Fishing Lake James NC, Guide, Best Spots, Species & Map

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Introducing to Lake James

You can imagine the importance of fishing in Lake James of North Carolina just by knowing its size. Lake James is the 7th largest fishing lake in more than 60 reservoirs of the state. It is also not one of the natural reservoirs in state but it was made by the Duke Power company. So it is well designed and maintained clean and clear as crystal.

Lake James in situated in the state park area in the Burke and McDowell county in western North Carolina. In its surrounding there are several small cities and population areas especially in the east. Marion and west Marion are the nearest areas in west of the lake in the same (McDowell county). Other large cities like Morganton, Hickory and newton are in eastern side.

Lake James is a perfect and the most beautiful environment for fishing in its area. Its has that every thing an angler would possibly need from shores to deep waters and land mass inside waters. Moreover as its one of the largest lakes in the entire state so it offers more than 6500 acres of area to explore. Anglers are constantly enjoying fishing on the James’s 150 miles of shoreline.

There is space for boating too so you can cast your lines from a kayak or a small fishing boat. The best part is that you can also rent a boat and launch from either the boat landing in the south or other parts of it. Overall the lake James is an ideal fishing spot for many fish species at different places from bank or at a kayak.

Despite the facts this reservoir does not have any trout in it. If you are a fly fishing or trout fishing angler these are the best trout fishing lakes in north Carolina.

Fishing species at lake James

The lake James is known for its varieties of fish populations near its coastline or deep waters depending on type of fish. Many different fish are having significant populations while others are just showing their presence in the water. Here is the list of fish that anglers are fishing most of the times. Most of these are dominant over the lake and having large population. Fishing the large populations and dominant fish species at lake James is incredibly easier compared to other fishing spots.

Largemouth bass

Lake James has great presence of largemouth bass in its deeper waters and shallow places. Excluding the deepest points of waters, they are all around in the medium to deep waters of the lake. Bass usually surprise anglers during the after September and before April ends. They are in significant amount during these 6 to 7 months, you will catch them quite easily and quickly after casting your line at lake James.

As the habitat of bass is unlike the trout, it stays in a little deep water but not at extreme depth. You should be targeting areas near the coastline and places that has bushes. A little shadowy areas are incredibly affective to try your lure.

The size of fish will significantly depend on what place you choose. So be super picky choosing your spot to fish bass in the lake James of North Carolina. Overall the lake James is incredibly great place for fishing bass. And you will find many anglers fishing year round on this reservoir.

Smallmouth bass


Almost the same as largemouth bass fishing smallmouth is also very popular in lake James. You will find it easily pretty much at any corner around the lake and they are super easy to catch. Due to their great populations in the water your duration of waiting for the expected to be lower. However you should be using the best tactics you can to improve your chances even more.

Having a boat or a kayak will help you so much as they are usually away from shoreline. Finding them near shoreline will be harder but if you have to fish from bank you should be targeting the hard bottom waters of shoreline. February to April are proven best times for fishing smallmouth bass in lake James.

Fishing smallmouth with best tricks in the James may surprise you. There are tons of smallmouths in lake James waiting for anglers to fish.

Crappie fishing Lake James

Crappie is the favorite fish of large group of anglers fishing regularly on the lake James of north Carolina. And they choose this place for fishing crappie not just to waste a ton of time. But it is actually has brilliant crappie in a lot of places. I will never say that the crappie of lake James is not in a large amount. It is among the dominant fishing species over the entire water area, some people even prefer it over bass.

I (the author) have seen many moving Morganton and not excited for anything except the crappie of lake James. There is no match of the quality of crappie in the area and not even in the state. Finding a trophy size crappie might be hard but the population is amazing.

Fishing crappie in the James is dream for many anglers as you may have a bite in each minute. Its the best place to fish crappie in the area. Months from March to June are the best to target crappie in the waters.

Walleye fishing lake James

You will be surprised to know that James is having those rare species as well. The Walleye is quite rare to find in north Carolina. Even the largest reservoirs and the best ever spots are having no Walleye in their waters. Its very hard to find the species over the state anywhere form east to west. The lake James is one of the only places in the entire state that offers great walleye near its shorelines.

They are most of the times near the coastline to catch and during the day hours its harder to find them. Your chances to are even more higher if you cast your line during night time. That is because the walleye usually avoid try to find food during night hours due to their better night vision.

preparing for walleye fishing at lake James at sunset time


Its not wrong to say that the lake has some of the best walleye in the state. Because most places don’t even have walleye in the state. However walleye are not in significant populations like basses are but they have good presence.

Muskie fishing

During springs you might find muskie at the lake’s shores in a covered area. You just have to find a woody area where there are trees or bushes, rocky areas are also perfect. You might not find it during other months or season or it will be so hard to find them.

Generally they are available during fall and spring but spring is the best season for lake James muskie fishing. Most of the people are using shallow invader lure but in general all swimbaits are the best.

White bass Fishing lake James

It is also one of the most easily available fish species in the lake. You will find it during the months of March to May. These are among the easy bites on the James so you should catch them easily at any part in the water.

These are usually in the deep waters so having a boat will really help you out. You should target the deepest places available if you are casting from shore for white bass.

Other species

As mentioned before that the lake has plenty of to fish. Other than these most easily available fish species, there are other fish as well in it. These are just having a presence in the lake they are not available at a large scale to find easily.

Blue catfish, northern pike and stripped bass are rarely available in the james. Although these are not large populations but you may still find them in the peak of their season. Many anglers have caught catfish or pike accidentally casting their line for other species.

Best spots For fishing in lake James

The habitat of crappie likes to be in shallower water not only in lake James but at any place. They are usually found in the muddy areas and areas near the bank of the reservoir. The best thing that can help reduce the waiting duration is the season. You should be targeting the places where they usually spawn in shallow waters. They usually spawn in cover of a bush or rocks or timber. The best places in lake James are the arms of the waterbody especially the long arm near the bridge.

For basses specifically for largemouth bass are you should be targeting the places. The place where the old paddy creek is falling into the reservoir is ideal for largemouth bass.

Muskies are usually found very near to the coast or shoreline of the water. The Catawba arm and Catawba river fall place in lake James the most easy place for muskie.

Walley are most likely to be caught at night because they feed mostly after sun fall.

Final words

If you live somewhere near lake James you should not be avoiding it for any of the species. It is the most amazing fishing lake in the state of north Carolina. In case if you do not live near and had a chance to visit on a fishing trip then our recommendation is to never think of ignoring this amazing lake. It is an incredibly beautiful and loaded with fish. Its important for anglers who like to be fishing variety of fish or any of these species.

You will not find a better place to fish than lake James in the state.

please be aware of the rules and regulations of fishing in the lake James.