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Fishin' with Capt. Gus: Bigger boats nothing to take lightly

Boats on Lake Norman have been getting bigger and faster for years.
The 2009 models are no exception.
It seems that now is an appropriate time to restate two of my favorite adages: “Safe Boating is No Accident” and “It’s always a good trip if you make it back.”
With no highways, stop lights or road signs on the water, it is imperative to know the boating “rules of the road.”
I’ve read that 75 percent of all boaters have never participated in a boater safety class. Having said that, it is critical to the well being of all passengers that the pilot maneuver the vessel in a defensive manner. Defensive means keeping a constant vigilance for any object or vessel that enters the danger zone of your boat. Should there be an intrusion, either slow the boat down, or increase the speed to avoid any opportunity for collision.
Congested areas, particularly near gas docks, boat storage facilities and lakeside restaurants, should be considered “No Wake” areas, regardless of signs or a lack of them. When plying heavily traveled water, all crew members should be alert and ready to report any indications of danger.
Boat harbors aren’t the only places for potential hazards. There are more than 20 bridges that crisscross Lake Norman and afford multiple opportunities for accidents. Passing is not the only bridge issue. Horizontal, vertical and draft clearances of a vessel are also factors to seriously consider.
In fact, so many accidents occur in and around bridges that Lake Patrol officers spend a disproportionate amount time patrolling them.
If ever “No Wake” means “No Wake,” it should be around bridges. Boat wakes, similar to the waves created by wind and current, can cause slow moving vessels to veer off course. The situation can be particularly dangerous when passing through a limited access area.
Boat congestion is not always in a “No Wake” zone. Narrow turns in a channel can cause boats to slide off course when the water is choppy. One area that comes to mind is the S-turn in the river channel between Markers 10, 11, 12 and 13. Here, the water winds quickly and multiple feeder creeks converge. At times, dozens of boats appear from all directions to vie for a share of the narrow, winding channel. Many boaters cruise at top speed and pull large wakes. Add to this scary scenario, the fact that there might be a boater in the mix who is unsure about which course to take. As in “The Perfect Storm,” these conditions are exactly right for an accident. To be safe, slow your vessel, stay to the right and watch for approaching boat traffic.
The Lake Norman Marine Commission will fund the first $10 per adult (first come basis while funds last) toward a Safe Boating course taught by the Lake Norman Power Squadron, the Lighthouse Marine Service, or the Coast Guard Auxiliary, during May and June. Space is limited. Contact course providers for details.
Upcoming event: “How to Use Sonar/GPS to Catch More Fish,” Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Gander Mountain, Interstate 77 Exit 36 in Mooresville. Capt. Gus Gustafson will lead the 90-minute PowerPoint seminar, which is free and open to the public. Additional information is available by calling 704-658-0822.
Tips: To remove twists from anchor and dock lines, pull lines behind a slow moving boat for a few minutes. Remember to remove all hardware and to fasten one end to a boat cleat before paying out the line.
To head a fish in the direction in which you want it to swim, apply pressure with the rod tip. If it decides to go elsewhere, follow it. A big fish might lead you around the boat several times. The trip is worth it.
Recent hot spots: Nice catches of catfish and bass have been reported around the islands north of the Lake Norman State Park. Stripers are feeding on live baits in major creeks up lake. Bass, white perch and catfish are biting at both ends of the lake. Reeds Creek has been quite productive for bass and perch. The lake level is 1.2 feet below full pond and the water temperature is in the 70s.

Visit www.fishingwithgus.com or call Gus Gustafson at 704-617-6812, or e-mail him at Gus@LakeNorman.com.

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