By Capt. Craig Price
Like many anglers, the demise of Lake Norman’s striped bass fishery has made me consider how I spend my time on the water, which species I pursue and the techniques I use.
For me, the striper’s downturn was an unwanted occurrence. However, it has produced an unexpected, but valuable and welcomed result.
Let me explain.
As a youngster, I started out fishing ponds, rivers and lakes for panfish, catfish and bass. Then I gravitated to coldwater trout in the mountains. In saltwater, my earliest efforts involved surf fishing, then going offshore for the pelagic species. I’ve now evolved into more of an inshore fisherman.
This is not an unusual resume for an experienced angler, but it means I’ve accumulated a fair amount of knowledge and experience with varied locales, different species and numerous techniques.
But along the way, there came the time when I became a “striper fisherman,” which is akin to being slightly deranged or having an addiction. To me, striper fishermen and duck hunters are cut from the same cloth.
Sure, we fish and hunt in nice weather, but we don’t shy away from nasty weather. That’s because striped bass often feed aggressively, and ducks typically fly well, on cold winter days with heavy skies, wind and rain or frozen precipitation.
Even so, once I started catching stripers in freshwater, I was hooked. I still took opportunities to fish for other species in other locales but if I was fishing Lake Norman, or any striper-bearing waters, I was striper fishing.
But without being too conscious of it, I was becoming a one-trick pony. I practically never left the dock on freshwater with catching bass, catfish, crappie or other game fish in mind.
Along with my customers, I caught my share of these species incidentally, but I didn’t devote time or resources to their pursuit intentionally.
That was fine and dandy when my home lake contained a healthy population of striped bass. But when I finally accepted that there weren’t enough stripers left to make fishing for them commercially viable, I was left wondering “what am I going to do now?”
It didn’t take long to figure out that if I was to continue to try to build a successful guide business based on Lake Norman, or even continue to fish recreationally here, I better get busy brushing off some old skills and improving them with up-to-date techniques and knowledge.
Now my days on Lake Norman are spent targeting spotted bass, largemouth bass, catfish, crappie and perch. I’m utilizing lures, rigs and tackle I’d ignored for many years or have recently discovered.
My charters still produce striped bass and the newly introduced hybrids, but now stripers have become incidental to our primary targets. I still use striper techniques to catch whatever swims here on Lake Norman, but my repertoire of skills, tackle and knowledge have greatly increased.
I’m a better, more versatile angler today as a result of the Lake Norman striper fishery collapse.
Be prepared for the day your prized target disappears by being a versatile angler. I think you’ll find versatility and adaptability will help you in the chase of the species you prize most.
In other words, when life takes away your stripers, “Fish On!” for whatever bites. I think you’ll discover you’re becoming a better angler along the way.
Capt. Craig Price, of Denver, owns Fish On! Lake Norman, a fishing guide service.