Cold Weather Fishing Tips

April 8th, 2010

By Gus Gustafson

December thru February is a favorite time to fish Piedmont Lakes. The most important reason is that striped bass bite best when water temperatures are cool. But, largemouth, spotted bass, perch, cats and crappie must eat as well, so all are fair game. The following tips might help make your next cold weather fishing trip more enjoyable and productive.

  • Warm water attracts bait as well as predator fish. The areas adjacent to the power plant hot water discharge canals are likely places to find a variety of fish during the winter months.
  • Cold weather fish also congregate on sunny shorelines, near underwater springs and in deeper water that is usually a few degrees warmer than the surface temperature.
  • Cold water slows the metabolism of a fish. Therefore, small baits combined with a slower retrieve then normal will result in additional strikes.
  • Bass, crappie and perch stay near deep cover this time of year. So fish closer than you normally would to docks, blow downs, brush, stumps and other under water structure.
  • The best time to fish is whenever you can! But on Lake Norman the bite is usually early, even in the dead of winter, so be ready to begin fishing at daylight. Most successful striper fishermen are off the lake before noon.
  • Best live baits for winter striped bass are shad, herring, shiners and trout. Popular catfish baits are worms, prepared baits and strips of fresh cut white perch and bream. Bass fishermen use a variety of artificial lures, but crank baits, soft plastics on shaky heads, drop shots rigs, jig & pigs, bucktails and jigging spoons will take a fair share of bass. Crappie like small minnows, and white perch will hit minnows, spoons and sabiki rigs.
  • Anglers who fish from the bank or dock will find that minnows and worms work best, but they can also use a variety of prepared baits and household foods such as hotdogs, bread and chicken livers.
  • Best artificial bait colors are watermelon, pumpkin seed, blue, green, chartreuse, silver and white.
  • Overdress for winter weather. It always feels colder on the water than it does on land. Pocket hand warmers, catalytic heaters and a thermos of hot coffee will help keep you comfortable on the coldest of days.
  • On the coldest of days, line, rod tips and fishing reels can freeze. Dip them in the water to temporarily melt the ice.
  • Last, but not least, don’t forget to bring your cell phone. The lake can be a cold and lonely place if you break down and no one but you knows you needs to be towed.

See ya out there – Capt. Gus!

Captain Gus is licensed by the US Coast Guard, a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and a Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his website at , e-mail, or call 704 617 6812.

New Boat Regulations

April 8th, 2010

by Gus Gustafson

North Carolina is now one of many states that requires boat operators to complete a mandatory National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved boating safety course. Organizations that locally provide courses are beefing up their 2010 schedules to accommodate the increase in demand created by the new regulation. Below are excerpts of information from and other sources.

The Requirements:

“After May 1, 2010, every person under the age of 26 must complete a NASBLA approved boating education course before operating any vessel propelled by a motor of 10 HP or greater in the state of North Carolina.”

”North Carolina has the following restrictions for the operators of personal watercraft: No person under 14 years of age may operate a PWC. A person at least 14 years of age, but less than 16 years of age, may operate a PWC , if the person is accompanied by a person at least 18 years of age who occupies the PWC, or the person possesses ID proof of age and boating safety certification or card indicating the satisfactory completion of a NASBLA boating safety education course.”

“A person 16 years of age or older may operate a PWC without completing a boating safety course, however a course is recommended. The owner of a PWC must not knowingly allow a child under the age of 16 to operate a craft except as provided above.”

Below is a partial list of organizations and website’s that provide NASBLA approved courses:

Instructor Led Courses:

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission 1-919-707-0032
Light House Marine Services – 1-704-587-0325
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary 1-800-336-BOAT
US Power Squadron 1-888-FOR-USPS or 704- 662- 3647

Online Courses

Tips from Capt. Gus: “Safe Boating is No Accident”

Capt. Gus is licensed by the United States Coast Guard and is a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman. Contact information: Email: – Web Site

Financing Your Boat In Today’s Credit Market

April 8th, 2010

by Joyce Deaton

In the wake of last year’s economic collapse, many potential boat buyers hunkered down, assuming boat financing was out of reach. If you’re one of those, two local experts say, there’s good news. You can come out now.

“Credit is available for boat buyers,” says George Arnold, regional manager of Newcoast Financial Services, a specialized marine lender in Wilmington. Arnold works with boat dealers and individual buyers to find the best deals available. “We have lost a few sources when companies have left the market, but there’s still a good inventory of loan products. Interest rates have stayed fairly stable and in fact are better than last year,” he adds.

What’s different from pre-recession financing is that lenders now are looking for credit scores at least in the high 600s and require down payments on every loan. Most require a down payment of 10 percent up to $75,000 and 15 percent above that mark, says Arnold. Typically, loans under $75,000 carry a term of 15 years, while higher amounts can go up to 20 years. For larger loans, many lenders now also require verification of income.

Arnold says he’s still able to get financing for used boats, too, though requirements have tightened a bit. “It used to be easy to get a loan for a good used boat that was 20 or 30 years old. Now most lenders won’t go back more than 20 years.”

While encouraging buyers to check with their local banks, Arnold says boat-loan specialists like his company can often come up with a better deal. “We generally offer more programs and can typically get financing with better rates and over longer terms,” he explains. “Because we specialize in this market, we may see the value of a particular boat more easily than can a local bank that doesn’t deal with this every day.”

Would-be buyers shouldn’t be discouraged, Arnold emphasizes. “There’s plenty of financing available – and even some attractiveness for refinancing if you have some equity in your boat and want to lower the payments.”

Jeff Osborne, finance manager for Chatlee Boat & Marine in Sanford, agrees things are improving. “It’s not as bad as people have made it out to be,” he says. “True, it’s harder than it used to be to get financing, but things are loosening up a little. Interest rates, which went up last fall, recently have come down slightly.”

At Chatlee, a high-volume midrange dealership with more than a dozen brands, Osborne finds that banks are looking more carefully at each individual deal. While the days of zero-down financing and loans of up to 130 percent of a boat’s cost are probably gone for good, buyers with reasonable credit and cash for a down payment are being approved every day.

Banks are scrutinizing buyers’ debt-to-income ratio, credit rating and revolving credit balances more stringently than in the boom years, and most require a 10 percent down payment. And while most of them used to authorize Osborne to approve loans on the showroom floor, only a few do now – a sign they’re paying closer attention to each individual application. “That’s not a huge problem, though,” he says. “It just means we have to fax the application to them and wait five minutes to half an hour. It’s still pretty quick.” Though many variables can affect each deal, Osborne says buyers can look for loans in the ballpark of 7 percent for most boats.

If you’re thinking of buying, he adds, take advantage of cold-weather hot deals. “Manufacturers offer rebates and extended warranties, and banks sometimes offer lower interest rates in winter when business is slow,” he explains. “Shop online, then check out the models you like at the boat shows this month and next. If you think this is the year you’ll buy, go ahead and order at the boat show to lock in a better deal.”