This column will attempt to answer a frequently asked question among anglers: “Why do I see fish on the depth-finder screen, but I can’t get them to bite?”
The answer to this question begins with another question: Is your depth finder set to show fish images or arches? Fish images are often misleading. A depth finder’s computer program converts almost anything that suspends below the surface, including bubbles, debris, baitfish and even turtles, to fish images. This misrepresentation often causes fishermen to spend undue time in an area that might be completely void of fish.
Turn the “Fish ID” feature off and forget that it is there. Learn to use your sonar unit in the mode that shows fish as arches and bait as small dots or clouds. The non-fish identification mode is extremely accurate.
When arches appear, you can be certain that fish are below the boat. The thicker the arch, the bigger the fish will be.
Don’t be fooled by the length of an arch. Length indicates the amount of time a fish stays in the transducer cone signal. The longer it stays below the boat, the longer the arch will be.
Once you are certain fish are present, position bait at a depth equal to or slightly above the depth of the arches seen on the screen.
Be reminded that when swimming in a normal manner, the eyes of most fish are positioned so they view what is above. For this reason, baits should be positioned slightly above the fish.
When baits are positioned correctly and fish still do not strike, try throwing a few live shad or herring into the water. Live chumming sometimes takes the attention away from the bait a fish is focused on and causes it to hit the new bait being offered.
Other techniques include downsizing line diameter or changing the size of a hook. Using erratic movements to retrieve a lure will also trigger a fish to bite.
When all else fails, move to a new area where the fish might be more interested in the bait you are presenting.
Tips from Capt. Gus
• If bottom readings or fish images are hard to distinguish, increase the sonar’s sensitivity.
• When properly adjusted, use the zoom feature for greater detail.
• A properly adjusted sonar unit should show the jigging motion of a quarter ounce buck tail 30 feet below the boat.
• Is a black and white or a color sonar unit easier to read? How many black and white televisions have you seen lately?
• Bill Hassig, of Fishermen’s Friend in Kannapolis, will conduct a free fishing seminar, “Electric Trolling Motor Maintenance,” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, at Gander Mountain, 236 Norman Station Blvd.
Hassig will discuss ways to maximize the performance and improve the battery life of your motor. Details: 704 658 0822.
Hot spots of the week
Spotted bass fishing is excellent throughout the day using traditional methods. Use soft plastics and buzz baits.
White perch continue to hit minnows and jigs in water to 30 feet.
Sabiki flies, rigged in tandem with a jigging spoon, allow the angler to catch more than one fish at a time.
A few stripers are being taken on shad, herring and shiners in the river channel between Markers 19 and 23.
The lake level on Lake Norman is down about 4.6 feet from full pond. The water surface temperature is in the 60s.
Capt. Gus Gustafson is a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. Details: 704-617-6812 or www.fishingwithgus.com.