According to a report compiled and published by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in May 2014, there were 143 boating accidents statewide during 2013.
The majority – 126 – were nonfatal; 17 accidents resulted in 19 deaths. Further, there were 180 vessels involved in the 143 accidents, and 89 people required medical treatment.
The year 2013 ended with a total of 304,658 boats registered throughout the state, a decrease of 4,831 from 2012. Statewide boat registrations are off the peak of 371,255 in 2007. Closer to home, the total number of boats registered in the four counties that border Lake Norman was 31,697 – down from 32,311 in 2012 and 36,854 in 2011. A breakdown of boats registered by counties shows Mecklenburg with 11,852, Iredell with 9,262, Catawba with 6,179 and 4,404 in Lincoln County at the end of 2012.
Lake Norman had 14 boating accidents, up from eight in 2012, and ranking it second in the state behind the Intracoastal Waterway, with 18. The bad news was that four fatal boating accidents happened on Lake Norman in 2013.
Statewide, the leading type of fatal accidents involved the victim either jumping or falling overboard. The types of nonfatal accidents, accounting for 46 cases, were collisions with another vessel and/or collision with a fixed object. Operator inattention, operator inexperience, faulty machinery/equipment/hull, excessive speed, and careless/reckless operation were also among the leading causes of nonfatal accidents.
For information about the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-approved boating safety courses, visit the following websites:
• N.C. Resources Commission: www.ncwildlife.org.
• U.S. Power Squadron: www.usps.org.
• U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary: www.uscgaux.org.
• Lighthouse Marine Service: www.Lmservice.org.
A total of 16,877 students received boater education certificates in 2013, compared to 25,523 in 2012.
There were 43,938 personal water craft registered statewide and 9,332 registrations were in the four counties that border Lake Norman.
As in years past, the 2013 Boating Accidents and Fatalities report should be a red flag to boaters, particularly the statistics concerning operator inattention, carelessness/reckless driving, and the fact that a large number of the boaters on N.C. waterways have not completed an approved boater safety course.
Safe boating is no accident. Do your part to make Lake Norman a safer place to navigate and enjoy.
Free safe-boating class: “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night” will be the topic at The Peninsula Yacht Club, 18501 Harbor Light Blvd., Cornelius, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 10. Becky Johnson and I will cover “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.
Free fishing seminar: “How to Use Topographic Maps to Improve Your Fishing” is the topic for discussion at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17. Jake Bussolini and I will discuss the basics of interpreting topographic maps and pinpoint some of the best fishing locations on Lake Norman. Call 704-658-0822 for information.
Tip from Capt. Gus
On Lake Norman, there is a 16-inch size limit for striped bass and hybrid striped bass, while the daily creel limit is four in combination. “In combination” means the total number for all species (striped and hybrid) combined.
Nice catches of legal-size hybrid stripe bass have been reported on both sides of the N.C. 150 bridge. While surface feeding happens at times, the majority of fish being caught are suspended at depths of 20 feet to 35 feet in waters up to 60 feet. Many of the hybrids range in size from 16 inches to 20 inches. Best baits are live minnows, shad and herring along with A-rigs, bucktail jigs and spoons. Swimming with the hybrids are “schoolie”-size spotted bass and white perch weighing up to a pound. Spots are also being caught while breaking the surface on points and around open water dropoffs. Top water lures, like the Rebel Pop R and the Rio Rico are lures of choice. Warming water temperatures have blue catfish hitting a variety of baits, including fresh cut shad, herring, perch and bream.
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 2.9 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 2.5 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake.