Deep-water fishing has been quite successful this year, particularly since that's where bait fish spend the winter being ravaged by schools of predator bass, white perch and stripers.
With advancements in sonar, GPS technology and the constant presence of low-flying seabirds, it's easier than ever to locate feeding fish. Savvy anglers not only watch for seabirds that fly low to the water but pay particular attention to those diving and snatching baitfish from the surface. When that happens, anglers should slow to idle speed to view the fish-finder screen and look for evidence of predator fish below the boat. Once located, it is customary to cast, troll or jig baits through feeding schools.
The most active fish are suspending 30 to 50 feet below the surface. The feeding depth changes quickly, as baitfish switch course in a futile attempt to escape being eaten. The person maneuvering the boat should watch for this activity on the fish finder. As the fish change depths, reposition lures a few feet above the fray.
Cold water, while invigorating to people, slows the metabolism of fish. Bass and perch do not feed as frequently or move as quickly, so it's best to slow the lure presentation to a crawl. Artificial lure retrieval should be slow with a slight stop-and-go motion, while suspended live minnows should be allowed to stay in place for an extended period of time.
Successful anglers present artificial lures in a lifelike manner at depths to 50 feet - the reason buck tails, jigging spoons, Sabiki rigs and small baitfish are so popular for vertical fishing. Those who troll are using down riggers or lead-core line to get the lures down to the level of deep swimming fish. The best trolling baits are buck tails, swim baits and roadrunners.
Smaller lures tend to tempt spotted bass and perch, while larger versions are likely to lure stripers. Those trolling find the Alabama rig to be quite effective when pulled through schools of feeding spotted bass and stripers.
Large schools of hungry fish not only attract seabirds but lots of fishermen. When you see a group of boats fishing in close proximity to one another, give them a wide berth when passing, or better yet, slow to no-wake speed. If you're planning to fish the same area, work your way into the fishing grounds at idle speed and begin by fishing the outer perimeter. If trolling motors are being used, do likewise to avoid spooking the fish being caught.
Tips from Capt. Gus
The Alabama, umbrella, Sabiki and other tandem lure rigs are producing strikes from some rather large bass and stripers. Why big fish like multi-lure rigs is anybody's guess, but some surmise that big fish would rather gulp a mouthful of baitfish at one time than snack on a few tidbits.
Hot Spot of the Week
Boats that fish under diving birds are catching plenty of spotted bass, white perch and stripers. Those who have the expertise and time to fish all day can catch hundreds of them.
Best bets are Reed, Mountain and Stumpy creeks, as well as anywhere along the old river channel where birds are hitting the surface. Crappie are taking small minnows fished around deep-water attractors and bridge pilings. Catfish like drifting cut baits.
The surface water temperature varies by location but is mainly in the 40s and low 50s in open waters not affected by power generation.
The lake level is about 4.7 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 3.0 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake.