Fishing with Gus: Tips for staying safe over Memorial Day weekend
by Staff Writer
With no highways, stoplights or road signs on the water, it is imperative that you know and practice the boating “rules of the road.”
It is critical to the well being of all passengers that the pilot maneuvers 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, stop, slow the boat or increase the speed to avoid any chance of collision.
Congested areas, particularly near gas docks, boat storage facilities and lakeside restaurants, should be considered no-wake areas regardless of warning signs or the lack of them. When plying heavily traveled water, all crewmembers should be alert and watchful of 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. Horizontal, vertical and draft clearances of a vessel are all factors to seriously consider. So many accidents occur in and around bridges that lake patrol officers spend a disproportionate amount of time patrolling them.
If ever no wake means no wake, it should be around bridges. Boat wakes, similar to waves created by wind and current, will cause slow-moving vessels to veer off course or change attitude. Both are particularly dangerous when passing through limited spaces.
Not all boat congestion is in a no wake zone.
Narrow turns in a channel can cause boats to slide off course if the water is choppy from excessive wakes.
One area that comes to mind is the S-turn in the river channel between markers 10, 11, 12 and 13. Here, the course winds quickly, and multiple feeder creeks converge.
At times, dozens of boats appear from all directions to vie for a share of this narrow, winding channel.
Many are cruising at top speeds or pulling large wakes. Add to this scary scenario that there might be a boater in the mix who is unsure which course to take.
To keep safe, slow your vessel, stay to the right and watch for approaching boat traffic.
Tips from Capt. Gus
The law requires children younger than 13 years old to wear a proper life vest on a recreational vessel. It is a good idea for all passengers to wear one.
• I’ll host a free safe boating class, “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. June 15 at North Point Watersports, 107 Doolie Road. Topics will include understanding the channel marker and buoy system, learning how to avoid the 10 most dangerous spots and interpreting lake maps. Details: 704-617-6812 or gus@lake
• Children are invited to bring their parents to the Amazing Critter Cruise that will set sail at noon on June 18, from Queen’s Landing, 1459 River Hwy. The event, sponsored by Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, supports the goal of getting families outdoors to understand and enjoy the amazing creatures that call Lake Norman home. Details: 704-332-5696.
Hot spots of the week
Largemouth bass are biting soft plastic lures fished around piers, docks and “blow downs” upriver. Down lake, spotted bass are biting shaky heads and crank baits over humps and deep brush.
Cat fishing is very good in Mountain, Burton and Lucky creeks. For those targeting blue cats, use fresh cut fish and chicken parts for bait.
Schools of white perch are suspending in water from 20 to 30 feet deep.
The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the 70s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 1.6 feet below full pond on Lake Norman.
Capt. Gus Gustafson, of Lake Norman Ventures, is a full-time fishing guide on Lake Norman. Contact him at 704-617-6812 or Gus@lakenorman.com.