Warming weather attracts fish to banks of Lake Norman
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Saturday, Apr. 05, 2014

Warming weather attracts fish to banks of Lake Norman

When it comes to change, fish – like people – don’t always like it.

The best example is weather. Quick changes in temperature and wind direction keep fish from feeding for a couple of days, and that makes fishing tough.

That’s what happened in March; it was difficult for some to bag a limit when they fished right after a weather system had passed through. Thank goodness history shows that April has more stable weather than March. Here’s hoping that will be the case this year.

Anglers should expect warming water temperatures to draw all species toward the banks, where they are easier to catch. Bass and crappie will be spawning in shallow water and eating small fish and insects that hatch each spring.

The optimal word is “shallow”: If the water is deep enough for fish to swim, they are probably nearby. Logical places to cast for bass are in sandy coves with overhanging branches and where bushes are growing out of the water. Crappie will hold tight to trees and branches in water only a foot or two deep.

Best lures for bass are bottom-bumping soft plastics, swim, jerk, spinner and buzz baits. Not to be overlooked is the Alabama rig, which has taken the bass-fishing community by storm in recent years.

In addition, bass minnows – even though shunned by tournament fishermen – are deadly when pitched near a bass that’s tending its nest. Bigger is better when using live bait during nesting season: Use the largest minnows you can find.

Crappie fishermen have two bait choices: small minnows or jigs. While both are productive in shallow water, minnows seem to get the best results.

If in doubt, use both by tipping the jig with a minnow hooked through the lips or eye sockets. A typical brush pile yields three to 12 crappies, sometimes more. Rather than waste time trying to catch the stragglers, just move to the next spot.

Not all bass and crappies are near the bank. There are those that spawned in March or will be spawning during the next full moon. These fish are staging in deeper water, where they can be tricked into hitting Texas- and Carolina-rigged soft plastics or crank baits.

Don’t forget the dock bass and boathouse crappie that seem to lurk in the shadows year round. When all else fails, give them a try.

Warming water temperatures activate catfish, particularly channel and blue cats that roam the back coves in April. If you don’t have time to buy stink baits or catch a sunfish for cut bait, open the refrigerator for a piece of cheese, slice of pepperoni or a few leftover shrimp. Catfish will eat anything that smells – the worse the odor, the better.

See you out there!

Tip from Capt. Gus

A cup or two of dry dog food thrown around the dock each day will not only feed the ducks but will act as chum to attract fish. To prevent the pieces from floating away, allow the dog food to soak in water for a few minutes before using.

Hot spots of the week

Anglers seeking big bass are casting the shallows for bedding fish. Those hoping for a quick limit are throwing jerk baits and Alabama rigs off river and creek channel points.

Crappie fishing has improved. Twenty-fish limits are being taken from a wide range of depths, mostly from water less than 10 feet deep.

White perch are also shallow, where they are feeding on spawning threadfin shad. Best lures to use are small spoons and rooster tails.

Lake Norman’s water level is about 2.1 feet below full pond, and the level is 2.9 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake. The surface water temperature is in the 50s and 60s in water not affected by power generation on Lake Norman.

Upcoming events

“How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night” is a free safe-boating class at Morning Star Marina at Kings Point, Exit 28, Cornelius, 6:30 p.m. April 9. Becky Johnson and I will cover topics that include “Understanding LKN’s Channel Marker and Buoy System,” “How to Avoid Shallow Water,” “The 10 Most Dangerous Spots” and “Interpreting Lake Maps.” For information, call Ashley at 704-892-7575.

“Bass Fishing around Rocks, Docks and Drop-offs on LKN” is a free 90-minute fishing seminar Jake Bussolini and I will conduct at 6:30 p.m. April 16 at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville. For information, call 704-658-0822.

Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Gus? Email him at gus@lakenorman.com.

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