Enjoy the lake this fall

In recent weeks, low water levels have exposed stumps, rocks and other obstructions on Lake Norman.

The fear of running aground or damaging a propeller is keeping boaters away. That's a shame, because the weather has been perfect for boating and fishing, not to mention the beautiful fall colors. While concerns of potential groundings are justified, they can happen even when the water level is at full pond. Low water should be a concern, but it should not stop boaters from enjoying the lake.

Water levels are low for October, but not any lower than normal in February, when the target is 6 feet below full pond. But, keep in mind that even when the lake is down 6 feet, there is plenty of water to safely navigate. Fishermen who ply the lake during the low water months of winter, have little, if any, difficulty finding safe passage. They, just like other savvy boaters, exercise caution and adhere to the rules of the road.

If you are new to boating and concerned about the low water conditions, the tips listed below should help make your next trip safer and more enjoyable:

In addition to all required safety equipment, don't leave the dock without a map of the lake and a depth finder.

Depth finders can be purchased for less than $100.

Maneuver at slow speed when navigating back coves and unfamiliar waters.

Stay between the red and green channel markers.

Stay to the right of the center of the channel.

Give shoal and rock markers a wide berth.

Keep a watchful eye on the depth finder.

When soundings indicate shoaling, slow or stop the vessel and refer to the lake map or GPS.

If in doubt as to which way to proceed, reverse your course to the deeper water you previously passed.

Keep a watchful eye for unusual wave patterns or breaking water. Both are indications of shallow water.

Don't pass between the shoreline and an island.

Stay well offshore of unmarked points and shorelines.

When passing under bridges, steer closer to the middle than the sides of bridge pilings.

In the event of a hard grounding, shut the motor, trim up the prop or outdrive and access the conditions.

If necessary, call a boat towing service. They are skilled at re-floating and towing stranded vessels. (Sea Tow: 704-895-8699) or (Tow Boat US: 704-200-1930).

Marine GPS units are not as sophisticated as those equipped in cars, but are equally as valuable when it comes to navigating Lake Norman. Every boat should have one, even if it is an inexpensive handheld unit.


A frequently asked question is: The word "shoal" is printed on white diamond shaped signs on Lake Norman.

What is a shoal? A shoal is a shallow place in a body of water that might be exposed when the water is low. Shoals should be avoided, even when lake water level is at full pond.

Hot spots

Fish brush piles and boat docks in water 15 feet or deeper. Bass, white perch and crappie are concentrating in these areas throughout the day. Depending on which species you target, try a combination of live and artificial baits. The past week, fishing for spotted bass and cat fish was very good, and white perch fishing was excellent.