Fishin’ with Capt. Gus; Fish Stories and Fairy Tales

Capt. Gus Winter Hybrid Striped  Bass

Photo: Capt. Gus holds a Lake Norman hybrid striped bass

Fish stories, like fables and fairy tales, are based on a little bit of truth and then embellished to make for better reading and listening. In fact, the main difference between a fish story and a fairy tale is the way it begins. A fairy tale starts with, “Once upon a time” and a fish story with, “This is no lie.”

A fish tale is like a photograph coming out the slot in an old Polaroid camera. The longer it takes to develop, the better the picture. Some of the best stories have been passed down for generations and retold hundreds of times. There’s something intriguing about the tale of a big fish caught years ago in a far off place with no witnesses or pictures.  A good fish story is like a song without a melody or a poem that doesn’t rhyme. It doesn’t matter how big the fish was, or if got away, as long as it captivates the imagination.

The greatest fish tale probably hasn’t been told yet. Maybe that’s why I listen with such interest each time someone spins a new one. And believe me, I have heard many over the years, beginning with the stories my dad told, to the tales that fishermen spouted along the coast. I recall one charter captain that made up a new story every day, and as soon as it came out of his mouth, it became the truth in his mind.

Over time, I have heard a lot of superlatives sprinkled between the lyrics of what were said to be honest accounts of fishing events. Like others, I don’t believe everything I hear, but I still enjoy the embellished stories. That is why, as long as the sky is blue and the water stays green, fish tales will be an integral part of my angling experience.

Here’s a fish tale kick-off for 2015:

I ran into a guy with his arm in a cast on New Year’s Day. When asked what happened, he began with, “This is no lie.” It seems that he was walking along a Florida beach at sunset when he came upon a stranded bull shark. It was thrashing and rolling in a fruitless attempt to get back to the surf, but the tide was out too far. Knowing it would die before the next high tide, he began to dig a hole in the sand. The deeper he dug, the more seawater seeped in, until it covered the shark’s mouth and gills. The Good Samaritan draped towels over its body and kept it wet throughout the night. At dawn, the incoming tide began to cover the shark. It started to wiggle and squirm until the water was deep enough to swim. Suddenly it turned and sunk its teeth in its benefactor’s arm, and then disappeared into the pounding surf. The next day, we learned that the cast was covering a splint that held a broken arm in place from a fall off his son’s skate board. 

Upcoming Events: Free Fishing Seminar – “Using Sonar, Structure Scan and GPS to Catch More Fish In 2015” – Jake Bussolini and I will discuss the theory and practical application of locating and landing fish with the aid of electronics. This ninety-minute session will begin at 6:30 p.m. on January 21st at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, in Mooresville, NC. For additional information, call 704 658 0822.

Hot Spots of the Week: Hybrid striped bass are hitting live baits, bucktail jigs, road runners, spoons and Alabama rigs in the river channel and in many of the larger creek runs. Best bets are near main river channel markers 17B, 16, 15A, 7 and 3 when sea birds are flying low to the water. A few stripers, along with spotted bass and white perch, are mixed in with the hybrids.

Tips from Capt. Gus! Don’t put your fishing gear away for the winter. There are plenty of fish to be caught on Lake Norman in January and February!

Lake Conditions: The water level on Lake Norman is about 2.3 feet below full pond and is 2.7 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake. The surface water temperature is in the high forties in water not affected by power generation on Lake Norman.

Capt. Gus Gustafson is an Outdoor Columnist and a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his website at or call 704-617-6812. For additional information, e-mail him at


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