Lake Norman & Mooresville

Boater safety: Your life may depend on it

Statistics show that approximately 75 percent of all boaters have never participated in a boater-safety class. Think about it: How safe would our interstate highways be if only 25 percent of the motor vehicle operators had a driver license?

If you are one of the many who hasn’t completed a safe boating class or are in need of a refresher, visit for a list of classes.

It is critical to the well-being of everyone on board that the pilot operates the vessel in a safe manner. This means keeping a constant watch for objects or vessels that enter the danger zone of your boat. Should there be an intrusion, either stop, slow or increase the speed to avoid any chance of collision.

Congested areas – particularly near gas docks, boat storage facilities and lakeside restaurants – should be considered no-wake areas, regardless of warning signs or a lack of them. When plying heavily traveled water, all crew members should be alert and watchful of any indications of danger.

Boat harbors aren’t the only places for potential hazards. There are more than 20 bridges that crisscross Lake Norman and afford multiple opportunities for accidents. Horizontal, vertical and draft clearances of a vessel are all factors to seriously consider. In fact, so many accidents happen in and around bridges that lake patrol officers spend a disproportionate amount of time patrolling them. If ever “no wake” means “no wake,” it should be around bridges. Boat wakes, similar to waves created by wind and current, will cause slow-moving vessels to veer off course or change direction. Both are particularly dangerous when passing through limited spaces.

Not all boat congestion is in a no-wake zone. Narrow turns in a channel can cause boats to slide off course if the water is choppy from excessive wakes. One area that comes to mind is the S-turn in the river channel between Markers 10, 11, 12 and 13. Here, the course winds quickly and multiple feeder creeks converge. At times, dozens of boats appear from all directions to vie for a share of this narrow and winding channel. Many are cruising at top speed or pulling large wakes. Add to this scary scenario the fact that there might be a boater in the mix who is unsure which course to take. As in “The Perfect Storm,” these conditions are exactly right for an accident. To be safe, slow your vessel, stay to the right and watch for approaching boat traffic.

Safe-boating tips:

▪ The law requires anyone younger than 13 to wear a properly-sized life vest on a recreational vessel that is underway. It is a good idea for all passengers to wear one.

▪ Drive defensively, meaning that it’s better to give-way to an approaching vessel than to maintain a course that might risk a collision.

▪ Stay to the right in narrow channels.

▪ Don’t ski, wakeboard or pull tubers in the main channel or other congested areas.

▪ Think of no-wake zones as school zones.

▪ The Coast Guard encourages everyone to wear a life vest (PFD), never drive under the influence, successfully complete a boating safety course, and have your vessel checked annually for safety.

Hot spots of the week

Bass are surface feeding around bridges and on shallow points when boat traffic is light. Night fishing near lighted boat docks and around launch ramps is producing nice catches of bass and catfish. White perch fishing is the best it has been all summer, with bigger fishing holding in water from 45 to 60 feet deep. Hybrid and striped bass fishing is best after dark and up river when the water is flowing from Lookout Shoals Dam.

Lake conditions

The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the high 80s in waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 3.7 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and about 3.0 feet below on Mountain Island Lake.

Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer and a professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. Have a story idea for Gus? Email him at