Capt. Gus: Summer fishing is fun

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 23, 2011

It was a hoot. The fishermen were small (7 ad 8 year olds), and the catfish were BIG.
It started when a fish yanked the rod tip toward the water and began pulling line. The blue cat was so big the youngster couldn’t get the rod out of the holder. So, two of his little fishing buddies, one on either side, held the rod while he turned the handle and slowly cranked the fish toward the surface. In the meantime, the other two boys on the trip grabbed the landing net and began shouting words of encouragement.
The big catfish, still 30 feet below the surface, pulled line again, but with three sets of hands on the rod and reel, it couldn’t shake the hook. After a lot of give and take, a big black image appeared five feet below the surface. When the boys saw it, they screamed, “It’s a monster and don’t let it get away. It’s the biggest fish ever!”
And a monster it was. This blue catfish was over three feet long, and at first glance it even looked too big for the net. So, two of the boys holding the fishing rod, grabbed the net handle and between the four of them, somehow boated the fish. It was a beauty — almost 28 pounds. The rest of the trip was just as exciting. The boys teamed up to catch and release nine more catfish between 5 and 12 pounds.
That’s how it happens sometimes when summer catfishing at Lake Norman’s lower dam. This year should be no different. When the water temperature is over 90 degrees, big blue cats find their way to the deep water at the dam. Generally, catfishing is best, from 10 p.m. until 10 a.m., but on windy or cloudy days they bite throughout the day.
If you haven’t fished the dam before, look for boats fishing with multiple rods in the water. It isn’t a mistake, so don’t be surprised when your depth finder shows a reading of over 100 feet deep. Even though water at the dam is very deep, summer cats usually suspend between 40 and 45 feet where the warm and cold water meet.
Best baits are fresh cut shad, herring, perch, and bream, along with a variety of chicken parts and other table foods. Attach the bait to a Carolina Rig with a 1.5-ounce (or larger) slip sinker. The rod can be hand held or placed in a rod holder. Most boats are equipped with multiple rods holders, so six or more lines can be fished at the same time. With that many lines in the water, the scent from the cut baits attracts catfish from long distances.
Seven- to 8-foot bait casting outfits, loaded with 20- to30-pound test line, are used to catch big summer cats.
Since, blue cats will twist around the line when hooked, a length of 50-pound test leader is recommended to prevent the line from breaking. When fishing for big cats use large hooks (5/0 to 9/0) and have a long handled, big hooped net ready to get them in the boat.
Tips from Capt. Gus
Hot Spot of the Week: Catfishing is very good, particularly for Arkansas Blues. They are hitting fresh-cut drifting baits over points and in sheltered coves.
Bass are surface feeding throughout the morning on days when the wind is not blowing. Anglers are casting to splashes and swirls with top water baits. When bass aren’t feeding on top, they can be caught on humps, deep points and near sunken brush piles.
White perch fishing is good to very good. The bigger fish are being caught along creek channel edges at depths from 20 to 30 feet.
Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures is an outdoor columnist and a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. Visit his web site, or call 704-617-6812.