Fishing with Gus

Ospreys return to Lake Norman every March to spend the spring and summer hunting fish and raising a nest full of chicks. This year, the large raptors arrived on schedule.

Ospreys make their nests on channel markers, power poles and other high structures close to water. Nests can be quite large, leaving many to believe they are built by bald eagles. But Lake Norman does not have the natural habitat needed to attract nesting eagles.

The nesting activity of the osprey, known by some as fish hawks, begins as soon as they return to the lake. Within a month, two to four eggs are deposited. The incubation period is approximately five weeks. Since the nest, made primarily of sticks and branches, is very deep, the chicks do not show themselves until they are almost ready to fly sometime in July.

The osprey locates its prey while flying high above the water and dives to snatch it from the surface with its powerful talons. When its prey is deep, it will actually dive into the water to snare it. The bird makes the captured fish aerodynamic by positioning it with its talons so the head of the fish faces forward during flight.

Osprey populations have increased in recent years to the point that the Lake Norman Wildlife Federation has placed a dozen or more nesting platforms around the lake. Each is located near an island and away from major boat traffic.

It doesn’t take long for the birds to find a new platform. An osprey perched atop a platform within hours after it was positioned next to an island in Davidson Creek.

As the nesting season comes to an end in July and August, adult birds can be seen flapping their wings and chirping vigorously as they teach the fledglings to fly. The young birds will eventually move their wings and leap from the nest. While some fly immediately, others hit the water first and shake off the droplets before flying for the first time.

The next step is teaching them to hunt.

Once the adult’s work is done, they leave the lake for a long-deserved vacation. Like people, many spend the winter in Florida. Others go to Central America.

In addition to raising their young, ospreys are avid do-it-yourself fanatics who continuously add nesting materials to their home. The nests grow to enormous sizes.

Upcoming events

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

• The 33rd annual Dogwood Bass Tournament takes place April 7. The tournament benefits the Shriners Hospital for Children. Details: Chris Bacola, 704-768-1704 or

Tips from Capt. Gus

Net fish head first. Don’t try to sneak behind them with a net. It doesn’t work. They will dart away and possibly pull the hook or even break the line.

Hot spot of the week

Most bass swim in relatively shallow water. Anglers casting near boat docks and in the backs of coves are reporting good results.

Catfishing continues to improve as water temperatures rise. Fish coves and pockets with fresh-cut baits.

Large crappie are hitting minnows and jigs. Like bass they are in shallow water.

The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the 60s and low 70s. The water level is about 3.2 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