Fishin’ with Capt. Gus: Fishing cover

  • Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:36 a.m.
A floating boat house provides shade and cover for fish. Photo courtesy of Capt. Gus Gustafson
A floating boat house provides shade and cover for fish. Photo courtesy of Capt. Gus Gustafson

Fishermen new to Lake Norman learn quickly that this massive impoundment is void of grasses, lily pads and other natural habit common in other lakes.

The lack of cover, combined with the vastness and open water, initially confuses and intimidates even the most experienced. Knowing this, locals mainly fish the manmade cover of docks, piers, boathouses, channel/shoal marker poles, bridge pilings, rip-rap, launch ramps and partially submerged woody debris.

Regardless of its type, manmade, natural, or in combination, cover serves as a magnet for aquatic life. It’s a mini eco-system, so to speak, where forage fish seek food and safe harbor before eventually being eaten by predators. Additionally, good cover provides a resting place that protects fish from the sun, wind and water currents.

Sometimes less is better. On Lake Norman where cover is sparse, a housing shortage exists. For that reason, it is important to cast at even a single stick up, since it might hold multiple fish. Conversely, when larger patches of cover are fished, be sure to cast the area thoroughly, including pockets, points and any place that varies from the normal surroundings.

While there are days when fish hold very close to cover, there are other days when they might be a cast or more away. That is why fan casting the surrounding area before working the lure closer and tighter to the cover, produces so many strikes. On sunny days, the fish usually hold tight, so don’t be afraid to cast into the middle of a brush pile, or skip cast a lure under a dock. Hanging up and losing a lure or two is part of the game.

Tips from Capt. Gus

What’s the difference between structure and cover? Structure is anything that deals with the lake bottom and its contour changes. Points, humps, drop offs, roadbeds, channels and rock formations are a few examples. Cover, on the other hand, is a broad term that includes “add-ons” such as vegetation, docks, submerged brush and artificial fish attractors.

Hot Spots of the Week

High water and murky conditions have crappie and bass moving to the banks. Reports of crappie and bass limits being taken in less than three feet of water are common. Others are still catching schooling bass, perch, stripers and hybrids under diving birds in water from 30’ to 70’ deep. Bass are also being caught on both shallow and deep points while casting jerk and swim baits. Catfish, primarily five to ten pound Arkansas blues, are hitting shad, herring, bream, perch and chicken parts fished very slowly along the bottom.

Capt. Gus Gustafson is an outdoor columnist and fishing guide on Lake Norman. Visit his website or call 704-617-6812.

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