make a meal out of their catch.​

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    A bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) at the University of Mississippi Field Station.
    ••• Fredlyfish4/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

    The adult size of a bluegill is usually about 7 to 11 inches, and they generally weigh less than a pound. They're easily identified by a black spot on their ear flaps. These fish are regularly stocked in Lake Norman as food for larger fish, especially largemouth bass. They like to hide in and around underwater vegetation and structures, and alternate between deep or shallow water depending on the season.​

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    Channel Catfish

    Channel Catfish
    ••• Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    The channel catfish is America's most common species of catfish. It's easily identified by a distinctive forked tails and dark spots on the body.They have a top size of about 45 pounds, but a 10 pounder is a very good catch for most anglers. Around two to four pounds is common for Lake Norman. They will usually seek areas with clean bottoms - in warm, quiet areas. They'll be found near rock ledges, weedy areas, log jams, and dams.

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    Black crappie fish
    ••• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    Black crappie are very common in Lake Norman and are a favorite sporting fish of the waters. A number of crappie fishing tournaments are held on the lake each year. The black crappie usually grows anywhere from 4 to 8 inches long. They can generally be found in areas with clear water and plenty of cover (like submerged timber or vegetation). They're easiest to catch during feeding times - from about midnight until around 2 a.m. and from about 4 to 7 a.m. In Lake Norman, there's a minimum size limit of 8 inches, and a daily limit of 20.

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    Largemouth Bass

    Largemouth bass fish art work micropterus salmoides
    ••• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    The largemouth bass is an olive green fish, with a series of dark splotches that form a horizontal stripe along each flank. Their adult size tends to be about 14 inches, and their weight is about 2 or 3 pounds. Some anglers prefer largemouth because they generally put up a good fight when they're being reeled in. In Lake Norman, you'll catch them around the islands, as well as structures like boat docks and rocky areas. They'll also be found feeding under schools of shad. There's a minimum size limit of 14 inches in Lake Norman (you may have one or two that are less than 14 inches, but no more), and a daily limit of 5.

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    ••• USFWSmidwest/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The sauger (also called the sand pike, jack salmon or spotted trout), a close relative of the walleye, usually grows to about 10 to 18 inches. They're long and thin, with dark backs, shiny brass sides, a pale underside and dark spots. The current record for a sauger in Lake Norman is 5 pounds, 15 ounces. While they once were popular, sauger are only found in the lake very rarely now.

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    Smallmouth Bass

    Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
    ••• Timothy Knepp, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    The smallmouth bass is usually brown with dark brown vertical bands and red eyes. Males tend to range around 2 pounds, while females range from 3 to 7 pounds. You'll find them in clear, cooler waters. In Lake Norman, there's a minimum size limit of 14 inches (you may have one or two that are less than 14 inches, but no more), and a daily limit of 5.

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    Spotted Bass

    Spotted Bass From The Coosa River, Wetumpka, Alabama (Released)
    ••• Mike Cline/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

    The spotted bass is a slender, olive-colored fish with black splotches along its middle. It has an adult size of about 13 to 17 inches. The current record for a spotted bass in Lake Norman is 6 pounds, 11 ounces. You can usually find them around underwater vegetation. They also tend to prefer warm, cloudy waters. In Lake Norman, there's a minimum size limit of 14 inches (you may have one or two that are less than 14 inches, but no more), and a daily limit of 5.

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    Striped Bass

    Striped Bass
    ••• Timothy Knepp, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    The striped bass is Lake Norman's most popular fish. The current record for a striped bass in Lake Norman is 34 pounds. Fisherman will tell you that the best time for stripers in Lake Norman is at night or in the early morning, when the water is coolest. In the spring, you'll find them on the lake's shallow shoreline. In summer, they'll be in deeper waters. In Lake Norman, there's a 16 in minimum from October 1 to May 31, but no size limit from June 1 to Sept. 30. There's a year-round daily limit of 4.

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    Pike Perch or Wall-Eyed Pike (Stizostedium vitreum)
    ••• Freshwater and Marine Image Bank

    Walleye are large, olive colored fish that grow up to about 30 inches, but generally stay in the range of 20 inches. These fish are one of the most popular species in the lake for anglers. Since walleye spawn on rocky bottoms in shallow, clear water, you can find them in deeper water near those shallow areas. In Lake Norman, there's a minimum size of 15 inches, and a daily limit of 8.

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    White Bass

    A white bass, caught in Grosse Pointe Woods, MI. Date
    ••• BenitoJuarez98/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

    White Bass are silver with a white underside and lateral stripes on their side and back. They usually grow to about 10 to 12 inches and generally don't weigh more than a pound and a half. They're schooling fish, so they tend to gather in high numbers in clear, open water. In Lake Norman, there's no minimum size, but there is a daily limit of 25.

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    Yellow Perch

    Yellow perch fish perca flavescens
    ••• Raver Duane, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    The yellow perch grows anywhere from 4 to 10 inches in general. They're considered an easy catch and are often caught when they weren't the intended target species. They live in shallow water, so you usually won't catch them more than 30 feet deep. Many lures are designed to look like yellow perch since they're a source of food for larger fish. Anglers will often catch perch and use it as bait for a larger target.

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    Yellowfin Bream

    Yellowfin Bream-Acanthopagrus australis
    ••• Sylke Rohrlach/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    The bream usually grows anywhere from 12 to 22 inches long. These fish live in schools near the bottom of a lake, and will often feed close to the shore. Since bream often do not fight as hard as other fish when hooked (mostly due to their flat bodies), they're a good target for beginning fisherman or children.