Crickets are a preferred bait for catching panfish, particularly bluegills and other members of the sunfish family. While they best used alive, squeamish anglers might find it a little unnerving to handle the crawling bugs, which resemble small grasshoppers.
But crickets do not bite and on some days will out-fish worms or minnows. Crickets have a universal appeal to most freshwater fish, so don’t be surprised if you hook a bass, perch or catfish while fishing for sunfish.
Crickets are available at most area tackle shops that sell live minnows. All that’s needed to contain and transport them is a small and inexpensive cricket cage. Surprisingly, a tube of about fifty crickets sells for about $3.50 – about the same price as a carton of red wigglers or night crawlers. Crickets stay lively throughout a day’s fishing, as long as they’re kept out of heat and direct sunlight.
Fishing with crickets is simple with a cane pole or a light spinning rod and reel. Six-pound test line works fine when tied to a long shank wire hook (No. 6) and add a split-shot weight and a small float. Position the split shot a few inches above the hook and the float a few feet higher. Add the cricket to the hook. While there are several ways to hook crickets, a time-proven method is to simply hook it behind the head, taking care not to hook it too deeply.
Gently cast the baited rig into the water. Don’t be surprised if the float goes down immediately. Sunfish react quickly to objects hitting the water. Once the float is pulled underwater, a slight hook set is all that’s needed and the fight is on. Ounce-for-ounce, a sunfish will fight as hard as any fish that swims. When it finally gives up and succumbs to the angler, care should be taken to avoid injury to the fish or to yourself while unhooking. Sunfish have sharp spines that will puncture the skin if not handled with care.
Whether you release your catch to fight another day – or keep it for a family fish fry – is your decision. If you enjoy eating fish, sunfish are as tasty as any you have ever deep-fried. According to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission regulations, sunfish taken from Lake Norman do not have a size or creel limit. So, keep all you can eat and release the rest.
For those too squeamish to handle live crickets, there is an artificial bait available that not only resembles a cricket in appearance but emits a scent similar to that of a live one.
• A free safe-boating class on “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night” will be held 6:30-8 p.m. May 9 at North Point Watersports, Exit 36, Mooresville. Topics for discussion will include Understanding LKN’s Channel Marker and Buoy System, Identifying and Learning How to Avoid the 10 Most Dangerous Spots, and Interpreting Lake Maps. 704-617-6812 or email Gus@lakenorman.com.
• Jake Bussollini and I will conduct a free fishing seminar on “How to Catch White Perch” at 6:30 p.m. May 16 at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville. Bring the entire family to this informative and entertaining seminar. 704- 658-0822.
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White perch are schooling in 20 to 30 feet of water. Spoons, Sabiki rigs and crappie minnows are good baits to use. Rising water levels have caused bass to hold in back coves and banks where live button bush is growing in the water. Catfishing is good to very good, particularly for those targeting blue cats on cut baits.
The surface-water temperature varies by location but is mainly in the 70s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 2.6 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 3 feet below on Mountain Island Lake.