Is fishing better or worse than it used to be? This question is difficult to answer.
Some say fishing is the best it’s ever been; others argue they caught more and larger fish in years past.
The mind’s eye remembers what it wants, and usually it remembers the good. Add a few fish pictures from the old family album, and some will agree that the best fishing was in the past.
The real proof is in the record books. A quick look shows that many big fish records have been broken in the past few years – like the 70-pound landlocked striped bass caught last month in Alabama. Once certified, it will surpass the old world record established in 1992 of 67 pounds, 8 ounces. Closer to home, the North Carolina state-record landlocked striped bass was caught about a year ago from Hiwassee Reservoir. Tyler Shields’ trophy tipped the scales at an even 67 pounds.
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From 1932 until 2010, George Perry held the largemouth bass world record: 22 pounds, 4 ounces. A few years back, a largemouth was caught in Japan weighing .97 ounces more, but it did not exceed the existing record by two ounces, so Perry and Manabu Kurita share the world record.
As a point of interest to local anglers, Lake Norman holds the North Carolina state record, for a 6-pound, 5-ounce spotted bass caught in 2003.
Catfish have grown in recent years, too. In 2006, the North Carolina state-record Arkansas blue catfish (89 pounds) was caught in Badin Lake. In South Carolina, a 108-pounder was caught a few years ago that missed the South Carolina record by one pound. The disappointed angler donated the giant catfish to the aquarium at the Bass Pro Shops at Concord Mills Mall.
On the saltwater scene, a lot of state records have been broken in the past 10 years. Leading the way is an 805-pound blue-fin tuna, a 193-pound tarpon caught off Sail View Pier and an amberjack weighing more than 126 pounds. It is interesting to note that the 64-pound state-record saltwater striped bass caught off Oregon Inlet in 2011 weighed less than the freshwater record.
While big fish are few and far between, they are indicators of the health of the fishery and the prowess of the anglers who caught them. On Lake Norman, where fish tend to be smaller than in other lakes, fishing is on the upswing.
Bass are so plentiful that the occasional angler can catch a limit on most outings. Crappie fishing is the best it has been in quite some time, with 15-inch slabs being caught regularly. Lots of big catfish and ample amounts of white perch fill the needs of those who enjoy a fish fry.
On the other hand, striper fishing has been on the decline. Stripers are being replaced by the hardier hybrid striped bass. While it will take a few years, hybrids, once established, will more than fill the void created by summer striper kills.
Tips from Capt. Gus
Alabama rigs are taking a variety of fish, including occasional stripers and hybrid. While most are casting the “A” rig, others find slow trolling a productive alternative.
A free safe-boating class, “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night,” will be 6:30-8 p.m. April 10 at Morning Star Marina, Kings Point, Exit 28, Cornelius. Becky Johnson and I will cover topics that include understanding LKN’s channel marker and buoy system, how to avoid shallow water, the 10 most dangerous spots and interpreting lake maps. For more information, call Becky Johnson at 704-892-7575.
Hot Spot of the week
Warming water temperatures have fish moving to shallow water. Fishermen are seeing some bedding bass while cruising the shoreline. Others are casting swim baits into nooks and around the edges of points. Some are fishing for schooling bass that are chasing shad to the surface in back-coves and boat basins. Crappie, white perch and cat fishing has been very good to excellent.
The water level on Lake Norman is approximately 2 feet below full pond. Mountain Island Lake is about 2.7 feet below full. The surface water temperature ranges from the 50s to low 60s, depending on location or the proximity to a power plant.