On a fishing trip not too long ago, one of the anglers became very excited when his rod doubled over. He quickly set the hook and began to reel. To everyone’s surprise, the creature that surfaced behind the boat was not a fish, but a loon. It splashed on the surface for a second or two before diving rather than flying away.
Round and round the boat it swam, just like a fish. Before tiring, the loon fought harder than any freshwater fish for its size. Just as we were trying to figure out what to do with it, it came to the boat, and the line broke. “Thank goodness,” the angler said aloud. The bird dove again, rose to the surface a few seconds later, and flew away.
A decade ago, loons were seldom seen on Lake Norman, but like the Canada geese, they have found a new home. Since they are migratory, most spend the winter before returning north to nest. A few remain throughout the year. At first glance, loons look like any other aquatic bird swimming on the surface. But when they dive, they can swim to the depths of the lake in search of fish. They spear their prey with a sharp-pointed beak.
Fishermen know that loons eat the same baitfish (shad and herring) that stripers, bass and perch feed upon. For that reason, when loons are seen diving, take note and fish the same general area. Loons can dive to depths of 200 feet and swim faster than the baitfish they chase. It is said that they fish by sight, which is amazing when one considers how dark it must be 50 feet below the surface.
Loons have a lower profile than the ducks and geese that they are easily confused with. But there is nothing confusing about their eerie yodel, a territorial sound heard from time to time on Lake Norman.
Hot spots of the week
Bass are still bedding in shallow water, so if it’s big fish you’re after, cast lures to the bank that can be bounced along the bottom. Crappie fishing is fantastic. Crappie minnows are the baits of choice. Spotted bass schools can be found by trolling crank baits in water to 20 feet. Warming water temperatures have catfish on the prowl. Try fishing for them with stink and cut baits.
The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the 60s and low 70s in open water. The water level is about 3 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 2.7 feet below full pond on Mountain Island Lake.