Fish have a keen sense of smell

Do fish have a sense of smell? Scientist and fishermen say they do.

In fact, it is said that a salmon follows its nose for 5,000 miles or more when returning from sea to the stream of its birth to spawn and die. The reasons are complicated, but suffice it to say, fish can smell better than humans and most, if not all, other animals.

As a rule, the deeper or darker the water, the more dependent fish are on the sense of smell. Bottom dwellers, such as catfish, are well known for being attracted to baits that smell bad.

Bass, the most sought after of all inland game fish, depend primarily on sight and sound to locate prey. Their sense of smell acts as the third leg of the stool when they feed near the bottom or in murky water. For that reason, anglers use soft plastic lures with scents of shad, shrimp and even garlic.

Today, a new generation of baits on the market, has the scent put into the lure during the manufacturing process. Known as gulp baits, they are said to be as good as, or better than, the live bait scents they imitate. Those who fish on the coast for flounder, sea trout and red fish swear by them.

Even though fish are attracted to certain odors, they are also repelled by others. Savvy anglers wash their hands thoroughly before tying lines or baiting hooks. For whatever reason, it is commonly believed that washing one's hands with lemon Joy, biodegradable soaps and herring oil is an effective way to remove offensive odors. Some go to the extreme by wearing surgical gloves when tending to baits and lines.

So, what are the worst and best odors?

Gasoline, oil, bug repellents and sun tan lotions rank at the top of the list of odors that turn fish off. Fried foods, especially chicken and potato chips, along with scents of peppers, onions and nicotine are also high on the bad list. The best scents vary, depending on the species you are targeting.

If you are trout or salmon fishing, baits scented with the smell of salmon eggs are a safe bet. Bass fishermen like to use spray attractants laced with the smell of shad, herring and earthworms, while cat fishermen prefer garlic and the smell of shrimp.

Upcoming Events: A free safe boating class entitled, "How to Navigate Norman when the Lake is Low " will be held 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 12 at North Point Watersports, 112 Doolie Road, Mooresville. Topics will include "Understanding Lake Norman's Channel Marker and Buoy System," "Identifying and Learning How to Avoid the Ten Most Dangerous Spots," and "Safely Navigating In Low Water Conditions." Details: 704-617-6812 or

Tips from Gus: A popular belief is that the scents of shrimp and earthworms have a universal appeal to fresh and saltwater fish.

Hot Spots of the Week: Recent water temperatures in the 70s have energized bass, perch and crappie. Bass, in particular, have moved to the shallows where they are hitting top water and crank baits throughout the day. Surface feeding on points, humps and boat basins is also a daily occurrence.

White perch, feasting on small bait fish at depths to 30 feet, are being caught two to six at a time on vertically fished Sabiki rigs. Crappie fishing is very good on minnows and crappie jigs. The lake level is approximately 5 feet below full pond on Norman and down 3 feet on Mountain Island Lake.