It has taken a few years, but hybrid striped bass now are being caught with some regularity by Lake Norman fishermen.
Recent weeks have brought nice catches by anglers fishing the main river channel from Marker 18 north to the Buffalo Shoals Road Bridge. Other reports are coming from Mountain Creek to as far south as Ramsey Creek.
While many of the hybrids taken measured longer than the legal size of 16 inches – and a few above 20 – the majority range from 12 to 15 inches.
The 12- to 16-inch hybrids most likely came from those stocked by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in 2013. The bigger and older ones probably were stocked by local anglers in previous years.
Hybrids have a reputation for growing quickly in the right conditions, so based on growth rate, it appears they fancy Lake Norman’s habitat.
One of the biggest concerns about hybrids’ viability in Lake Norman was erased earlier this summer, when no hybrids died in a fish kill that took the lives of hundreds of catfish, striped bass and carp.
The majority of hybrids caught in July were, incidentally, caught by anglers fishing for bass and perch at suspended depths to 40 feet around steep edges, ledges and dropoffs. To the surprise of many, hybrids fight very hard, stay deep and have broken the lines of inexperienced anglers many times.
As word spread about the size and quantity of hybrids in Norman, anglers have begun to target them with a combination of tactics used in the past to catch striped bass.
Deep-water trolling with Alabama rigs, roadrunners and long-lipped crank baits has been successful, as have deep jigging and live baiting.
For those not acquainted with freshwater hybrid striped bass, here are a few things you need to know:
• The hybrid is a cross between a female striped bass and male white bass, conceived under laboratory conditions at a fish hatchery.
• The hybrid seldom reproduces in nature, so it must be stocked annually for the fishery to prosper.
• The size limit is 16 inches long.
• The creel limit is four in combination with striped bass.
• The fish’s profile is similar to that of a white perch, but the hybrid has broken lateral black lines on the sides.
• The hybrid striped bass is called a “hybrid” or “bodie bass” in North Carolina, a “wiper” in Tennessee and a “sunshine bass” in Florida.
• The state record for a hybrid striped bass is 17 pounds, 7 ounces, caught in Lake Chatuge in Western North Carolina on March 15, 1996.
• Plans call for the Wildlife Resources Commission to stock 162,500 hybrid striped bass annually in Lake Norman.
• Anglers are looking forward to the day when 10-pound-plus hybrids can be caught in Norman.
Free safe boating class: “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night,” 6:30 p.m Sept. 10 at The Peninsula Yacht Club, 18501 Harbor Light Blvd. in Cornelius. 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.” Details: 704-892-7575.
Free Fishing Seminar: “How to Use Topographic Maps to Improve Your Fishing,” 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17, Gander Mountain, Exit 36. Jake Bussolini and I will discuss the basics of interpreting topographic maps and will pinpoint some of the best fishing locations on Lake Norman. Details: 704-658-0822.
Tips from Capt. Gus
Check the webbing of your landing net. If it is tattered or torn, replace it before a big bass, striper or hybrid breaks through it.
Hot spots of the week
Anglers using Alabama, sabiki and other tandem lure rigs are getting strikes from bass, hybrids and stripers, along with some rather large white perch when fished in deep water.
Spotted bass continue to hit top-water lures cast toward channel points throughout the day. Best lures are Super Pop R’s and Rio Rico’s. White perch continue to please those fishing waters 20-50 feet deep with minnows and sabiki rigs. Catfishing is excellent.
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 3.0 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake.