March on Norfork Lake is a great time for spring fishing. Here in the Ozarks our spring begins with the southerly winds which arrive in late February. The water warms fast and the stripers, crappie, bass and walleye all start their spawning migration. Once the water stays in the fifties the shad will move into the creeks to begin their spawn which triggers the fish to move up from the deep water and start heavy spring feeding. The major creek arms on Norfork are Pigeon, Bennett’s Bayou, Big Creek, and Brushy Creek. Float and Panther Creek will hold fish but they are short and the fish move in and out too fast to stay consistent. The major fishing patterns for Norfork are:
Stripers: I present the gizzard and threadfin shad using long lines with no weight, planner boards, and floats. Most of the lines will have no weight or just a split shot. I look for the most stained water in 30’ or less. This water will be the warmest and probably blowing to the north shores as the southern winds will warm that water faster. The great thing about March fishing is you can catch stripers every part of the day and night. The night bite begins again when the south winds warm the north shores. The main lures are Smithwick Rouges that are thrown parallel to the bank and reeled very slowly. The best bite is the first 3 hours after dark. Some of the biggest fish of the spring is caught at night.
Crappie: The crappie are in the final stage of their pre-spawn. Large schools are roaming the main channel and flats and in all the major creek arms. Depending on how fast the lake warms you can expect to catch crappies in stained shallow water and on the flats. The best technique is spider rigging, slow trolling with minnows and jigs. If the bite is slow move up to the stained shallows and probe the brush piles. Remember to look for the stain water with brush you will catch the most crappies there if they have moved off the flat.
Bass: March is one of my favorite times of year for bass. They are moving up to feed before their spawning cycle and can be caught on many different types of baits. My personal preference are spinner baits either chartreuse and white during the day or if its low light a black skirt with 1” or 3” black curly tail. Really if you’re into bass fishing you will be able to catch bass on any presentation. Look for the warmest stain water or find a creek arm where the wind has been pounding the shore you will find bass ready to take your lure.
Walleye: The walleye will be in their full spawning cycle in March. The best place to catch them using live bait is from Calamity Beach to the U.S.160 bridge. They will move into the shallows to spawn and slide back to the holes during the day. There are long stain water flats which hold the fish plus some deep holes from Bryant Creek up to the Udall boat ramp. The best bait is night crawlers on worm harnesses slow trolled using your trolling motor. Another great method is night fishing using rogues. You may catch a striper but if you target the pea gravel banks you should zero in on the walleye. Remember to reel slowly and keep changing your colors until you can find what they want.
March can be a fun month to catch fish but you should be prepared to have lots of wind, rain and cold weather mixed in with those sunny days. Tom & Sean Reynolds fish Lake Norfork and they guide out of Tracy Ferry Marina; you can reach him at www.stroutfitters.com, 870-421-1541 or on Facebook.