Fishin' with Gus: Lake Norman water rising

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fishin’ with Capt. Gus!Coastal fishermen have certain spots they fish at high tide and other places they frequent when the tide is on the way out.
One of the reasons is that fish become comfortable at a particular water depth. When the water rises (incoming tide), they move closer to the shoreline to maintain the preferred water depth. Conversely, when the water drops (outgoing tide), they move offshore.
Lake fishing is similar. Spring rains cause water levels to rise, and fish move closer to the bank. The reverse occurs during periods of draw downs.
Since the first of March, Lake Norman has risen almost two feet. Higher water levels are causing bass and other spawning fish to cruise closer to the bank where the forage fish have relocated.
To the occasional angler, a rise in the water level might seem insignificant, but to the fish, it is a major event. That is why savvy anglers check the current lake level before hitting the lake. The site to get this information is for Lake Norman is
Additionally, a seven-day lake level history is available by clicking on the name of the lake.
Rising waters not only cause bass, crappie and other species to swim farther up the banks, but woody debris, rocks and other areas, normally visible, are now under water. Sight fishermen, those who cast to stumps, snags and other stick-ups, are more comfortable casting when they can see these targets.
Stormwater runoff muddies creeks and coves for a period of time. This “stained water” has its advantages. First, it provides a safe harbor for forage fish and ambush points for predators. In addition, dirty water warms faster than clear water, and it attracts large egg bearing female fish.
Higher lake levels, while welcomed, are not without risks and hazards to boaters.
The same shoals that were exposed and easy to identify as hazards to navigation during the winter draw down, are now under water — in some cases only by a few inches, making travel tricky in a boat.
Tips from Capt. Gus: An excellent place to fish Lake Norman in the spring is around channel and shoal markers, usually positioned in shallow water adjacent to deep water. The pole for the marker and light also affords food, shade and cover for all sizes of fish.
Hot Spot of the Week: Rising water has bass and crappie on the banks, particularly early and late.
Best bets are upriver around the State Park and in Reeds and Davidson Creeks at the lower end of the lake. Crappie and perch can be found around shallow brush piles, and catfish continue to feed over shallow points and along the edges of pockets.
Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures. is an outdoor columnist and a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. His website is or call 704-617-6812. For additional information, e-mail him at