Fishing with Gus

Spring has yielded some of the best fishing on Lake Norman in decades.

Those targeting crappie have filled stringer after stringer with fish up to 17 inches long, more than double the minimum size limit of eight inches.

Crappie can be found in almost every shallow cove on both sides of the N.C. 150 bridge. Here are six tips to increase your chances of catching them:

• Crappie swim in schools. So if you catch one, there should be more.

• Their favorite habitat is submerged brush and trees, usually discarded Christmas trees. They can also be found under docks, piers, boathouses and other places that provide shade or cover to hide.

• An old-fashioned cane pole or a fiberglass pole, rigged with a small hook and split shot, is all that’s needed to flip bait into the water. Some anglers prefer to use a light spinning outfit. The baits of choice are crappie minnows or very small lead-head jigs decorated with colorful Malibu hair, plastic skirts and tails.

• When you feel a strike, give the crappie time to take the bait. Only a slight hook set is necessary. Too much pressure will cause the hook to pull free. Crappie are not known for their jumping ability, but they tug hard on light tackle.

• Crappie season is past its peak, but there is plenty of time to catch your share. Fish deeper as the water warms. Better yet, rig a lantern or fluorescent light and shine it after dark in the water near a bridge piling or deep pier. As with cat fishing, for whatever reason, there are times in the spring and early summer when more crappie are caught after dark than during the day.

• Most will agree that fishing for crappie is great family fun. Enjoy a meal together of hot, tasty crappie filets served with fries, hush puppies and coleslaw.

Tips from Capt. Gus

Crappie can grow up to eight inches in length during the first year. Growth then slows to about one inch per year. Large crappie (longer than one foot) are known as slabs. Lake Norman anglers are allowed to catch no more than 20 crappie per day, with an eight inch minimum size limit.

Upcoming events

• The 33rd annual Dogwood Bass Tournament takes place Saturday, April 7. Proceeds go to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top 10 teams, including $2,500 for first and $100 for 10th. Details: Chris Bacola, 704-768-1704 or

• I’ll conduct a free boating class, “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, at North Point Watersports, 112 Doolie Road. Topics will include understanding Lake Norman’s channel marker and buoy system, avoiding dangerous spots and interpreting lake maps. Details: 704-617-6812 or

Hot spots of the week

Bass are still bedding in shallow water. Cast the banks with lures that can be bounced along the bottom.

Spotted bass are schooling in water to 20 feet. Many are choosing to troll for schools with crank baits.

Warming water temperatures have catfish on the prowl. Use stink and cut baits to catch them.

The surface temperature varies by location but is mainly in the 60s and low 70s in open water. The water level is about three feet below full pond on Lake Norman.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures is a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his web site,