Fishing with Gus: 11 reminders to keep boaters safe on Lake Norman
by Staff Writer
Lake Norman is notorious for its rock piles, stump fields and sandbars, many of which are covered by only a foot or two of water during the summer months.
While channel/shoal markers and buoys identify some danger spots, many go unnoticed.
The following reminders could help to make your holiday boating a bit safer:
• Red and green channel markers – Stay between the red and green markers, where the water is deep. When traveling upstream, keep the red markers to your right and the green to your left. The numbers displayed on the markers will get higher as you go upriver.
• Channel marker adjacent to shoal marker(s) – Don’t pass between a red and white or green and white set of markers. This isn’t the channel. The markers indicate the area between them is hazardous.
• Islands – Most of Lake Norman’s beautiful islands are continuations of adjacent points of land. The water between the point and the island is often very shallow. Therefore, to avoid the stumps, rocks and gravel, it is prudent to maneuver around the outside of the island. Few island passes afford adequate warning information.
• Shoals – The dictionary defines a shoal as “a shallow place in a body of water.” While some are noted with diamond-shaped white signs on poles or buoy markers, Lake Norman has too many shallow spots to identify all of them.
• Rocks – Rocks damage or destroy hundreds of boat propellers annually. Rocks and rock piles are scattered throughout Lake Norman. Most are not identified.
• Bridges – Pilings obstruct the view of oncoming boat traffic. For this reason, area bridges are considered to be no-wake zones. If you can see a wake behind your boat, you are going too fast. Also consider a boat’s vertical clearance when passing beneath a bridge. Bridge clearances change with the water level and with wave and boat wake disturbances.
• Catawba River – The river section of Lake Norman from Buffalo Shoals, north to Lookout Shoals Dam, is not marked. During periods of low-water levels, portions of the river channel are un-navigable. It is unwise to venture north of Bill’s Marina unless you are in a shallow draft boat and with someone who is familiar with the channel.
• Moving water – Water current poses another set of opportunities for a possible grounding. Water runs continuously in the discharge canals at the Marshall and McGuire power stations. Strong currents also occur upriver during flooding conditions and as water is being discharged from Lookout Shoals Dam.
• Protruding structures – Water intakes and long boat docks that extend well out into the water are particularly dangerous when navigating at night. These structures are not always lighted and often lack reflective devices to make them visible. To avoid hitting them, run a course well off the shoreline.
• Unlit aids to navigation and boats – Not all markers, buoys or other boats are lighted at night. So keep a spotlight ready and everyone on watch after dark.
• Towing services – In the event you do run aground, damage a prop or need a boat towing service 24/7, save these phone numbers: SeaTow, 704-895-8699, or Tow Boat US, 704-200-1930.
Hot spot of the week
Bass are schooling on the surface throughout the day and are being caught on top-water lures, Rat-L-Traps, buck tails and spoons.
Some stripers are deep in Mountain Creek and the river channel from Marker 8, south to Marker 3. White perch fishing is outstanding. Catfishing is very good.
The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the high 80s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 2.4 feet below full pond on Lake Norman.
Capt. Gus Gustafson is an outdoor columnist and a full-time fishing guide on Lake Norman. Visit his web site, www.Fishing