Summer is officially a few weeks away, but as far as fishermen are concerned it has arrived.
Many bass, crappie and perch being caught near the banks a few weeks ago have moved to deeper water, where temperatures are lower and the bright rays of the sun are less intense.
When fish move to deep water, they are harder to find. But they gather in large groups and stay for days. Deep-water fishing isn't as popular with lake fishermen as it is with saltwater anglers, but what works on the coast will also produce great results on inland waters.
Saltwater fishermen have learned that fish relate to edges, ledges and drop-offs. The more dramatic the change in the bottom contour, the larger the concentration of fish.
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When you think about it, two of the lake's most popular fish, white perch and striped bass, have saltwater origins. In addition, black bass, particularly spotted bass, spend much of their time roaming the depths in search of forage fish near contour changes.
Deep-water fishing requires anglers to learn to read and interpret contour lines displayed on a GPS screen or a paper map and to distinguish fish images on a depth finder. That's easier said than done, but the learning curve improves with study and help from fellow anglers familiar with deep-water fishing.
Fish spend a great deal of time in deep water searching for food or merely using the channels as highways to swim up and down the lake. As a rule, the warmer the water, the deeper the fish will be.
So don't think you're fishing too deep when your fish finder registers 60 or 70 feet. Although the fish may not be right on the bottom, they will be at the depth they find comfortable.
To help anyone interested in better understanding how to use electronics to locate bass, stripers, white perch and catfish in deep water, a seminar is planned 6:30 p.m. June 25. See "Coming events" below for details.
If you are not sure where to drop your lure in deep water, the following suggestions may be helpful.
Bass: Underwater islands, deep points and brush.
Crappie: Bridge pilings, deep brush.
Stripers: Deep points, edges of river and creek channels, underwater islands.
White perch: Deep coves and brush.
A free safe-boating class, "How to Navigate Lake Norman, Day or Night," will be 6:30-8 p.m. June 15 at North Point Watersports, off Interstate 77 Exit 36 in Mooresville. Topics will include "Understanding Lake Norman's Channel Marker and Buoy System," "Identifying and Learning How to Avoid the 10 Most Dangerous Spots" and "Interpreting Lake Maps." For information, call me at 704-617-6812 or email Gus@LakeNoman.com.
A free seminar, "How to Catch More Fish This Summer Using Sonar and GPS," will be 6:30-8 p.m. June 22 at Gander Mountain, off I-77 Exit 36 in Mooresville. Jake Bussolini and I will lead the discussion. Bring your questions and fish finder/GPS instruction booklets. Call 704-658-0822.
Minnows are difficult to keep alive in a bait bucket during the hot summer months. Change the water frequently and use an aeration device to inject air bubbles into the water.
Spotted bass are schooling offshore over steep points and around brush in water to 35 feet. Shaky heads, buck tails and spoons are the baits of choice when fish are deep. White perch are being caught on small minnows and Sabiki rigs along the edges of river and creek channels. Cat fishing is good to very good during the day and at night. Use cut bait for blues and flatheads and stink baits for channel cats.
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 1.8 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 2.7 feet below full pond on Mountain Island Lake.