Lake Norman & Mooresville

Fishing with Capt. Gus Gustafson: Know what to catch in Lake Norman

The most frequently asked question about fishing is “What types of fish can I expect to catch on Lake Norman?” Here are the most sought-after species:

Black bass are the favorites of many, and Norman has both largemouth and spotted bass. The largemouth gets its name from the size of its mouth. The spotted bass, though smaller, is predominate. Known as a “spot,” it can be identified by rows of dark spots on the lower sides of its body and it has a smaller jaw than the largemouth. The state record spotted bass (6 pounds, five ounces) was caught in Lake Norman in 2003.

Crappie are a member of the sunfish family. They are relatively easy to catch and taste great. The flaky white meat is delicious when fried and served with fries, hush puppies and slaw. The best time to catch them is early spring when they’re spawning in the shallows, but savvy anglers hook them year round. There are two types: black and white. They can be distinguished by counting the dorsal fin spines. Black crappies normally have seven or eight; whites usually have six.

Striped bass and hybrid striped bass are the hardest-fighting gamefish in the lake. Both are stocked, since they don’t reproduce naturally. In 2013 the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission began stocking hybrids in place of striped bass. It will take time for them to mature, but some already exceed the16-inch size limit. Both are silver in color and have lateral lines on both sides of their bodies.

White perch, a nongame fish that averages about half a pound, is the most numerous of all fish in Lake Norman. Its body is similar in color and shape to the hybrid, but lacks the dark lateral lines. White perch swim in large schools, which makes it easy to catch dozens or more per trip. There is no size or creel limit, so you may keep all you want. They too make excellent table fare.

Catfish: The three types of catfish that live in Lake Norman are the channel, Arkansas blue and flathead. They can be caught year-round. Catfish move freely up and down river and creek channels as water temperatures, food supply and spawning urges dictate. During spring, they are typically found in shallow water. Catching them is easy. Cast a bait, preferably one with a pungent odor, and wait for a bite. The catfish will follow the smell to the hook.

Sunfish: Bluegill and other sunfish populate the shorelines during the warmer months. These small fish tug pretty hard for their size and are easily caught on bread balls, worms and insects.

Some may wonder why smallmouth bass, walleye pike, trout and other species common to northern streams, rivers and lakes aren’t on the list. The answer is simple: The water temperatures during our summer months exceed their tolerance levels.

Upcoming event

Free fishing seminar: At “Using Sonar, Structure Scan and GPS to Catch More Fish in 2015,” Jake Bussolini and I will discuss the theory and practical application of locating and landing fish with the aid of electronics. 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 21 at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville. For information, call 704-658-0822.

Hot spots of the week

Cold weather has slowed fishermen down, but not the fish. Fish the hot holes and under diving sea birds in the river channel. Large groups of bass, hybrids and white perch are being found at Marker 15 and the N.C. 150 bridge, between Markers 11 and 14 and from Marker 3 to Marker 8. Others are located in the deeper water of Reed Creek between D6 and D2.

Tip from Capt. Gus

On days when sea birds aren’t diving, slow troll Alabama rigs, and use your electronics to locate feeding fish.

Lake conditions

The water level on Lake Norman is about 2.6 feet below full pond and is 3.4 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake. The surface water temperature is in the mid- to high 40 in water not affected by power generation.