University City

High water, and the fishing is easy

After several months of low water, recent rains have caused water levels on Lake Norman to rise well above targeted levels for December.

High water, while too late for the 2011 boating season, makes catching fish easier, particularly largemouth and spotted bass.

The low lake levels experienced in September and October forced bass to leave the shoreline and find cover in deep water. Conversely, as water levels rise, bass return to the same covered rocks, downed trees and stump fields that they frequented in the spring. Savvy anglers made notes while the lake was low and marked new spots on their GPS units and topographic paper maps.

Shallow-water bass are easy to tempt with topwater lures. Spinner and buzz baits are popular with local anglers, but floating worms, swim and jerk baits also have their time and place. When you see baitfish schools swimming on the surface, a small popping or stick bait often causes explosive strikes.

High water is a boon to dock fishermen. Any kid will tell you more fish swim around their dock when the water is deeper. Unless bass are surface-feeding, the best way to attract dock bass is to fish with a bobber with live minnows

Be sure rods are secured with the drag set rather lightly. Otherwise, a big one may break the line or pull a rod into the lake.

To check lake levels, call 800-829-5253 or visit Lake levels are updated every 20 minutes.

Tips from Capt. Gus

Regardless of bait preference, the forage fish (shad and herring) in Lake Norman run small. So in order to match the hatch, so to speak, use smallish baits. Small lures will catch even big fish, while often fish ignore large baits, and little fish can't swallow them.

Safe boating class

A free safe boating class, "How to Navigate Norman when the Lake is Low," will meet from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at North Point Watersports, 112 Doolie Road, Mooresville. Topics for discussion will include "Understanding Lake Norman's Channel Marker and Buoy System," "Identifying and Learning How to Avoid the 10 Most Dangerous Spots" and "Safely Navigating In Low Water Conditions." For more information, call me at 704-617-6812 or email

Hot Spots of the Week

Fishing for spotted bass is excellent, as it has been for several weeks. Swim baits, bottom-bumping shaky heads and crank baits fished near points, humps and around dock pilings are good choices.

White perch are hitting small pieces of cut bait, crappie minnows and small lures and jigs. Try fishing narrow coves, where the water is 20 to 40 feet deep. Crappie fishing is excellent for those fishing minnows around boathouses, submerged brush and bridge pilings. For larger crappie, try Mountain, Little and Hager's creeks.

Lake Norman's water level is about 2.2 feet below full pond; at Mountain Island Lake it's down 2.8 feet. Surface temperatures are in the 50s and low 60s.