Use caution when water levels are low
by Staff Writer
Fishermen who regularly ply Lake Norman know water levels have been considerably lower than normal this summer.
In fact, the current lake level is at 755 feet above mean sea level or five feet below full pond.
Low water levels bring an increased risk of boat groundings and a higher likelihood of hitting submerged objects.
Current conditions on Lake Norman are similar to low tide at the coast, which makes it prudent to remind boaters of certain safety procedures.
First, don’t venture into unfamiliar waters, particularly after dark. If you must wander or roam, have a current lake map or chart with you. Better yet, use a GPS loaded with a contour map of the lake.
GPS mapping allows boaters to anticipate changes in water depths and turns in the channel before the vessel approaches the spot. GPS also allows the pilot to plot a deep-water course in advance of the voyage.
Good maps identify the old river bed and creek channels and clearly show the location of navigational aids positioned and maintained by the Lake Norman Marine Commission.
This day and night marker system makes safe passage simple. When traveling upstream (away from Cowan’s Ford Dam), keep the red markers to your right and the green to your left. If in doubt, stay between the red and green.
Another frequently seen day marker on Lake Norman is a white diamond-shaped sign that reads “rocks” or “shoal.” The potentially dangerous water surrounding either sign is shallow at times and should be passed with caution. If in doubt as to which side to pass, stop the vessel and refer to your lake map.
Lake Norman has numerous areas where shoal markers and red or green channel markers are placed in close proximity to each other. In such cases, the shallow water is between the red and white or green and white markers. Do not attempt to pass between them (it’s not a channel).
Examples can be found at creek channel markers T4, D4 and D3, and main river channel markers 1A, 6 and 15A.
Many of Lake Norman’s islands are continuations of land. The water that separates them is often shallow and dangerous. Do not assume that this is a good shortcut. Go the long way around and pass to the outside of the island.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has positioned warning buoys between some islands and land masses. Be safe. Do not venture near them.
Do not let low water ruin your fall fishing and boating experience. Exercise caution when navigating unfamiliar waters, and stay between the red and green channel markers in main passageways.
• The Lake Norman Sail & Power Squadron will conduct boater safety training at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Duke Energy Environmental Center, 12700 Hagers Ferry Road, Huntersville. Training costs $45. Advance registration is required. Details: Bob Yannacci, 704-660- 5568 or www.usps.org/lakenorman.
Tips from Gus
Maps, charts and GPS cartography should be used as references and only in conjunction with local boating knowledge and good judgment.
Hot spots of the week
Recent water temperatures in the 70s have energized bass, perch and crappie. Bass have moved to the shallows and are taking both top water and crank-baits throughout the day.
Surface feeding on points, humps and boat basins is also an everyday occurrence.
White perch, feasting on small bait fish at depths to 30 feet, are being caught two to six at a time on vertically fished Sabiki rigs. Crappie fishing is very good on minnows and crappie jigs.
The lake level is approximately five feet below full pond on Lake Norman. The water surface temperature is in the mid- to high 70s.
Capt. Gus Gustafson, of Lake Norman Ventures, is a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. Details: 704-617-6812 or www.FishingWithGus.com.