Man-made reefs helps fishermen find where the fish are

Earlier this year, two artificial reefs were created when tons of rocks were dumped into Lake Norman.

The project, sponsored by the N.C. Wildlife Federation, was designed as an underwater habitat for bass and stripers. Known as the "rock piles," they are doing exactly what they were designed to do - attract fish.

As we approached the man-made reef below the N.C. 150 bridge, Jake Bussolini and I were amazed by the number of spotted bass images on the fish-finder screen.

Bussolini dropped a jigging spoon to the bottom and feeding fish began to chase bait all around the boat. The surface was electrified with a feeding frenzy of spotted bass.

Next, Bussolini switched to a crank bait and hooked one immediately. It was like watching a fishing show on television, with fish thrashing the surface and a smiling angler landing one spotted bass after another.

Like all good things, the surface activity ended as abruptly as it began, but not before Bussolini landed and released five fish. As expected, the spotted bass didn't stray far. A glance at the fish-finder showed evidence of a school feeding below the boat on the edge of the rock pile.

Next, we located several of the porcupine-like fish attractors that were placed in the lake by volunteers from the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists and the Norman Fishery Alliance.

While the attractors are relatively small compared to the rock piles, they are also magnets for fish. One attractor, located in Hagers Creek, was surrounded by schools of small spotted bass.

Again, systematically, Bussolini picked them off one at a time with the Sabiki flies used in combination with a jigging spoon.

When the bite ended, we headed north to the other rock pile, about a half-mile above the 150 bridge. We found fish, but for whatever reason, they didn't bite. So, after marking the area with waypoints on the GPS, we called it a day.

Bass and other fish are attracted to anything that provides shade, cover or food, and that is just what the man-made fish habitats provide. It doesn't take long for fish to seek them out. Jake, (author of several "how to" fishing books), noticed that within an hour after the placement of manmade habitat in 2009, fish were collecting near the attractors.

Lake Norman doesn't have as much natural habitat as surrounding lakes, so fish congregate near whatever they can find on the bottom. Brush and rocks are the most common habitats, but stumps and blow-downs, gravel points and bridge pilings are also magnets.

If you want to learn more, plan to attend a free fishing seminar, "Lake Norman's New Fish Attractors and Man Made Reefs." Bussolini and I will pinpoint the exact locations and discuss the best methods to catch fish in these areas.

Free handouts with GPS coordinates will be available. This informative session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, in Mooresville. For information, call 704-658-0822.

Tips from Gus

Feeding activity for bass occurs when you least expect it, so always have a lure rigged and ready to cast into the fray. Best bets are lures that pop or buzz on the surface or those that run just below the surface (jerk and crank baits.)

Hot Spots of the Week

Fishing is great for bass, perch and crappie. Select your favorite spot, and wet a line. If you don't have a spot in mind, try the north and south hot holes for bass and perch, or for crappie, look for brush piles in water to 20 feet.

Aside from the hot holes, spotted bass are active on rip-rap points, around brush and under docks with multiple pilings and wooden cross-members.

The lake level on Lake Norman is 4.7 feet below full pond, and down 3 feet on Mountain Island Lake. The water surface temperature on both lakes is in the mid- to high 70s.