Fishing with Capt. Gus: Lake Norman is regional draw

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 6, 2012

There wasn’t much to do on the Catawba River in the early 1960’s but swim, camp and catch a few fish. Then the dam was built, and the river was transformed into North Carolina’s largest freshwater impoundment.
The backwater filled 32,000 acres of forest and farmland. Lake Norman as it called, is 45 miles long and stretches from N.C. 73 in Huntersville to a mile north of Interstate 40 in Catawba County.
What was once a quiet river valley shrouded by tall trees, has become a water sports Mecca. On any given summer day, the lake is a beehive of activity. Swimming, sailing, cruising and canoeing are popular, and jet-skiing, wake-boarding and tubing (pulling kids behind a boat on an inflated tube) have become real summer fun activities.
While Lake Norman is best known for its grandiose homes and beautiful shorelines, it is also a popular destination for recreational and tournament fishermen. The lake is full of fish, and the most sought after are the largemouth and spotted bass. In addition, white perch, crappie and catfish are caught regularly off piers and from boats.
A frequently asked question is, “How big do the fish get on Lake Norman”?
The size varies by species, but the largest fish ever caught was an Arkansas blue catfish that weighed 85 pounds. In addition to blue catfish, flathead catfish are also plentiful and grow to 60 pounds. Smaller channel cats average less than 5 pounds.
Catching a catfish the size of a river monster is something children dream about, but most anglers target fish that are easy and fun to catch. Lake Norman’s family fishing favorites are crappie and white perch. Both can be taken on light-tackle, fight pretty good for their size (less than a pound) and make excellent table fare.
While the adults enjoy crappie fishing, children love to catch white perch. Two to seven at a time can be caught on a multi-hook rig. Seven at a time might sound like a fish tale, but on an average day, anglers can catch 100 or so in a few hours. In fact, most lose count after 50 or 60.
While catching them is fun, eating white perch is better.
The tender white meat is very tasty when deep-fried and served with hushpuppies, fries and sweet tea.
People new to the area, or visiting for the first time, should add Lake Norman to their list of things to do. Boating and fishing aside, there are numerous lakeside restaurants, boat and van sighting seeing tours and parks for camping, hiking and viewing wildlife.
Upcoming EventsFree safe boating class: “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night” will held at North Point Watersports, Exit 36, Mooresville, from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday.
Topics for discussion include “Understanding LKN’s Channel Marker and Buoy System,” “Identifying and Learning How to Avoid the 10 Most Dangerous Spots.” and “Interpreting Lake Maps.” For more information, call me at 704-617-6812 or email
Free fishing seminar: “How to Catch Fall and Winter Catfish” will be held at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 19. This session will be conducted by Lake Norman catfish guide Mac Byrum and local fishing authority and author Jake Bussollini. For more information, call 704- 658-0822.
The Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists Oyster and Shrimp Festival: The public is invited to this annual event beginning at 6 p.m. on Sept. 22 at All Seasons Marina, 827 Langtree Rd., Mooresville, NC. Tickets are $40 for individuals and $75 per couple. For more information, visit Advanced reservations are required.
Hot spots of the week:
Spotted bass are being caught on top water lures while surface feeding and on soft plastic lures rigged Carolina style when they are deep. White perch are hitting crappie minnows and jigs fished vertically in water to 40 feet. Night fishing for crappie is excellent around lighted docks and bridges.Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures is an outdoor columnist and a full-time fishing guide on Lake Norman. Visit his website or call 704-617-6812.