Largemouth bass abundance declined during the 1990s while spotted bass populations were expanding at the same time. In response, WRD began stocking largemouth bass in Lake Nottely in 2005 to supplement largemouth bass reproduction. Since then, the largemouth bass population has returned to historical levels. Sampling in spring 2013 showed that the average largemouth weighed around a pound and a half, but several fish greater than five pounds were collected.
Largemouth bass feed on a variety of organisms including small sunfish, crayfish and blueback herring. Live baits or artificial baits that imitate these natural food sources will be the key to success. During the winter, when bass are lethargic, slow-moving presentations like pig and jig combinations worked around fallen trees and along creek channels are effective. In general, bass will bite better in the afternoon when the water temperature reaches its daily peak. Bass spawn in April and May in shallow water near visible structure. Shallow running lures, jerk baits and plastic lizards are effective during the spawning period when worked around visible structure. In the summer, largemouth bass retreat to deeper water in the 20 to 40-feet depth range where they can enjoy cooler temperatures. Drop shot and Carolina rigged soft plastics worked along points are a good choice for summer largemouths. The fall presents another set of challenges as bass transition from their deepwater summer hiding places in search of food to build their fat reserves for the winter ahead. Blueback herring are their primary food source during the fall months. Cover a lot of water in the major coves and around the dam during the early morning and evening with crankbaits, spinner baits and jerk baits that imitate blueback herring. During the day, fish the points with crankbaits and pig and jig combinations that imitate crayfish.
Largemouth bass typically prefer coves and small pockets in the upper half of the lake. Bass are especially attracted to visible shore cover such as trees, rocks and boathouses as well as to underwater creek channels and points. WRD's annual bass sampling revealed higher numbers of largemouth bass in Ivy Log Creek and Young Cane Creek as well as the small pockets that occur all the way up to Canal Lake. The rocky face along Nottely Dam is a good secondary alternative.
Spotted bass are abundant in Lake Nottely and outnumber largemouth bass by a ratio of 3 to 1. Spotted bass ranging from 8 to 12 inches and weighing around half a pound are plentiful, though anglers will still encounter a few larger fish. Anglers are encouraged to harvest small spotted bass in hopes of reducing their population numbers and promoting better growth rates.
During the winter months, spotted bass prefer live baits such as blueback herring, nightcrawlers or shiners fished near visible or submerged structure. During the spring, spotted bass will take a variety of artificial lures that imitate a blueback herring or other natural food source. In the summer months, spots will feed on the surface at dusk and dawn then retreat to deeper water during the bright daylight hours. For the fall months, spotted bass become aggressive feeders as they attempt to build their fat reserves to help them survive the winter. Anglers will need to use a variety of baits and attempt to cover a lot of water in order to determine what depth, bait and presentation the fish are looking for on a particular day.
Spotted bass are open water predators and will follow the schools of blueback herring throughout the year. The steep rocky points on the lower half of the lake and along the rocky face of the dam are prime habitats for spotted bass. During the winter, spotted bass will follow blueback herring along the dam. Drifting live herring or slowly working jerk baits along the dam are also effective techniques for catching sluggish spotted bass during the winter time. Late-afternoon to dusk is the prime feeding period for bass during the winter time. An alternative winter technique is to fish the rocky points on the lower end of the lake with soft plastics and crayfish imitations. Spotted bass will move into shallow water in April and May to spawn. Fast moving, shallow running lures and jerk baits are very effective this time year. Focus on casting to fallen trees. In the summer, fish around the steep, rocky shorelines with fish head spins and drop shot rigs tipped with soft plastics. Also watch for surface feeding spotted bass during the early morning and evening in the vicinity of the dam. Spotted bass will concentrate on a number of WRD artificial reefs marked with buoys around the lake. With the onset of fall, spotted bass will take a wide variety of baits and lures. It is important to cover a lot of water with an assortment of lures and presentations.
Lake Nottely is stocked with striped bass annually, and the survival of these stocked fish each year drives the population numbers. Survival has been relatively good in recent years, but a weak year class from 2012 may mean the number of small fish present will be lower than normal. The good news is that when anglers find striped bass on Nottely, there is a good chance they will be quality-sized. Fall sampling by WRD found stripers measuring more than 30 inches (~20 pounds).
Striped bass in Lake Nottely feed primarily on blueback herring and large gizzard shad. A good electronic fish finder coupled with an understanding of the seasonal movements of these bait species will greatly increase your chances of catching a Nottely striper. In the winter months, drifting live herring or gizzard shad at various depths near the dam is the most likely place to find stripers during the cold weather. From late March through May, stripers will move into creek channels and into the Nottely River channel. Casting jerk baits and bucktail jigs as well as trolling live herring behind planer boards are all effective methods for catching stripers during the spring. In the summer, stripers retreat to deep water in search of cooler temperatures. As summer progresses, stripers migrate toward the dam. Downlining over schools of stripers or trolling live bluebacks on lead core line are your best bets during the summer. When the water temperature consistently drops below 75 degrees, stripers will resume feeding at the surface. Look for surface feeding fish on the lower lake during low light conditions. During the day, return to downlining and trolling methods to catch suspended fish over deep water.
Striped bass roam throughout the entire lake and can be found anywhere between the surface and the bottom depending on the time of year. Despite their wide distribution throughout the lake, there are some seasonal patterns that emerge to help striper anglers narrow their search. In general, the deep, open water on the lower lake provides the best striper habitat for most of the year, especially in vicinity of the dam. However, when the water temperature ranges between 50 and 70 degrees, striper fishing can be very exciting in shallow water. During this temperature window that occurs in spring and fall, striped bass can be caught on artificial lures in shallow water, but knowing where to look is the key. First, scan the open water for surface feeding fish. Second, look for feeding activity on the points and flats from the mouth of Ivy Log and Youngcane Creeks all the way to the back and into the creek. You may be surprised to find huge stripers in just a few feet of water. Also look for stripers in other places such as Chastain Branch and in the Nottely River. If the wind is blowing, concentrate your efforts on windblown points in these same coves and along the main river channel in the upper half of the lake between the Deavertown boat ramp and Canal Lake boat ramp.
Black crappie are relatively abundant in Lake Nottely. Crappie greater than 10 inches should be more plentiful than normal in the coming year.
Minnows and minnow-tipped jigs are most productive. Small curly-tailed jigs or hair jigs are a suitable alternative for those who prefer to use artificial lures.
Targeting visible structure in relatively shallow water is the key to locating crappie on Lake Nottely in March and April. The upper lake from Reece Creek to Canal Lake seems to support the highest numbers of crappie. Outside of the spring spawning season, crappie retreat to deeper water and will be found schooling around submerged structure, especially fallen trees or standing timber.
Bream, catfish and carp also are available in Lake Nottely. For larger bream, anglers should target spawning beds on sandy bottoms in 4 to 10-feet of water from May - August. Live earthworms, crickets or small jigs are effective bream baits.
If interested in catfish, target the upper half of the reservoir using nightcrawlers or chicken livers. During early spring, the Nottely River is packed with channel catfish.
Carp are plentiful in Lake Nottely and can be great fun to catch. Entice carp with prepared catfish baits, corn or dough balls in shoreline areas adjacent to the Jacks Creek boat ramp, Deavertown ramp and Canal Lake ramp. To increase your chances of catching carp, anglers should consider baiting a hole with one to two gallons of whole kernel corn a day or two before you want to fish.
The WRD and U.S. Forest Service work together each year to place artificial fish attractors at selected cove sites around the lake. For information concerning attractor locations call the Wildlife Resources Division office at 770-535-5498.