Fishing with Gus: Appeal to what fish want in prey
Friday, Jun. 06, 2014

Fishing with Gus: Appeal to what fish want in prey

It’s been said many times, “To catch a fish, you have to think like a fish.”

Think like a fish? Well, maybe they don’t think, but they do respond to weather, water temperature and seasonal conditions. They also react to basic senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.

So the angler who targets a particular species tries to appeal to the behavior patterns of that fish.

For example, catfish are most active when water is warm. They depend on smell, not sight, to find forage. Since their eyesight is relatively poor, compared to other species, they’re often caught after dark and in muddy water.

Knowing that, the astute angler uses baits that emit a scent and, in turn, will attract the nosy catfish. The smell of chicken, shrimp, blood and garlic are particularly appealing. Chicken livers and strips of chicken breasts laced with garlic powder are popular baits with Lake Norman anglers.

Bass use sound and sight to alert them when prey is within striking distance. Lures that vibrate, pop, buzz or rattle are used frequently. Sound-producing lures are particularly effective at night or in dingy water.

Lures that flash or sparkle are preferred on sunny days, when bass can see bait coming from long distances. For whatever reason, chartreuse is a popular color throughout the year. Use light -colored lures when conditions are bright; dark colors are better during low light periods.

Sunfish relish direct sunlight and warm water, while most other fish shy away from those. Summer is a prime time to catch these feisty fish.

The sunfish depends on its sense of sound to alert him about bugs either hitting the water or swimming gingerly on the surface. When targeting sunfish, anglers pitch popping bugs, worms and crickets along shallow stretches of sun-drenched shorelines.

Striped bass are opportunistic feeders and dine on a variety of foods, including worms, eels, clams and shrimp, as well as many species of fish. In order to eat well, they use sight, sound and smell to find every meal.

While considered a coldwater fish, striped bass can tolerate water temperatures ranging from the high 30s to the mid-70s.

In addition, striped bass are anadromous fish, which means that in the wild, they live in salt water and migrate to fresh water to spawn. But when stocked in fresh water, striped bass can live a full life.

Coming events

Free safe boating class: “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night” will be offered 6:30 p.m. June 11 at The Peninsula Yacht Club, 18501 Harbor Light Blvd., Cornelius. Becky Johnson and I will cover topics that include “Understanding Lake Norman’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.

Free fishing seminar: “How to Catch Summer Bass, White Perch and Crappie” will be held 6:30 p.m. June 18 at Gander Mountain, at Interstate 77 Exit 36, Mooresville. Jake Bussolini and I will conduct this 90-minute seminar. For information call 704-658-0822.

Hot spots of the week

Cat fishing has been excellent since the last week of May. Best bets are shallow flats adjacent to deep water.

White perch have hit their summer stride as well; some anglers are catching 50 or more per outing.

Crappies are still biting but have moved to deeper surroundings. The best time to catch them shallow is after dark around lighted docks and under lanterns suspended over the water.

Bass are being caught regularly by those casting soft plastic and jerk baits to docks and channel points. Water levels are higher than normal, and that has bass hitting topwater lures in the backs of coves at dawn and dusk.

Tip from Gus

Q. Where can I catch live bait?

This time of year, shad locate in the back of coves and creek channels, particularly where the water is shallow and murky. On calm evenings, they can be found schooling on the surface in coves and boat basins. After dark, they congregate around lighted docks and bridge pilings.

Water conditions

The surface water temperature varies by location but is mainly in the 80s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 1.2 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 3.1 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake.

Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer and fishing guide on Lake Norman. Have a story idea for Gus? Email him at

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