Spring is a great time to take children fishing. If you haven't been in a while and don't know where to go or how or what to do, read on.
Where to fish. Shorelines, docks and piers are good places to spend a few hours wetting a line. The Lake Norman State Park (704-528-6350) in Troutman has a long wooden fishing pier and also allows bank fishing in many areas. Ramsey Creek Park (704-336-3586) in Cornelius also has a fishing pier.
If you have a boat, anchor or drift your baited hooks in the back of any cove, and fish in water from 10 to 15 feet deep.
What's biting? A variety of panfish, bass, crappie, perch, catfish and stripers are among the most sought-after fish in Lake Norman. They range from sunfish a few inches long to catfish up to 85 pounds. Most fish weigh about a pound - the perfect size for kids to catch.
Fishing tackle. A simple rig is a cane pole attached to a section of line the same length as the pole, a bobber (float), a small clamp-on weight (split shot), a hook (J-shaped hook, No. 6) and a worm or minnow. The distance between the bobber and hook will vary depending on the depth of the water. You can use the same rig for bottom fishing by removing the bobber.
A step up involves the same basic tackle on the line, but using a rod and reel. Many children begin fishing with a spin-casting reel attached to a matching fishing rod. Its push-button design makes it easy to cast and almost tangle-free.
Best baits. Many prefer artificial lures, but for starters, earthworms, night crawlers and red wigglers will catch just about anything. If you don't want to dig up your garden, you can buy these baits at convenience stores and tackle shops. Minnows are also popular. They can be used dead or alive and make great bait for bass, crappie and perch. Crickets are good baits for catching sunfish. Other baits that work well for kids are table scraps, including hot dogs, macaroni, corn, peas and shrimp.
Don't forget: A personal floatation device (life preserver) for each child under age 13 and for anyone else who can't swim; a knife and needle-nose pliers; a cooler filled with ice and lots of food and drinks; a bucket for odds and ends, a landing net, a camera, sunglasses and suntan lotion.
Lake Norman Fishing Guide Mac Byrum and I will conduct a free two-hour seminar, "How to Catch Trophy Flathead and Arkansas Blue Catfish While Fishing for White Perch," at 6:30 p.m. March 24 at Gander Mountain, Interstate 77 Exit 36. Details: 704-658-0822.
Bank fishermen are catching perch, bass and stripers in both hot holes. Cut bait and bloodworms fished on the bottom are taking stripers, and topwater lures are catching surface-feeding fish. Live bait fishing for stripers is good in most major creek arms. Mountain, Little and Reeds creeks are good places to start.
Schools of spotted bass are chasing bait to the surface throughout the day around the islands at the mouth of Ramsey Creek.