Lake Norman & Mooresville

Fishing with Capt. Gus: Where to find – and catch – hybrid striped bass

Capt. Gus Gustafson holds a Lake Norman hybrid striped bass.
Capt. Gus Gustafson holds a Lake Norman hybrid striped bass. COURTESY OF GUS GUSTAFSON

It’s been three years since the first hatchery truck released 162,500 hybrid striped bass fingerlings into Lake Norman. Since then, two supplementary stockings have taken place, one in 2014 and another this June. All indications are that they’re adapting well to Norman’s high summer water temperatures and low dissolved-oxygen levels.

Hybrid striped bass are artificially propagated by crossing striped and white bass. The result is a fast-growing and agile game fish that spends most of its life cruising in schools and pursuing forage fish. The fact that hybrids can withstand high water temperatures and low dissolved-oxygen levels makes them an ideal addition to Lake Norman’s fishery. The average life span of hybrids is 5 to 6 years and their typical weight is between 2 pounds and 5 pounds. How big Norman’s hybrids will grow is anybody’s guess, but 7-pounders have been verified, which leaves some to imagine 10-pounders are in the offering.

Fishing techniques are similar to those employed to catch their parents. Casting or trolling artificial lures is effective, as is deep-jigging with spoons. Drifting live baits and bottom fishing with cut baits is also productive at times. But, by far, the most popular method is casting lures into the fracas when hybrids are feeding on the surface. The same tackle used to tempt bass and stripers will take hybrids – just downsize the baits a bit since they have a small mouth.

Early season hybrid action can occur anywhere, but the island area north of the Lake Norman State Park is a good starting point. Anglers who fish below N.C. 150 will find hybrids feeding in Mountain, Little and Beaver Dam creeks. The best time to find surface feeding is at dawn and dusk. Serious fishermen are on the water before daylight, knowing that the bite is often in full swing at sunrise.

Hybrids are easily mistaken for white perch because they are similar in size, color and shape. If it looks like a white perch but has broken lateral lines along its body, it is more than likely a hybrid, and must be released if less than 16 inches in length. The daily creel limit is four hybrid striped bass in aggregate with striped bass. The minimum size limit for both species is 16 inches.

Upcoming events

Free fishing seminar. “Fishing Myths and Other Considerations That Effect Catch Rates” will be conducted by Jake Bussolini at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville, at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 14. This interactive session will also examine the best methods to catch cool weather hybrids, stripers and spotted bass. For information, call 704- 658-0822.

Tournament. The first annual Lake Norman Open Fishing Tournament is scheduled for Oct. 17 at Beatties Ford access, in Denver. This will be Lake Norman’s only multidivision, multispecies tournament – bass, stripers and kayaks. Call 704-996-0946 for information.

Hot spot of the week

Fishing for bass, crappie and white perch continues to improve as water temps fall. Crappie are hitting minnows dropped around submerged brush in water from 20 feet to 30 feet. Spotted bass are everywhere, with the best results by those casting deep diving lures off points and in the deeper parts of coves and sloughs. White perch continue to be the target fish for families looking for something easy to catch, clean and eat. Upriver hybrids are hitting surface lures at dusk. Fish are active from channel marker 18B north.

Lake Norman’s water level is on the rise after a week of heavy rains. The surface water temperature is in the 70s in waters not affected by power generation.

Tip from Capt. Gus

Bank and dock fishermen find that minnows and worms work best, but also use a variety of prepared baits (stink baits) and household foods such as hot dogs, bread and chicken livers.

Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer and a professional fishing guide: