Fishing with Gus

First-time anglers are often surprised when they realize Lake Norman is devoid of aquatic vegetation and natural woody debris that provide cover for bass and other freshwater species.

The most obvious fish habitats are boat docks and miles of rip-rap rocks that protect the shoreline from erosion. The key to dock and rip-rap fishing is to isolate an area where the fish are, rather than waste valuable time in unproductive water.

Fish generally hold extremely tight to the rocks. So casting parallel to the shoreline is more effective than casting perpendicular. Even when two anglers are fishing, it’s best for both to cast from the bow as the boat moves along the bank.

More often than not, the hot spots in rip-rap fishing are near indentations and where rock points protrude into the water. Rip-rap on shallow banks hold more fish in the spring and fall, while deepwater rocks produce more catches during summer and winter months.

It’s hard to fish on a windy shoreline, but the churning action of waves often energizes fish and makes them feed aggressively. The longer and harder the wind blows from the same direction, the more active the fish will be on windward banks.

Lake Norman’s thousands of boat docks might look similar, but each has its own characteristics. Some hold fish. Others do not.

The most productive docks provide ample shade, ground cover and a deepwater escape route for fish.

Docks with lots of pilings, cross-members and ladders hold more fish than those with flotation material.

Flotation material varies. Older docks were built with Styrofoam, while newer docks are made with a black plastic-like material. Fish seem to prefer the black flotation in the spring and older docks with Styrofoam in the summer.

When searching for docks, look for those with rod holders mounted to the railings, spotlights that shine directly into the water and brush that protrudes from the surface. All are indications of brush piles that might even be baited with fish pellets or other food.

Bream, bass, catfish and carp are all attracted to docks at one time or another. But remember, the amount of shade, water depth, proximity to other structures, and the amount of underwater cover will affect the quantity and quality of fishing.

Tips from Capt. Gus

Readers beware! Some believe that bananas and peanuts bring bad luck when brought on board a fishing boat.

Upcoming events

• I’ll present a free fishing seminar, “Bass Fishing for The Occasional Angler,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, at Gander Mountain, 236 Norman Station Blvd. I will discuss how to catch limits of largemouth and spotted bass by trolling, drifting and still fishing with live baits and artificial lures. Details: 704-658-0822.

• The Lake Norman Sail & Power Squadron conducts a boater safety class at 8 a.m. March 24 at the Huntersville United Methodist Church, 14005 Stumptown Road, Huntersville. The class costs $45. Register at Details: Bob Yannacci, 704-660-5568.

Hot spot of the week

Bass are moving out of deep water and staging near the shore for the spring spawn. Your best bets are shallow coves and pockets with a southern exposure to the sun. The Alabama rig (cast or trolled) is still the choice of bass fishermen.

Crappie fishing is great! Bait shop owners are even having difficulty keeping minnows in stock.

The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the 50s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 3.7 feet below full pond on Lake Norman.

Capt. Gus Gustafson, of Lake Norman Ventures, is a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. Details: 704-617-6812 or