Remembering our favorite big catch stories

Jackson Wainwright, of Mooresville, holds a Lake Norman blue catfish caught on a holiday fishing trip with his dad, Bo, and uncle, Buddy Wainwright.

While some fish tales are true, others are only embellishments of the facts or figments of the imagination.

The very best stories are repeated over time until the listeners (almost) believe the tales really occurred in the manner in which they were told.

Most people are familiar with the stories told in the epic movies “Moby Dick,” “The Old Man and the Sea,” “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” and “Jaws.”

While these tales are embedded forever in our minds, the most cherished ones spout from the mouths of children. They are the ones that begin something like this: “I caught twenty-twelve fish on bread balls this morning.” Or, “I lost a catfish bigger than my dog.”  And “I had a fish so big that it took my friend, ‘Spider-Man’ to help me get it into the boat.”

Even more engaging than the tales are the smiles that accompany them and the enthusiasm with which they are told.

Like Polaroid pictures, in which the image develops as the film emerges, fish tales take time to develop, just as the print comes out of the camera.

Likewise, some of the best fish stories take a lifetime to fully develop, and they get better each time they are told.

An early recollection of mine is flounder fishing in a wooden rental boat. I was with my dad. I don’t recall where or when. What I do remember is that the boat was very small and the waves were really high. The fish bit all day, and we caught so many that we ran out of bait.

As it turned out, that was a good thing, because it took both of us half the night to clean them. The next day, it was my job to dig a big hole in the yard and bury the heads and entrails.

I also have many memories of fishing with my son, Toby.

A standout was the day he was wading up to his armpits in Biscayne Bay from one fishing hole to another, when a giant sea turtle surfaced a few feet in front of him. It made a loud noise as it gulped air and Toby screamed as if he had been bitten by a shark. They were eye to eye for a moment before the huge creature sounded and swam away.

Another time, our boat broke down in a storm off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. There was so much electricity in the air that our hair was standing on end and the compass was spinning wildly. As I was preparing to radio the Coast Guard for assistance, Toby said. “Tell them to hurry because we aren’t dead yet.” The engine eventually started, and we made it through the storm.

Some of the best stories are those told about the big one that got away, or the funny ones – like when someone falls overboard. These stories bring back the memories that keep people fishing. So, go a lot, because each time you return from a trip, you can add another chapter to the tales in your mind.

Tips from Capt. Gus

According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, “Fish length is determined by measuring a straight line (not along the curvature of the body), from the tip of the closed mouth to the tip of the compressed caudal (tailfin).”

Upcoming events

• I will present “How to Safely Navigate Lake Norman Using Sonar and GPS,” at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19, at North Point Watersports, 112 Doolie Road. Bring your questions and instruction books to the free, 90-minute seminar. Details: 704-799-1994.

• Jake Bussolini and I will present “How to Catch Fish Using Sonar and GPS” at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at Gander Mountain, 236 Norman Station Blvd., Mooresville. Bring your questions and instruction books to the free 90-minute seminar. Details: 704 658-0822.

Hot Spots of the week

Stripers, bass and perch are in the deeper water of the Catawba River Channel and in Davidson, Reed and Ramsey creeks. Bank fishermen are catching perch, bass and a few stripers in the hot holes of the McGuire and Marshall power stations.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures is an outdoor columnist and a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. His website is www.fishingwith Contact him at 704-617-6812 or

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