Outdoors report: Boaters need to use caution

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Boat accidents are on the rise as activity on the lakes is picking up.
Several people have been seriously injured, and operator inattention or inexperience has been the main culprit in the accidents. Alcohol has also been a factor in several incidents.
In 2006, 217 non-fatal accidents and 22 fatal accidents were reported across North Carolina.
Personal watercraft, which are sometimes known as jet-skis, also have been involved in accidents on High Rock Lake this year. Three separate collisions involving such craft and other motorboats have happened in the past month.
Three victims were seriously injured as a result. Operator inexperience was a contributing factor in each of these accidents.
Boat owners and operators are required to file an accident report with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission when an accident occurs that results in at least $2,000 in damage, or injury requiring medical attention, disappearance or death. Contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission toll free at 1-800-662-7137.
Fishing on High Rock Lake continues to be a great choice for summer fun with largemouth bass, crappie, white perch and catfish all biting.
Crappie fishermen in boats are finding fish in good numbers holding near structure or dropoffs. Try depth ranges from 14 to 19 feet for suspended schools of fish. Crappie up to a pound are common, with some reaching close to 2 pounds.
Places to try by boat include the mouth of Crane Creek. Concentrate on the dropoffs near the danger buoys at the mouth of the creek and at the “S” curve before you reach Goat Isle. The underwater sandbar near the mouth of Dutch Second Creek marked by three danger buoys is also a good place to try.
Night fishing with lights is a great way to beat the heat and the crowds. Fry shad, which are in the lake by the thousands, will swarm around the light and attract predator fish such as crappie, white perch and others.
Minnows and jigs work well when fishing in this manner.
Largemouth bass are very active on top of the water in the early morning and late evenings. Large schools of fry shad can be seen on the surface when the water is calm. Look for splashes as feeding fish tear into the schools of shad. Top water plugs like Pop-R’s, Chug bugs or buzz-baits will work well. Match the size of the shad the fish are feeding on for best results. Currently, up to 3-inch sizes are working well. During the heat of the day focus on deep water structure by using deep diving crank baits or plastics in pumpkin-seed and black colors.
White perch are hitting anything that looks like small shad or minnows. Look for top water feeding activity, which sometimes may cover a 50- yard area as the fish chase and eat schooling shad. During these times use rooster-tailed spinners, plastic twister-tail type lures, or small top water baits. When surface action slows, use your depth finder to locate schools of fish, then rig and fish as you would for crappie, using the same type equipment. These hard hitting easy to catch game fish can provide a good cooler filler when other species become harder to catch.
White perch up to a pound are common for anglers throughout the Yadkin River basin. Locally known as “Waccamaws,” these fish will hit worms, cut-bait, jigs and minnows. There is no size or creel limits on white perch.
Catfish are biting, with channel and blue cats regularly turning up at 10 pounds or so on High Rock Lake. Cut-bait and live bait work well, with evening and night being the most productive times. When fishing from a boat, slow drifting cut bait such as shad produces good fish throughout the day. Try main channel areas from the mouth of Swearing Creek to Crane Creek.
Fishermen are pulling in striped bass and hybrid bass from High Rock, Tuckertown and Badin lakes. Key in on points and underwater humps in the early morning and late evening. Live bait such as shad or large shiner minnows work best, although trolling buck tails and plastic shad bodies are also good choices.
Comment on bird seasons
For the first time, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is inviting citizens to provide input on the early waterfowl and webless migratory bird hunting seasons.
People can comment on proposed dates for the seasons, which begin before Oct. 1, by going to www. ncwildlife.org and clicking on “Submit Your Comments.” Comments will be accepted until the end of June.
Summer safety tips
When under way on a vessel, all children under 13 must wear an approved personal flotation device.
Operators and passengers should maintain a lookout for water hazards, including floating logs, shallow water areas and other vessel traffic.
Never assume the other boat operator sees your boat or will follow the proper rules of the water. Be prepared to slow down or take evasive maneuvers to prevent a collision.
Check all safety equipment before heading out, including PFDs, fire extinguishers and navigation lights.
Never place PFDs in a locked container or into a compartment that renders them inaccessible.
When towing skiers or tubers, always have a spotter watching the people being towed and for nearby boating traffic.
Always have a designated driver when consuming alcohol.A free boating safety course will be offered on July 12 at the Rowan County Rescue Squad on Julian Road at 9 a.m. To sign up, contact Wildlife Officer J.S. Isley at 704-278-2236 or visit www.ncwildlife.org.
E-mail Sgt. Anthony Sharum of the N.C. Wildlife Resources at huntfishguy66@aol.com.