The drought of 2015 has everybody talking about the low lake level and its effects on boating and fishing.
Surprisingly, fishing on Lake Norman has been good, what with the extreme heat and low water levels. Bass fishing is holding its own with lots of big bass filling the weigh-in bags of tournament anglers who line up to record their catches. It’s interesting to note that it wasn’t that long ago when a five fish limit weigh-in of 10 or 11 pounds would take first place. This year there have been tournaments when 15 pounds was needed. This bodes well for the future of largemouth bass fishing and the chances of attracting more national tournaments to Lake Norman.
But it’s not just the largemouth. Plenty of schooling spotted bass along the 10-, 20- and 30-foot drops have been caught throughout the summer. While they break the surface from time to time when chasing forge fish, the majority of the action is from suspended fish that are easily tempted with deep-diving lures. Better yet, those casting A-rigs are having unbelievable success.
Another summer, and another fish kill has accounted for the demise of an estimated 3,000 striped bass. The kill, which began in late July and continued into August, punctuates just how hot the water gets near Cowans Ford Dam. While gilling and dead fish floating on the surface is never a good thing, the dying striped bass attract hordes of Arkansas blue catfish. Since the die-off began, savvy anglers drifting cut and live baits in the kill zone have caught plenty of catfish that averaged 5 to 10 pounds.
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Summer striper kills prompted wildlife biologists to stop stocking stripers three years ago. They are now replacing them with much hardier hybrid striped bass. Because hybrids can withstand higher water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels, it appears they will be a good fit for Lake Norman’s harsh water conditions.
A question on the minds of many boaters is: “At what lake level are area boat ramps likely to close?” The number of feet below full pond for closing is:
Long Island access area: 9.0 feet
Stumpy Creek access area: 9.0 feet
Pinnacle access area: 8.5 feet
McCrary Creek access area: 8.5 feet
Hagar Creek access area: 8.5 feet
Little Creek access area: 7.0 feet
Beatties Ford access area: 9.0 feet
Blythe Landing: about 5.0 feet
Ramsey Creek Park: about 4.0 feet
Note: In a statement posted July 21 , Duke Energy reported, “The Catawba-Wateree River basin is in a Stage 1 drought condition. The community is asked to be mindful of its water use and consider conserving energy, which also saves water. Residents who use water from a Duke Energy lake for lawn irrigation are asked to limit watering to Tuesdays and Saturdays.” Since the statement was posted, the water level on Lake Norman has fallen more than a foot. Red clay, rocks and stumps previously covered with water are now exposed
Updated lake levels are available any time at www.Duke-Energy.com/lakes or by calling 800-829-5253.
Tips from Capt Gus
Do not let low water conditions ruin the end of your fishing season and boating experience. Exercise caution when navigating in unfamiliar waters and stay between the red and green channel markers in main passageways.
Free safe-boating class. “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night” will be held at The Peninsula Yacht Club, 18501 Harbor Light Blvd., Cornelius, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9. Becky Johnson and I will cover Understanding LKN’s Channel Marker and Buoy System, How to Avoid Shallow Water, 10 Most Dangerous Spots and Interpreting Lake Maps. For information, call Ashley at 704-892-7575.
Free fishing seminar. “Interpreting Sonar and Down and Side Scan Images” will be conducted by Jake Bussolini at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16. This interactive session will also examine the best ways to catch fall hybrids, stripers and spotted bass. For information, call 704-658-0822.
Hot spot of the week
Cat fishing has been excellent at the dam, but there are plenty channels and blues in back coves and along channel edges. Night fishing for crappie and perch has been very good around bridges. Stripers and hybrids are above Channel Marker 18. Best baits are live baits and A-rigs.
The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the high 80s and low 90s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 5.2 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 3.2 feet on Mountain Island Lake.
Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer and a professional fishing guide: Gus@lakenorman.com